Bill Mollison

Awarded 1981


For developing and promoting the theory and practice of permaculture.

Bill Mollison (1928-2016) was an expert on permaculture, a topic he extensively wrote about and taught, bringing the issue to the attention of both institutions and the general public.

Mollison founded the Permaculture Institute in Tasmania, whose educational activities have inspired permanent institutes worldwide, spreading his message well beyond the Tasmanian borders. Holding seminars and providing practical training to local people in different countries were the core of Mollison and his institute’s approach.

As a result of his active commitment, many countries now have adopted permaculture as a sustainable land-use ethic.

All my life, we've been at war with nature. I just pray that we lose that war. There are no winners in that war.

Bill Mollison, 1981 Laureate

Bill Mollison has been called the "father" of permaculture, which is an integrated system of design encompassing not only agriculture, horticulture, architecture and ecology but also money management, land access strategies and legal systems for businesses and communities. The aim is to create systems that provide for their own needs, do not pollute and are sustainable. Conservation of soil, water and energy are central to permaculture, as are stability and diversity.

Mollison's two early books, Permaculture One: A Perennial Agriculture for Human Settlements (with David Holmgren, Transworld Publishers, 1978) and Permaculture Two: Practical Design for Town and Country in Permanent Agriculture (Tagari Publications, 1979) sold over 100,000 copies and have been translated into eight languages. After these, three more of his books were published, Permaculture - A Designer's Manual (1988), Introduction to Permaculture (1991) and The Permaculture Book of Ferment and Human Nutrition (1993). In 1996, he published Travel in Dreams. In addition, Mollison wrote various articles and reports on permaculture for governments, educational and voluntary organisations and the general public.

In 1978, Mollison founded The Permaculture Institute in Tasmania. The main focus of the Permaculture Institute is education. Since its inception, its certificated design courses have attracted more than 40,000 people, most of whom are now active in the practice or education of permaculture around the world. Independent permaculture institutes have been established worldwide and the movement is linked by biannual international conferences.

In addition to his work at the Institute, Mollison consulted and taught extensively in Australia and beyond. He worked on village housing and planting design in Brazil, tropical polyculture systems in Hawaii, Fiji and the Seychelles, and designed strategies for city farms in the UK and US. He also developed a teaching manual on arid land techniques for the Australian Department of Education's Technical and Further Education Colleges. He advised on this topic in Vietnam, Zimbabwe, Brazil and the US. In 1991, Mollison was elected in Kursk as a member of the Russian Academy of Agriculture Sciences, founded by former biogeographer Nikoli Ivanovich Vavilov. He was the only Australian to receive this honour.

The Permaculture Institute also spreads its work internationally by training groups of local people in different countries and then assisting them with backup resources through a Trust in Aid Fund until they are self-sustaining.

Other initiatives of the Institute include the Earthbank Society, which holds seminars on ethical investment and publishes alternative economic and financial strategies, and the Tree Tithe Programme, which voluntarily taxes the proceeds of all permaculture publications to invest in permanent tree planting. So far, the programme has funded tree-planting groups in South and Central Australia, New South Wales, India, Nepal, Chile and Spain.

In 1994, a Permaculture Academy was established to enable graduates of permaculture courses to achieve tertiary qualifications in practical work. Most countries worldwide now have a permaculture group or association, and many have adopted permaculture as a sustainable land-use ethic.

Mollison passed away in his native Tasmania on September 24, 2016, aged 88.

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