Bill Mollison was born in 1928 in the small fishing village of Stanley, on the Bass Strait coast of cool-temperate Tasmania.
He left school at 15 to help run his family’s bakery. Among the jobs that followed were mill worker, seaman, animal trapper and shark fisherman. A rough brew for someone who would become an environmentalist, they led him to nine years at the Wildlife Survey Section of the CSIRO (Australia’s government science research organisation) and then time with the Inland Fisheries Commission of Tasmania. What the two latter jobs provided were long stints in the wild forests and coasts of Tasmania, closely monitoring the life of those ecosystems. It was this time in nature that was formative to Mollison’s ideas on ecology and on how the provision of human needs, such as agriculture, could make use of those structures and processes he observed.
In 1968 Mollison became a tutor at the University of Tasmania, in Hobart, and, later, senior lecturer in Environmental Psychology. It was in that role that he linked with a student at the Tasmanian College of Advanced Education, David Holmgren, and the seeds of Permaculture were sown.