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  • Jennifer Jewell


FOODSCAPING - with Brie Arthur. Photo courtesy of Brie Arthur, all rights reserved.


ALL PHOTOS courtesy of Milkwood, all rights reserved.

This week on Cultivating Place we’re in conversation with Kirsten Bradley, Co-founder and Creative Director of the world renowned Australian-based Milkwood Permaculture. 

Co-Founded by Kirsten and her husband Nick Ritar in 2006, Milkwood's newest Milkwood Permaculture Living Handbook is another perfect resource for the summer garden (and life) plotting, planning, and planting, with an emphasis on garden-life-based habits for hope in a changing world. 

As they write about their life & work known as Milkwood:

- It all began in 2006, on a farm in New South Wales, Australia…

In 2006 Kirsten Bradley and Nick Ritar moved to Nick’s family farm in NSW Australia to build a tiny house and grow some food. This somehow turned into what they describe as “a wild and wonderful, permaculture-farm-school-experiment-thing – called Milkwood.”

They welcomed students and teachers from all over the world to their tin-shed classroom during those years, and they all learned a lot!

Fast forward to now – Milkwood is a world-renowned team of educators, facilitators and doers.

Together, they teach permaculture living, organic veggie gardening and home mushroom cultivation, to help create resilient and abundant households and communities, wherever they can through free online resources & world-class training – in order to build our collective skills and confidence in order to create permanently sustainable systems. EVERYWHERE.


Co-founder and Creative Director Kirsten recently aggregated so much of their own learning into The Milkwood Permaculture Living Handbook: Habits for Hope in a Changing World, and I am thrilled to welcome her to Cultivating Place.

I particularly love the first "Habit for Hope" that Kirsten posted about over at the Milkwood Website:

Alrighty – Habits for Hope, here we go (what is this? Go here to learn more about the series)…

Let’s start with what we see as an utterly essential habit for everyone – learning the story of the Country that you’re on.

This usually means learning whose land you are on, and learning how to show respect for and solidarity with Indigenous people and Country where you live, and beyond.

Why is this habit so important? Because showing respect for First Nations people and the Country that has been stewarded by them for millennia, and which currently nurtures you, each and everyday of your life, is fundamental to permaculture ethics, and also to showing up as a good human.

Taking on this habit helps create more equity and justice – for people, and for country.

We know that learning from, raising up and practicing indigenous knowledge, science and land practices hold key ways to mitigate the climate crisis, as well as adapt to rapid change. Also – globally, Indigenous people make up less than 5% of the world’s population, but they manage and protect 80% of global biodiversity.

And for these crucial knowledge-ways to be acknowledged, protected and utilized, they need our individual and community-level support, which includes a working understanding of the story of the country we are on.

This habit also has the effect of helping to connect YOU to the Country that you’re on, just that little bit more – which can only be a good thing.

If you’ve lived where you are for a while, perhaps you already know this story – or maybe it’s YOUR Country. Or maybe, if you’re like us, you’ve moved around a lot. There are many ways to learn your land’s story – here’s some starting ideas:

How to Learn the Story of the Country You’re On

Step 1: People

Do some research and find out who are the Indigenous people of the place you call home, and the name of the language they speak. Write these name/s down, and put that on your fridge so you see it regularly.

Also, research the history of the land that you live on, and what’s happened from first point of contact (if the land you’re on was colonized) up until now.

Which people arrived here? When? What treaties were made or broken here? When was that? Where are those people now?

Step 2: Place

Research the original names of the places where you live, and any other landmarks that you can find reference to – mountains, rivers, beaches, plains.

Write all those names down on a map of your local area. If these are publicly available and it’s culturally appropriate, start using those names.

Step 3: Connect

Find the closest Indigenous organisation to you – they may have online or in-house resources that you can access to help with your research. They may also have events you can attend, to learn more about where you live, from their perspective.

Step 4: Understand

Educate yourself on what has happened, on the land where you live, to Indigenous people – from when they stopped being the only people of your country (eg from the point of colonisation, if that’s the story of your area) till now. Be real about it. Don’t look away.

Seek to understand what has happened, and what is still happening. This is often a dark story, but it’s important to understand what has gone before, to create the place where you live, now. Read books by Indigenous writers, seek out documentaries about history like Australian Wars.

Step 5: Contribute

If you live on stolen land, it’s time to give back in a way that makes life better for others. This land nurtures you, each and every day, thanks to the long, long stewardship of First Peoples. Find out how to Pay the Rent (also called Indigenous Land Tax) where you live. We’ll step you though this excellent habit in a few weeks time, but here’s a primer.

Step 6: Use Your Knowledge

Use your knowledge. Share what you’ve learned with your family and friends. Initiate discussion on these topics. Get involved in reconciliation processes or other campaigns lead by Indigenous people nearby.

And a small-but powerful daily practice, once you know whose land you’re on: you can add the traditional place name of the country that you’re on to your postal address.

In Australia, putting the country that you’re on between your name and the first line of your address is the recommended way to do this, according to AusPost. A note that this came about via a successful campaign by Place Names in Adresses and allies (yay).


You can follow Milkwood on-line:

And on Instagram:


you might also enjoy these Best of CP programs in our archive:

JOIN US again next week, when we’re in conversation with Sarah Beck of Pacific Horticulture, sharing more about this year’s Design Futurist Awards amplifying, recognizing, and incentivizing the aesthetic beauty AS WELL AS the important impact of the very best of ecological place-based garden design! That’s next week, right here, listen in.



Cultivating Place is made possible in part by listeners like you and by generous support from

supporting initiatives that empower women and help preserve the planet through the intersection of environmental advocacy, social justice, and creativity.



Thinking out loud this week:

I purchased a signed copy of the Milkwood Permaculture Living Handbook for my own collection. Kirsten signed it like this: “Thank you for living like it matters.” And I thought, that’s just what I want to share with other gardeners, first and foremost those of your listening and gardening and nodding your heads with me in these conversations each week. Thank you for listening and gardening like it matters. Because it matters! We as gardeners matter so much….

Another treasure I noted and tucked away in my brain from this conversation were notes from the inside front cover of the Milkwood Permaculture Living Handbook. Starts out like this: This Book is for you is: 1. You’ve got your reusable cup but you want to do more in a meaningful way, 2. You’d like more ideas for how to live with intention, curiosity, and purpose, 3. You’ve signed all the defund fossil fuel petitions, but you want to make a bigger difference on the daily….


And for me this is what Cultivating Place is all about for you as a gardener. If you want to make a difference on the daily – garden with intention, curiosity, and purpose – with your hands in the dirt, your ears with the birds, and your heart with the spirit of all that we can grow better.






Cultivating Place is a co-production of North State Public Radio, a service of Cap Radio, licensed to Chico State Enterprises. Cultivating place is made possible in part listeners just like you through the support button at the top right-hand corner of every page at Cultivating

The CP team includes producer and engineer Matt Fidler, with weekly tech and web support from Angel Huracha, and this summer we're joined by communications intern Sheila Stern. We’re based on the traditional and present homelands of the Mechoopda Indian Tribe of the Chico Rancheria. Original theme music is by Ma Muse, accompanied by Joe Craven and Sam Bevan.

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