Bill Mollison

Bill Mollison is one of the original permaculturists.  Along with David Holmgren, Mollison coined the term "permaculture" and helped to write the original publications that started the whole permaculture movement.  Many knew Bill Mollison as "Uncle Bill" and even more know him as "The Father of Permaculture."

Mollison taught the first permaculture design certification courses, and his teaching laid the groundwork for the movement to go viral and spread around the world.  His work Permaculture: A Designer's Manual is still considered to be the primary text for permaculture designers and the standard PDC course syllabus is based largely on its content. 

Image of Bill Mollison being interviewed

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Bill Mollison - Early Life and Upbringing​

​Bruce Charles "Bill" Mollison was born on May 4, 1928 in Stanley, Tasmania in Australia.  He grew up there in that Tasmanian fishing village where his parents ran a local bakery. 

He is reported to have left school at 15 years of age to help with the family bakery.  Over the following decade Mollison worked an incredible variety of jobs to support himself financially. 

The greatest change we need to make is from consumption to production, even if on a small scale, in our own gardens. If only 10% of us do this, there is enough for everyone. Hence the futility of revolutionaries who have no gardens, who depend on the very system they attack, and who produce words and bullets, not food and shelter.

Bill Mollison

Bill Mollison's Education and Teaching Experience

At 26, Mollison began working for Australia's Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation, where he conducted field work doing wildlife surveys.

In the early 60s, Bill Mollison moved on from CSIRO to work as a curator at the Tasmanian Museum.  He soon returned to doing field work through a position with Australia's Inland Fisheries Commission. 

It was during this period of extensive field work and observation that Bill Mollison developed a strong distaste for industrial agriculture systems which he believed were killing the Australian people and their land.

In 1966, he began working on a bachelor's degree in Bio-geography at the University of Tasmania.  He stayed on as an instructor after earning his degree, and his stay at the University lasted for twelve years.

David Holmgren and the Birth of Permaculture

While Mollison was lecturing at the University, he came into contact with a student by the name of David Holmgren, and the two of them laid the groundwork together for what would become known around the world as permaculture. 

Their initial proposal detailed a loose framework for sustainable agriculture which was based on intensively diverse plantings of perennial food sources including trees, shrubs, herbs, fungi, and roots.

Bill Mollison and David Holmgren were coauthors of their first book Permaculture One: A Perennial Agriculture for Human Settlements, which was first published in 1978.

"I can easily teach people to be gardeners, and from them, once they know how to garden, you'll get a philosopher." - Bill Mollison

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Bill Mollison as the Father of Permaculture

After their initial work to develop the theoretical foundation for permaculture, Mollison and Holmgren parted ways.  Holmgren went to put their ideas into practice on his small rural farm.  Bill Mollison hit the road to begin teaching the principles of permaculture all around Australia.

He founded the first Permaculture Institute in 1979 after resigning his teaching post at the University of Tasmania.  And by 1981, he had graduated the first students from his permaculture design certification course. 

Mollison envisioned a regenerative approach to permaculture instruction where his students should go on to become teachers of their own students.  That philosophy served permaculture well, and in this way permaculture spread around the world within a decade.  And Bill Mollison claimed that over 300,000 students had attained their permaculture design certifications by 2011.

Image of Bill Mollision touring the Ceres Community in Melbourne

Photo credit: nicolas.boullosa via / CC BY

"You don't have a snail problem, you have a duck deficiency." - Bill Mollison

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The Written Works of Bill Mollison

​After Permaculture One, Permaculture Two was published in 1979 with both Mollison and Holmgren listed as coauthors.  Permaculture Two focused on practical designs and incorporated the urban aspects of permaculture design.  Both of these books were very specific to Australia regarding climate and plant selections.

Mollison's most famous work, Permaculture: A Designer's Manual was published in 1988.  That book has widely been used as the standard text for permaculture design certification courses since its publication, and the standard PDC course syllabus is largely based on its contents. 

In 1991 Mollison published Introduction to Permaculture with Reny Mia Slay.  The Permaculture Book of Ferment and Human Nutrition was published in 1993.  And Bill Mollison's final written work was his autobiography, Travels in Dreams, which was released in 1996. 

Bill Mollison Later Days and Death

Bill Mollison dedicated his life to teaching and spreading the principles of permaculture as far and wide as possible.  Many of his students have become the leaders of the permaculture movement around the world today. 

Mollison died on September 24, 2016 in Sisters Beach, Tasmania.  He was 88 years old. 

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