Meet the BPG Committee

Thanks for checking out your local permaculture group. Our current committee are:

Steve Burns

After a long interest in permaculture, Steve completed a Permaculture Design Course (PDC) in 2000 with David Holmgren & Fiona Buining. As part of his work on the founding committee of BREAZE, Steve called together the team that developed the original Ballarat-based PDC in 2009. This group was the core of the first BPG committee. Steve has had continuous roles on the BPG committee since and has been on the organising team of all but one of our PDC’s.
Steve manages the Ballarat Farmers Market, which operates on the 2nd and 4th Saturdays each month at Zoo Drive, Wendouree. He lives on Chestnut Farm, an 8 acre property on the edge of town, which is also the base for our PDC. Steve is particularly keen on building with recycled materials, forest gardens and grafting heritage fruit trees.


Jean Watson

Jean Watson is a Ballarat resident and the current treasurer of BPG. She is also leading a team to develop a community response to the Queensland Fruit Fly threat.
Jean was formerly a mathematics teacher and is now studying Building Design at Federation University TAFE.
Jean's interests in permaculture include sustainable building design, urban design and urban commons, environmental protection, alternative economics, and organic gardening. She enjoys the social side of BPG and is a regular at pub night. She also enjoys camping, outdoor activities, and observing native flora and fauna.

Rene de Jong

“At the prime of my experiential life, I have a combination of scientific knowledge and practical experience to fullfil my life objectives of living sustainably, with nutritious food and in relative comfort whilst offering some of this back to my community through things like the Ballarat Permaculture Guild”

After working more than 30 years in public and private agriculture roles, René currently enjoys growing about ¾ of his fresh food from his food garden on a 1000 square metre block on a red ferrosol soil type (otherwise known as volcanic kraznozem soils) at Buninyong. He continues to use learnings from his participation in several agriculture industry conferences and training programs around food production and nutrition. I want to focus on low input, organic methods to grow food now.

René says his own-produced food is the best option for their family, not because of money savings, but because he thinks it is more nutritious than commercial produce when grown in biologically active soils he is focussed on. Lower greenhous gas-emitting food production is also strong driver. Everything is watered by a drip system that is from water collected off building roofs and pumped when the sun shines (from power collected from solar panels). The soil must be managed with nutrient and pH amelioration techniques to allow for growing food year round. Total area under food production, including fruit trees is more than 216 square metres.

Living sustainably, being connected to a vibrant permaculture community in the Ballarat area and sharing experiences and knowledge, perhaps over a coffee or a glass of red wine are my reasons for jumping out of bed each day.

Liz O'Dwyer
Permablitz team leader

I love my sustainable / permaculture community.  I welcome the learnings, the connections, the growth, support, and the camaraderie that flows so easily when mixing with like-minded people. I have learned that community is essential to helping each other to achieve our goals, and so much more enjoyable to work toward a common goal in unity.  I grow, make, sew, preserve, ferment, cook, and so much more.  I derive so much pleasure in creating my own, rather than purchase commercially made food or product.

I have a keen focus on sustainability and have been living a lighter, greener, waste less lifestyle for decades.  I get great satisfaction every time I achieve another sustainability goal.  It’s not only me that benefits, but our beautiful environment, and of course the generations of people to come.  I’m the published author of “Switch on Sustainability” which captures all the sustainable changes I have made over the years, thus making it easier for others to make sustainable change in their lives.

Ellen Burns
President of The Hidden Orchard

Ellen is the co-founder and president of The Hidden Orchard, a volunteer group that is auspiced by BPG. They harvest fruit from private property and public land that would otherwise go to waste and redistribute it to the community through food relief charities.

Ellen also runs her own business, We Bar None, which was the first business in Victoria to use ABA Certified home compostable packaging. Her snack range is also carbon neutral, plant based, gluten free, and run in line with the Permaculture principles. 
When she's not running her business or volunteer group, Ellen loves cooking, eating, travelling, hiking, camping and dancing at music festivals with her husband Michael.

Ellen is Steve's daughter, so has grown up with Permaculture. She also completed the Permaculture Design Course in 2021.

Elizabeth Moss

I have been on the BPG Committee for 4 years and, whilst I don’t hold a particular portfolio on the committee, I do help where I can; most particularly with membership support. I am, by no means, a fully trained and certified Permaculture expert; however, I am committed to the ideals embraced by the Permaculture movement Earth Care, People Care and Fair Share. We all have something to contribute to and everything to gain from a revitalised environment, a caring community, and redistribution of excess. It does not matter how far along we are on our Permaculture journey so long as we are stepping on the same road. Just remember to look at the view along the way.

Barry Gibson

As a father and husband with 3 children in primary and secondary school I think the permaculture ethics of Earth Care, People Care and Fair Share are important for all people to ensure the next generation get to enjoy a more sustainable future.
We live on a small farm and have a range of animals and plants for both produce and lifestyle purposes including bees, sheep, horses and chickens as well as a wide range of perennial and annual plants. We are using permaculture principles and regenerative farming techniques to attempt to leave our small farm and surrounding community in a better place socially and ecologically than it was when we moved here.

Breanna Hodges

I'm Bree, I'm still fairly new to Permaculture, but I wanted to use my skills to help the Guild reach more people and support the current members. I also wanted to help represent the single, renter demographic as well as that of the physically disabled as I have MS. I live in my rental in Ballarat North which has a very generous backyard to work in with my cat Coby and my Golden Retriever Halford. I freelance from home as a Graphic Designer and Illustrator and help Seeing Eye Dogs raise puppies.

James Hosking

James has long been a fan of pottering in his garden and bushwalking amongst trees, but lockdowns through 2020-21 (fingers crossed not 2022...) provided an opportunity to further this interest by completing his Permaculture Design Course (2021) as well as a Diploma of Sustainable Living (online through UTAS). He's currently undertaking a sustainable renovation to his miner's cottage in Ballarat and hopes to use what he's learned to expand his garden and live a greener, more sustainable life.

James works in IT, undertaking data analysis and building reports for a national retailer. He loves getting into details, figuring out why things are the way they are, and probably consumes more news and analysis than is healthy (useful for quizzes though!).


Sammy Gibson-Williamson

I'm Sammy.

I am a stay at home mum with two young daughters who I spend most of my daylight hours with.
I enjoy learning new things, singing, cooking, gardening, writing, drawing and reading.
I am a creative.
I was drawn to permaculture in 2019 at my local community garden and recently completed my PDC.
My passions are health and human development, I love social permaculture, plants and soil.