Meg McGowan discovered permaculture in her early 20’s when she walked into a bookshop in Balmain and picked up a first edition of Rosemary Morrow’s ‘Earth User’s Guide to Permaculture’. She was immediately captivated by the common sense of a system that cooperated with nature and provided a pattern for human existence that cherished and restored the earth.
She spent many years helping friends design permaculture gardens and also applied permaculture design principles and methods within organisations. She developed an organisational model based upon circular patterns and shared accountability as an alternative to traditional silos and top-down management hierarchies. She also redesigned the budgeting and performance review processes by observing the natural patterns of humans and the known deficiencies in the inherited models.
When her professional career led her to systems thinking she immediately recognised it as the foundation of permaculture and earned a reputation for applying design theory to create corruption resistant organisations and to develop effective crime prevention strategies. She retired from professional life and paid employment in 2005 due to ill health.
Following a diagnosis of triple negative breast cancer, Meg started writing a blog to help her deal with the long and distressing treatment process. The blog became a source of support to many other women and can be found here:
When a follower of the blog asked Meg to write a book about how she had used Acceptance Commitment Therapy to deal with the fear of her cancer returning, Meg wrote Free From Fear – Living Well After Cancer which is available here:
When chemotherapy left her with ‘brain fog’, Meg decided that studying a subject that was already well known to her might fire up the neurons again. She enrolled in a number of permaculture short courses including Milkwood’s Permaculture Design Certificate and Teacher Training courses and highly recommends both. It was at the teacher training course that she finally met and thanked Rosemary (Rowe) Morrow for the book that started the permaculture journey all those years ago. She has since completed teacher training with Rowe and Lis Bastion and considers the week she spent with them one of the finest learning experiences of her life.
Meg now spends her time designing and mentoring others on a voluntary basis. Her passion is to see more permaculture happening on the ground.
Meg and her husband, Graham King, developed the Permacoach model with fellow designer, Sandi Pointer, by applying permaculture methodology to the traditional models for designing and teaching. It serves multiple functions, providing right livelihood to permaculture designers and coaching clients on their own properties to develop and maintain beautiful, energy efficient permaculture systems. You can find their website here:
One of Meg’s greatest joys has been supporting other people to become Permacoaches. She sees this as an extension of the permaculture principle of getting the greatest yield for the least energy. By helping others to earn right livelihood in permaculture her impact is not limited by her health constraints.
Meg and Graham also developed a way to teach permaculture within the alternative economy. They exchange learning for labour, with students helping out on their three and a half acre property in return for learning permaculture. They only teach local people and always offer the training on a part time basis over several weeks so that students can start implementing what they are learning as they learn. The training model not only succeeds in providing students with a sound foundation in permaculture design but creates ongoing communities of support and learning. It exists as a thriving example of social permaculture.
Meg now spends much of her time finding creative ways to get more permaculture happening. Her efforts are entirely voluntary and she considers this part of her commitment to the permaculture ethic of ‘Fair Share’. Recent adventures have included joining with a small group of local people to start the Matcham Holgate Produce Share which redesigned the produce swap model to better align it with permaculture.
Meg also administers the Matcham Holgate Facebook page where many local people have been introduced to permaculture for the first time. The site provides a platform for strengthening community, reducing waste by sharing unwanted goods for free, celebrating the beautiful local environment and helping newer residents to settle in to the area. She is a convenor on the Permaculture Australia Facebook page and she also volunteers as a bush regenerator with a local Land Care group. Meg and Graham offer free tours of their property to TAFE students and others wanting to see what an established permaculture system looks like.
Meg’s driving force is her deep connection with the earth and her passion to do all that she can to protect and restore it. At a time when human damage is wreaking havoc, she sees permaculture as part of the solution. Teaching others to live well with less, to understand and reconnect with the natural world and to commit to leaving even a small bit of land in better condition than they found it can, in her opinion, have a cumulative impact.
Meg’s blog ‘Smarter that Crows’ is a collection of her musings on a range of topics, particularly best practice in teaching permaculture and her innovative design methods.
She has also been interviewed for this podcast by Rich Bowden of Permaculture Plus:
And these two podcasts with Dan Palmer
In addition to designing, teaching and writing, Meg is also an accomplished watercolour artist and cartoonist.