Getting to Know Emma Morris ...

Getting to Know Emma Morris ...

from the Socio-Ecological Learning Environment.

What’s your number one saying?

Mā te rongo, ka mōhio; 

mā te mōhio, ka marama; 

mā te marama, ka mātau;

mā te mātau ka ora


From listening comes awareness; 

from awareness comes understanding; 

from understanding comes wisdom; 

from wisdom comes life and wellbeing

I love this whakatauki as it emphasises one of my core beliefs, about the relationship between learning and wellbeing!


Where are you based (why, and where have you lived before)?

I recently moved to Whanganui to support establishing the Learning Environment. I’m loving getting to know this beautiful town and community and the magnificent awa. This is my first permanent move out of the Auckland region, where I was raised, and where I have been living on Waiheke Island for several years. 


How would your friends describe your sense of humour?

Subtle, cheeky and on point. 


What led you to permaculture (and when)?

I first stumbled across Permaculture when I was studying Urban Planning in 2012, where I was pursuing a deep drive to support communities thrive through relationship with place. When I did an exchange to California I got to experience living in a permaculture community in Oakland, which stimulated an exploration of wwoofing and travelling to places practicing permaculture throughout Central America. 

I returned to Aotearoa to continue this journey and landed in a little valley above Mawhitipana beach (Little Palm / Nudy Bay) on Waiheke Island to regenerate a native forest,  coordinate wwoofers and experiment with permaculture practices. I undertook a PDC and then a Permaculture Teacher Training certificate as my desire to share what I was learning increased. I travelled to India for the 2017 International Permaculture Convergence, living on Polam farm where it was held, and supporting the coordination of a large international PDC. Since returning home in 2018 I’ve been collaborating with some close friends on how to bring our various dreams for land-based learning experiences together through activating the Learning Environment. 


What is your profession/passion and who are the people you share this with?

My journey with permaculture has been entangled with my growing passion for teaching. It has been a windy road to be able to step into the role of teacher and something I only recently crystallised, while undertaking my Masters thesis, with Otago Polytech. This thesis starts to articulate the approach to learning we want to offer at the Learning Environment, which I speak to in the podcast with Dan Palmer. I am lucky to work alongside some of my closest community on a day-to-day basis including Cam Ryan, Julie Crocker, Chris Anderson, Ness Radish, Dave Hursthouse, Sam O’Sullivan, Leo Gedye and Justin Dowd. They each inspire and motivate me in their unique ways and we are creating an incredible working culture together, seeking to resonate with living system patterns in the way we organise, as well as what we are building at Piwakawaka Farm.  

Another of my passions and professions is Community Development. Previously I was coordinating the Waiheke Collective, a collective of ecological groups seeking to collaborate for thriving Waiheke natural ecosystems. I’ve recently started working with the Whanganui District Council in the Town Centre Regeneration Team where we are connecting people to place through a series of placemaking projects. 


What's your personal take on Permaculture in New Zealand? 

I have made some of my closest relationships through the Permaculture community in Aotearoa NZ including many incredible friends and mentors. People who are enlivening and inspiring, and who are radically and creatively experimenting with ways that regenerate the earth. I appreciate a shared understanding through the Permaculture community about ethics and principles that are holistic and take a systemic and interconnected lens for caring for our people and planet. I believe many people are connected to this way of knowing under a variety of names other than permaculture, and that this community is expansive and bursting with potential. 


Where changes would you like to see for permaculture in the future?

One of the biggest growth and potential spaces for Permaculture I see is in the way it is being taught and learned. I want to see deeply embodied learning experiences where the principles, patterns and ethics of Permaculture authentically honour the teachings and learnings of the place they are set in. Here in Aotearoa that means Māori are involved in running courses, Mātauranga Māori is integrated and courses explore what has happened on the lands they are taught on.  Learning promotes social justice as well as ecological regeneration, which includes talking about, understanding and honouring Te Tiriti o Waitangi. Learning experiences care for place as the first priority and everything else unfolds around that. 

I imagine Permaculture courses that learn through community, rather than learning about community, by participating in experiential learning with locals to that place. Courses  explore healthy relationships and balancing power through collaboration, where lessons can be taken out into our  wider community. Learners' total wellbeing can be nurtured in a Permaculture course, through different activities that stimulate physical, emotional, mental and spiritual wellbeing. What people are learning mirrors the way they are learning, experiencing the learnings not just theoretically and practically but through full body knowledge. Courses teach learners to use permaculture principles to both read an ecological landscape, as well as read their inner landscapes. Learners discover their own potential and how to express their uniqueness. I dream that this type of Permaculture education is integrated into the standard curriculum in secondary and post-secondary education, as well as offered throughout organisations and institutions.  Big dreams for reimagining permaculture education! 


What question do you wish to ask those who are reading this?

Want to collaborate on any of these dreams? Get in touch!

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