The Blue Mountains Permaculture Institute was launched in January 2009. It is based in the World Heritage listed Blue Mountains in Australia, and was founded by educators, community developers, and researchers, Rosemary Morrow and Lis Bastian. It is a not-for-profit Institute operating under The Big Fix Ltd.
The Institute specialises in developing non-formal education opportunities that are accessible to everyone, and in providing strategies to grow social, environmental and economic resilience.
About Rosemary Morrow
Rosemary Morrow trained in agricultural science at Sydney University, rural sociology at the Sorbonne in Paris, development at Reading UK and horticulture at TAFE but, after spending time in Africa, she realized there needed to be a better alternative to conventional agricultural practices. She found this in the ethics and integrated applied science of permaculture, and has been teaching permaculture ever since. She is the author of numerous publications including Permaculture Teaching Matters, The Earth User’s Guide to Permaculture, which has been translated into many languages, and The Earth User’s Guide to Teaching Permaculture.
For almost 40 years Rosemary has worked extensively with farmers and villagers in Africa, Central and South East Asia and Eastern Europe. Rosemary has especially dedicated much of her efforts to refugees the people of war-torn nations such as Vietnam, Cambodia, Uganda, Ethiopia, Afghanistan, Kurdistan and East Timor, and to communities experiencing the serious effects of climate change like the Solomon Islands, and the effects of the GFC, like Spain, Greece and Portugal.
About Lis Bastian
Lis started teaching permaculture with Rosemary Morrow in 2008. She has a long history in Education, Community Development Work, the Arts and Environment.
She has taught in schools, TAFE and university and has been an Education Officer at the Art Gallery of NSW. She has also been curator of Orange Regional Gallery, CEO of Arts OutWest, Cultural Development Coordinator for Blue Mountains City Council, Director of the Central West Writers’ Centre and CEO of Varuna the Writers House, Public Programs Manager at the Blue Mountains Cultural Centre and Climate Adaptation Officer for 17 councils in Central NSW.
Lis is the founder of The Big Fix Ltd.
About non-formal education
“Non-formal education became part of the international discourse on education policy in the late 1960s and early 1970s. It can be seen as related to the concepts of recurrent and lifelong learning. Tight (1996: 68) suggests that whereas the latter concepts have to do with the extension of education and learning throughout life, non-formal education is about ‘acknowledging the importance of education, learning and training which takes place outside recognized educational institutions’. Fordham (1993) suggests that in the 1970s, four characteristics came be associated with non-formal education:
- Relevance to the needs of disadvantaged groups.
- Concern with specific categories of person.
- A focus on clearly defined purposes.
- Flexibility in organization and methods.
In many northern countries the notion of non-formal education is not common in internal policy debates – preferred alternatives being community education and community learning, informal education and social pedagogy.
The idea of non-formal education
As Fordham (1993) relates, in 1967 at an international conference in Williamsburg USA, ideas were set out for what was to become a widely read analysis of the growing ‘world educational crisis’ (Coombs 1968). There was concern about unsuitable curricula; a realization that educational growth and economic growth were not necessarily in step, and that jobs did not emerge directly as a result of educational inputs. Many countries were finding it difficult (politically or economically) to pay for the expansion of formal education.
The conclusion was that formal educational systems had adapted too slowly to the socio-economic changes around them and that they were held back not only by their own conservatism, but also by the inertia of societies themselves. If we also accept that educational policy making tends to follow rather than lead other social trends, then it followed that change would have to come not merely from within formal schooling, but from the wider society and from other sectors within it. It was from this point of departure that planners and economists in the World Bank began to make a distinction between informal, non-formal and formal education. (Fordham 1993: 2)
At around the same time there were moves in UNESCO toward lifelong education and notions of ‘the learning society‘ which culminated in Learning to Be (‘The Faure Report’, UNESCO 1972). Lifelong learning was to be the ‘master concept’ that should shape educational systems (UNESCO 1972:182). What emerged was an influential tripartite categorization of learning systems. It’s best known statement comes from the work of Combs with Prosser and Ahmed (1973):
Formal education: the hierarchically structured, chronologically graded ‘education system’, running from primary school through the university and including, in addition to general academic studies, a variety of specialised programmes and institutions for full-time technical and professional training.
Informal education: the truly lifelong process whereby every individual acquires attitudes, values, skills and knowledge from daily experience and the educative influences and resources in his or her environment – from family and neighbours, from work and play, from the market place, the library and the mass media.
Non-formal education: any organised educational activity outside the established formal system – whether operating separately or as an important feature of some broader activity – that is intended to serve identifiable learning clienteles and learning objectives.
The distinction made is largely administrative. Formal education is linked with schools and training institutions; non-formal with community groups and other organizations; and informal covers what is left, e.g. interactions with friends, family and work colleagues. (See, for example, Coombs and Ahmed 1974). “