Permie Spotlight: Kerrie Anderson

Kerrie Anderson in nasturtium field

With 200 TAFE Permaculture students in just over a year, Kerrie Anderson doesn’t really need an introduction. Almost every person you talk to at our meetings, has met or been taught by this inspirational and passionate educator… and one of the original Permaculture Central Coast members.

That’s why Kerrie was an obvious choice to kick off our new Permie Spotlight segment, where we ask PCC members about their Permaculture journey.

1. When and how did you find Permaculture?

There was always a strong emphasis on health and nurturing the wellbeing in humans for me, so I tossed up between nursing and teaching when I left school. Nursing won out but I became frustrated with the bandaid pharmaceutical approach to ill health.

Still motivated to teach, and with a desire to get to the root of ill health – looking at diet, lifestyle and connection with nature, my career moved in other directions.

I did a bit of outdoor guiding for a time, completing two years of a three-year course before my first daughter was born. It was around that time, in 2006, that I attended Coastfest – a Central Coast festival combining music, arts and green living. There was a talk on Permaculture on the agenda at the sustainable living tent, so I turned up, keen to know more, only to find the talk had been cancelled. Luckily Lisa Wriley (Kariong Eco-Garden) was there and she invited me to attend the first meeting of the Permaculture Central Coast group, at the Narara Neighbourhood Centre, that week. I went along to that meeting and was hooked straightaway. The connection of human health, health of the planet and the fact that Permaculture is based on ethics, really resonated with me.

Vicki Gear was the President of the PCC at that time. She was also teaching the free permaculture Outreach courses at Wyong TAFE, so, over the next year or so I attended a number of these short courses, including Vegetate and Educate, Train the Trainer and developing the garden at Wyong TAFE.

2. What Permaculture training / studies have you undertaken?

Everything really started to happen for me in 2008. That year I attended the Australian Permaculture Convergence in Sydney – all of the Permaculture elders were there – Bill Mollison, David Holmgren, Robin Clayfield, Robyn Francis, Rosemary Morrow, Geoff Lawton, Morag Gamble, to name a few. Stuart Hills was MC (he was just so inspirational). I was driving home from the convergence and I went, right that’s it, I’ve got to do my PDC asap.

I did my PDC with Purple Pear, along with some others from the Central Coast. The PDC was conducted over 5 weekends – a format that suited me as I had a young family. We would carpool up together, stay on site each Saturday night and return home on the Sunday.

Vicki was moving to QLD and recommended me to take over the Outreach courses at TAFE. I was nervous but she was adamant and so I did my Cert 4 in Training and Assessment – a requirement for adult education. I had the opportunity to do this course at Crystal Waters Permaculture Eco Village with Robin Clayfield and Virginia Solomon (the current chair of Permaculture Australia and one of the co-creators of Accredited Permaculture training). Amazingly, although the course was open to anybody, 100% of us on the course were Permaculture practitioners.

I’ve also studied Horticulture through TAFE and many other short courses over the years to support my professional development, including Advanced principles with David Holmgren and Milkwood. In 2019 I did my Advanced PDC with Meg McGowan, to enhance my design skills.

My strength in permaculture is connecting – the people care, the social permaculture and the education side of Permaculture is what I am drawn to. Design for me, as my personal permaculture expression, is designing to increase engagement and enthusiasm for living a permaculture life. How to translate the ethics and principles into our everyday.

Through TAFE (and the council ‘green living’ courses) I’ve been able to make Permaculture accessible to hundreds of people over the last eleven years. In just the last year and a bit, I’ve taught 200 students (two classes of twenty students each term) and there’s no sign of the interest slowing down.

3. How has Permaculture changed you / your life?

There’s a lot of synergy between Heartfulness, the meditation I practice, Steiner education (another passion) and Permaculture. it’s all very heart-based and about living consciously – be simple and in tune with nature. That’s embedded in Permaculture too. There is just that real resonance and, as simple as the ethics can seem, using that as my feedback loop always, so whenever I’m making a decision, coming back to that ‘does that express Earth Care, People Care and Fairshare’. It’s in every decision I make.

4. What has been your biggest ‘aha’ Permaculture moment?

Finding Permaculture has been my biggest ‘aha’ moment!

One thing that Stuart Hill said at the Sydney Convergence in 2008, was ‘just dream the biggest lie you can think of’ because people are often already editing their expectations when they’re setting goals”. I remember thinking ‘wow, that is so true’. We’re already pruning and self-limiting what we can achieve, and we need to not do that.

Bill Mollison’s hard-hitting messages in his documentary “in Grave Danger of Falling Food’ also resonate. Instead of talking about what we don’t want, we need to focus on what we do want – and that is Permaculture. How to actually achieve our ends has always been important for me in my personal journey – trying to improve myself. We can’t say ‘things aren’t good. I don’t like where things are at.’ You need to come up with a solution. That’s why I think I continue to fill the classes – because everyone is feeling so strongly disempowered by climate change and so worried about the planet. Permaculture absolutely is the solution – they can come and feel that positivity that they can make a difference. It’s up to all of us and we do have the tools and we can all do it together in cooperation, not competition. That’s the only way we’re going to move forward. There is no us and them, we are all just a part of life on our beautiful Planet Earth.

Kerrie Anderson is a Permaculture and Meditation teacher.
She is a member of Permaculture Australia, a member of FIG Food Co-op, and a founding member of Matcham Holgate Produce Share.
You can find Kerrie on Facebook at Synergy Permaculture