Keyline Emerges. 80

The Placing of the Dams. 94

Designing Farms. 98

Creating Deep Soil Fast 100

Other aspects of the Way. 102

Outcomes of the Yeomans Way. 102


Keyline’s Influence on Permaculture. 109

Prophets for Ecological Profit 110













Photo 1 This photo shows the low fertility shale strewn with stones on           P.A’s farm... 78

Photo 2 Fertile soil after two years compared to the original soil 79

Photo 3 After three years the property looked like a plush rural golf course. 80

Photo 4 Nevallan farm dams. 81

Photo 5 At Nevallan in July 2001, looking down towards the Keypoint at the top of the dam... 82

Photo 6 A Different Angle Showing the Ridges at the top of the Primary Valley. 83

Photo 7 This view looks up towards the ridge at the top of the primary          valley from where Photos 5 and 6 were taken   83

Photo 8 Notice the chisel ‘terracing’ effect 86

Photo 9 Advertisement for Chisel Plow – Bunyip Slipper Imp with Shakaerator’ 87

Photo 10 One of the overflow channels - photo taken June 2001  95

Photo 11 The Gentle slope of the overflow channel coming away from the near corner of the left dam... 95

Photo 12 Channel leading from one dam wall to the dam below – July 2001. 96

Photo 13 Irrigation channel for flow irrigation. 96

Photo 14 Irrigation flag in place. 97

Photo 15 Flag diverting water to flood-flow over adjacent land. 97

Photo 16 Keyline outcomes. 103

Photo 17 Neville at Keyline field day leaning on the shovel 104

Photo 18 Keyline Photo set. 105

Photo 19 Nevallan in 2002 looking back to the Keypoint 106

Photo 20 The Header to Neville’s Newspaper column in the Now Newspaper 108

Photo 21 Parting of the Ways - Laura Festival in 2001. 112

Photo 22 Tracy’s Painting Relating to Social Cohesion.. 113

Photo 23 Embodying Crocodile Ways. 127





Diagram 1 The Keypoint - Where Convex Curve Becomes Concave  84

Diagram 2 The Keypoint and Keyline. 88

Diagram 3 ‘S’ Shaped Curve of Surface Water Runoff and the Curve of the Keyline. 89

Diagram 4 Plowing parallel to the Keyline. 90

Diagram 5 Chisel Plowing Parallel to the Keyline with arrows direction of changed run-off flow.. 91

Diagram 6 Rain and irrigation water being turned out along both ridges. 92

Diagram 7 Keyline Plowing Process for Ridges. 93





Drawing 1 Drawing by L. Spencer of the Island of Tikopia. 118





This Chapter explores the research question, ‘What, were the precursors and nature of the Ways of being and acting that Neville Yeomans use in his life work? This Chapter encapsulates some aspects of Neville Yeomans’ Way of thinking, processing and acting, and traces its origins to the innovative work that Neville did with his father Percival A. Yeomans and brother Allan in evolving Keyline, a set of processes and practices for harvesting water and creating sustainable agricultural practice.


The Chapter outlines the precursors of, and stimulus for Keyline in Australiasia Oceania Region indigenous people’s profound connexion and familiarity with, and knowledge of their land. The modeling and adaptation by Neville of socio-healing and sociomedicine ways of indigenous people of the Region is outlined, including how Indigenous ways were combined with Cultural Keyline in forming Fraser House.


The potency of place and public space, and its link with social cohesion and therapeutic community is introduced. Psycho-synthesis, Taoism and other precursors and influences are briefly discussed. Neville’s adaptation of Keyline to ‘Cultural Keyline’ in evolving Fraser House is introduced.




In 1993 while I was staying with Neville in Yungaburra he talked about how the two traumatic incidents - being lost as a three year old and being caught in the fire - had had such a profound impact on him. These two traumatic incidents had also had a profound, though different impact on his father (Mulligan and Hill 2001).

P. A Yeomans was, at the time Neville was lost, a mine assayer, and a keen observer of landscapes and landforms. P. A. Yeomans was deeply impressed by the local knowledge of the Aboriginal tracker who found three year old Neville. P. A. had been impressed by the Aboriginal tracker’s profound knowledge of the minutia of his local land, such that, in that harsh dry rocky climate with compacted soils he could so readily follow the minute traces left as evidence of the movements of a little boy. The other thing was that upon finding little Neville, the tracker was so intimately connected to the local land and its forms he knew exactly where to go to find water. The tracker was ‘of the land’. He and his people ‘be long’ there (40,000 plus years). They were an integral part of the land. They were never apart from it. It was not that this tracker knew where a creek was, as there wasn’t one. The tracker and his community saw the Earth as a loving Mother that provided well for them continually. He knew how to find water whenever he wanted it and wherever he was in his homeland. As soon as the tracker found Neville he had to find the right kind of spot for a short easy dig. Because of Neville’s dehydration, the tracker needed water for Neville fast. He quickly had Neville sipping water. Hill reports that, ‘according to Neville, it was probably this incident that gave his father his enduring interest in the movement of water through Australian landscapes, because he could see that an understanding of this would be a huge advantage for people living in the driest inhabited continent on Earth (Mulligan and Hill 2001)’.


Just as Neville had also been profoundly influenced by his Uncle’s death in the grass fire, P.A was also profoundly influenced (and traumatized) by the same incident. During the ensuing years after leaving mine assaying, P.A. had moved on to having his own substantial earth moving company. P.A had acquired the farms to take advantage of tax breaks then available. P. A. had just purchased the properties with his brother-in-law Jim Barnes the year before the fire. Recall that Jim Barnes died in the fire. After the fire, P.A. had to decide whether he would keep the farms and run them alone. He decided to stay on the farms. These points were confirmed by Neville, Allan, Ken, and Stephanie Yeomans.



P. A. emulated the Aboriginal tracker in becoming familiar – family – with the landforms of his two properties. P.A. wanted to store or use all of the water that landed on the properties. The massive restrictions the authorities now have on building farm dams and controls on irrigation in large parts of Australia were not in place then. In a 2002 conversation, Neville’s youngest brother Ken said that no dams can be now made in the Murray Darling Basin, and farmers in this area have limited say as to the storage and use of the rain that falls on their own properties.


P.A. wanted to be able to water his two properties so they were so lush and green all year round that they would be virtually fireproof. When the families acquired the properties the soil was ‘low grade’. It was undulating hill country with plenty of ridges that were composed of low fertility shale strewn with stones. The following photo taken at Nevallan one of the Yeomans’ farms shows the original poor shale and rock ‘soil’ that was right throughout the two properties when P. A. and his brother-in-law Jim Barnes bought them.


Photo 1 This photo shows the low fertility shale strewn with stones on P.A’s farm


The next photo shows a spade full of fertile soil after two years of the processes evolved by P.A and his sons. To clearly show the difference in the soil, a clump of the fertile soil has been placed beside earth on the base of a tree stump that became exposed when the tree fell over. This lighter low-grade soil had not being involved in the processes the Yeoman’s evolved.


Photo 2 Fertile soil after two years compared to the original soil


Within three years Yeomans and his sons had energized what conventional wisdom said was impossible. They had altered the natural system so that the natural emergent properties of the farm, as ‘living system’, created ten centimeters (4 inches) of lush dark fertile soil over most of the property! What is important is that in the Ways they used, the local natural ecosystem did the work. P.A. enabled emergent aspects in nature to self organize towards increased fertility. ‘Emergent’ is a name for a system aspect that is present at some level of organization and not present at lesser levels of organization. For example, the sweetness of glucose is not present in any of the molecular building blocks of glucose (Internet Source 2002).


The processes the Yeomans used to foster natural emergence is discussed in the following section. With the interventions that P.A. introduced, the property had become lush and green twelve months of the year. It was virtually fireproofed! The photo below shows the plush farm that emerged in three years.



Photo 3 After three years the property looked like a plush rural golf course.


In 1974, P. A described processes whereby 150 cms (five feet) of deep fertile soil could be created within three years (Yeomans and Murray Valley Development League 1974). These processes are detailed later.


Neville’s profound insight was to see how the processes that created such vibrant fertility on the farm could be applied in the psychosocial life world. This Neville set out to do as his life work. The balance of this Chapter will specify the processes the Yeomans evolved and applied on their farms and the indigenous influences involved. It then introduces the ways Neville evolved to adapt his family’s farming processes to psychosocial change.

Keyline Emerges

Over thousands of years, if this continent’s Aboriginals wanted to spear fish in the shallow creeks and rivers, they would copy behavior of the wading birds – they wade slowly and react extremely fast with their long beaks. The Aboriginal hunter with his spear mimics these waders. Resonant with the continent’s indigenous ways, P.A. and his sons engaged in bio- mimicry - letting the water, the land-forms, the soil biota and the balance of the local eco-system tell them what to do. P.A. would take Neville and Neville’s younger brother Allen out onto the farms as they were growing up whenever it rained so they all could learn to see directly how the rain soaked in at different times, how long before run-off would occur on different land forms, and what paths down the slopes the run-off moved on different land shapes. Like the Aborigines, they were learning to have all of their senses focused in the here-and-now, attending to all that was happening in nature. Whatever action P.A. and his sons did, they always observed how nature responded. P. A. obtained contour line maps (with a useful scale) of his property to further aid his understanding of landform. Neville said that his father constantly referred to the three primary landscape features - the ridge (elevated from the horizontal), the primary valley (vertical cleavages) and the secondary valleys (lateral vertical cleavages). The farm was perceived by P.A. as a cleavered unity, a feature pervasive in nature. The concept ‘cleavered unity’ is discussed further below in relation to the Solomon Islander Tikopia people (Firth 1957) and Neville’s therapeutic community Fraser House. P. A. discovered where the best places were to store run-off water for maximum later distribution using the free energy of gravity feed. It was high in a special place in the primary valleys. Below is a photo showing the water harvesting P. A. achieved. Overflow from dams high in the primary valleys were linked by gravity-based over-flow channels to lower dams.

Photo 4 Nevallan farm dams

The whole farm layout was designed to fit nature. All of the dams were placed so as to simultaneously get water run-off, pass overflow to a dam below by gravity, or by gravity based irrigation, pass on the water to the soil when desired.’ P.A. writes that Neville was with him out on the farm at the very moment when P.A. recognized what he called the Keypoint and the Keyline in landform – the central concepts in Keyline.



Photo 5 At Nevallan in July 2001, looking down towards the Keypoint at the top of the dam



Photo 6 A Different Angle Showing the Ridges at the top of the Primary Valley



Photo 7 This view looks up towards the ridge at the top of the primary valley from where Photos 5 and 6 were taken


The Keypoint and Keyline have special properties and significance. Stuart Hill and I visited Nevallan for the first time in 2001 and took the above photo showing the spot where P.A. and Neville first spotted the Keypoint and Keyline. The Keypoint is right at the nearest end of the closest dam. Like all Keypoints the one in the photo is on the drainage line where the convex curve of the hill becomes concave.


Diagram 1 The Keypoint - Where Convex Curve Becomes Concave


The Keyline extends either side of the Keypoint for a particular distance along the contour line running through the Keypoint. Stuart Hill, in chapter eight of his book on Australia’s Ecological Pioneers, outlines some aspects of the process P. A. and his son’s used (Mulligan and Hill 2001):


‘What Yeomans senior discovered through such patient observation was that there is a line across the slope of a hillside where the water table is closest to the surface. The ground along this line looks wettest and is reflective when it rains heavily.  This is the line where the slope changes from being convex above to concave below.


It is the line along which it makes most sense to locate the highest irrigation dams within the landscape, because this is where the run-off water from above can most effectively be collected and subsequently used at the most appropriate time to irrigate the more gently sloping land below.  Yeomans called this line the Keyline.’


Above the Keypoint is typically a land shape that directs the water run-off so that most of it ends up arriving in an area of about a square metre (the Keypoint) – the very start of the typical creek as creek. P.A. found that the optimal locations for dams along the Keyline are where it crosses the drainage lines within primary valleys. As stated, he called these the Keypoint for that primary valley.


Yeomans first outlined his ideas about water movement and how to detect Keypoints in a book entitled, ‘The Keyline Plan’ in 1954 (Yeomans 1954). The books, ‘Challenge of Landscape’, ‘Water for Every Farm’, and ‘The City Forest’ followed (Yeomans 1958; Yeomans 1958; Yeomans 1965; Yeomans 1965; Yeomans 1971; Yeomans 1971). Three of P.A. Yeomans’ books, the ‘Keyline Plan’ ‘The Challenge of Landscape’ and the ‘City Forest: The Keyline Plan for the Human Environment Revolution’ including all of their diagrams and photos are now on-line through the Soil and Health Organization (Yeomans 1958a; Yeomans 1965a; Yeomans 1971a). P.A’s youngest son Ken also wrote on Keyline (Yeomans and Yeomans 1993) as well as Holmes (Holmes 1960). All of the structures, processes and practices that P. A. Yeomans evolved he also called Keyline (Yeomans 1971; Yeomans 1971).


Notice the Keyline design features adapting natural place-forms in the above three photos. The closest dam is sited so it is in the highest point in the valley floor where the convex curve shifts to being concave.


P. A, used chisel plowing parallel to the Keyline allowing the natural self-organizing flow of water to run into these chiseled grooves. This resulted in shifting the direction of flow of surface water around 85 degrees towards the ridges. This stops an eroding rush of surface water down to the valley floor, slows the flow, spreads the soaking, and allows for a massive increase in the moisture levels in the soil without water-logging – that is, water is ‘stored’ as it slowly filters through the soil as well as been kept in all the dams. These changes are vital in the driest inhabited country in the World. P. A. did not use plowing that turned the soil as he found that it damaged soil ecology.



Photo 8 Notice the chisel ‘terracing’ effect


P.A. adapted a chisel plough from USA that cut grooves into the farms low-grade compacted soil by adding a shaking vibration which created small underground hollow channels around ten centimeters or four inches blow the surface, adjustable depending on depth of ‘top soil’. P. A. won the Prince Phillip Agricultural Design Award in 1974 for his design of this, ‘Chisel Plow with Shakaerator’ (2002). Neville also was very familiar with his fathers and brother Allan’s engineering designs for farm equipment. One was the Slipper Imp an advance on the chisel plow they had been using (Yeomans 1974).




Photo 9 Advertisement for Chisel Plow – Bunyip Slipper Imp with Shakaerator’


Notice that they describe the plow as the ‘soil maker supreme’. The ‘Shakaerator’ name implied a shaking action that broke up compacted soil and aided aeration. Diagram 2 is a contour map of the top of a primary valley. The dark curve is the Keyline. The Keypoint is on the primary valley drainage line. The upside down parabolic curves are the contour lines.

Diagram 2 The Keypoint and Keyline


Note that the top four contour lines are relatively close together indicating a steep concave fall. The distance between the Keyline contour and the one below is considerably wider indicating a flattening out of the fall. The contour on the top of the first widest gap between contours at the top of the primary valley is the spot that the convex slope becomes concave. The ‘S’ shaped lines indicate the flow of over ground water runoff for the left-hand side of the valley looking uphill. This S shape flow can be confirmed by drawing short lines at right angles to a series of contour lines (the flow direction at that point) at the head of a valley and then linking up these lines. Note that the water runs at right angles to each successive contour and this sets up the ‘S’ shape flow. Diagram 3 shows the land surrounding Diagram 2. The lower repeated image shows a segment of the flow of run-off water.


Diagram 3 ‘S’ Shaped Curve of Surface Water Runoff and the Curve of the Keyline


Diagram 4. shows Keyline chisel plowing parallel to the Keyline. Note that by plowing parallel to the Keyline the grooves soon go off contour.





Diagram 4 Plowing parallel to the Keyline


Keyline plowing is not the same as contour plowing. By creating the chisel grooves parallel to the Keyline as depicted in Diagrams 4 and 5 the water run-off that was coming down the slope in an S shaped curve is turned about 85 degrees to run out along the sides of the ridges in the chiseled grooves.



Diagram 5 Chisel Plowing Parallel to the Keyline with arrows direction of changed run-off flow


In Diagram 6 the red lines depict rainwater run-off as it happens without the chisel plowing. Once the run off hits the chisel plowing it is turned around 85% and runs out along the ridges on both sides of the valley.




Diagram 6 Rain and irrigation water being turned out along both ridges



On the ridges, chisel plowing is carried out parallel to a selected contour line as depicted in Diagram 7.






Diagram 7 Keyline Plowing Process for Ridges.


Notice that the fall-line and the chisel grooves are again at around 85 degrees to each other. This plowing pattern also turns the water from running off the sides of the ridge, typically in ‘S’ shaped curves to the floor of valleys. The chisel cuts have the water again turned so that it runs at a much shallower slope along the side of the ridge. This again slows the speed of run-off and allows the water to be stored as it passes through the soill.

The Placing of the Dams


When P. A. was in outback mining areas he had noted the way the Chinese would build long mining water-races along contours (where they placed their dams). These enabled the Chinese miners to move water a long way, often with a fall along the water-race of only a few centimeters. In some places in Australia where P.A. Yeomans traveled in his mine assaying work, Chinese miners had ample water, whereas in the same area, farmers would have no dams and no water. P.A. well knew that similar principles had been used by the Romans and others in making aqueducts. How P.A. adapted the water-race/aqueduct ideas into Keyline is discussed below.


All the Yeomans’ dam walls have a specially designed and constructed pipe that comes out at the base of the middle of the dam wall. The pipe is fitted with a valve on it on the downhill side. No pumps are needed. Water from the valve feeds into irrigation channels. Other dams are situated so that overflow from a higher dam can flow out an over-flow channel by gravity down into the lower dam(s). The overflows are gentle so no erosion occurs. When the dam level drops the overflow channel is self-seeded with grasses. When I walked the Nevallan property in June 2001, the overflow channels, about 15 feet across, were covered with lush green grass and they had had no maintenance for 20 years! Photo 10 is the overflow channel for the closest dam shown in photos 5, 6 and 7. Stuart Hill is standing on the top of the dam wall that curves away to his right. A car could be driven across the wall easily.



Photo 10 One of the overflow channels - photo taken June 2001



Photo 11 The Gentle slope of the overflow channel coming away from the near corner of the left dam


Photo 12 below shows the channel allowing excess water from one dam to flow gently down to a lower dam. The photo was taken from three quarters of the way down the dam wall. Photo 12 was taken from the dam wall of the closest dam shown in photos 5, 6 and 7 facing towards the far dam in those photos.



Photo 12 Channel leading from one dam wall to the dam below – July 2001.


The irrigation channels are filled from the valve outlet by gravity flow. The irrigation channel is sited below the overflow channels.



Photo 13 Irrigation channel for flow irrigation.


Water flowing along an irrigation channel was delivered to a stretch of land by placing an irrigation ‘flag’ across the channel. This was usually made from a three-square meter piece of material with a pipe through a hem across one end. This pipe was laid across the channel and the material lay in the channel to make a temporary ‘wall’.



Photo 14 Irrigation flag in place.


Photo 15 Flag diverting water to flood-flow over adjacent land.


Designing Farms

The above considerations guided placement of paddocks, fences, gates, and roads. Landform and flood irrigation flow is also taken into account in designing where paddock boundaries are placed. Up to P. A. and his sons’ work, Australian (and other) farms had rarely been designed. They tended to evolve in a haphazard or ‘traditional’ way – ‘this is the way we always do it’. Farmers would impose their will on nature (‘dominion over’ in the Jewish and Christian tradition). If something was ‘in the way’, they would ‘bulldoze’ it out of the way. In designing and using Keyline, things are placed relative to other system parts and place for maximizing functionality, emergence, inter-related fit and use of free energy in the system. This is discussed more fully in other places (Yeomans 1954; Yeomans 1955; Yeomans 1958; Yeomans 1958; Holmes 1960; Yeomans 1965; Yeomans 1965; Yeomans 1971; Yeomans 1971; Yeomans 1976; Yeomans 1993; Yeomans and Yeomans 1993; Yeomans and Yeomans 1993; Hill 2000; Holmgren 2001; Yeomans 2001; 2002).


A central thing about Keyline is that it involves design, and not just any design; rather, a local context based design that superbly fits the local natural system. Nature told them what to do. The Yeomans always attended to nature and respected the design in nature, and designed and redesigned their interventions in a way that melded in with nature’s design, ‘design principles’ and emergent properties (Capra 1997, p.28). The Yeomans thought like dynamic living systems and used bio-mimicry (Suzuki and Dressel 2002, p. 66, 110) in their designs. They engaged with all of the inherent aspects of the farm as a holarchical living system (Holonic Manufacturing Systems 2000). They were ever aware that the ‘wholes’ in the living systems of the farms were made up of parts, and these parts were themselves wholes made up of parts. And the initial whole referred to, was itself a part of something bigger. P.A. and Neville were very linked to this web of linkages. For them, the farm was a living system made up of interconnected, inter-related, inter-dependent and interwoven living systems and associated networked inorganics (a connexity relating). ‘Connexity’ is a central lived, embodied, and experienced framing concept. My definition of ‘connexity’ is as follows:


‘Connexity’ embodies the notion that everything within and between natural contexts and everything within and between people and context (culturally and inter-culturally) is inter-dependent, inter-related, inter-connected, inter-linked and interwoven – whether we recognize it or not.


Keyline has many design features, all resonant with natural system connexity.Connexity’ was to my knowledge a term not used by Neville although it connotes his understanding of system linkages well. ‘Connexity’ is a resonant concept in understanding Neville’s Way and the praxis he enabled. The Yeomans linked into the connexity in their farms’ ecosystem strategically. They, as living systems, were linked into the farm living systems. They used nature as their guide as what to do, and what to do next. Everything that they did was consistent with these design principles.


There is fractal like repetition in nature (Mandelbrot 1983) and in the Yeomans’ designs. One design principle was ‘work with the free energy in the system’. This was evident in the Yeomans use of gravity and the design layout that maximized the capacity to use gravity. Another example of thriving free energy is creating the context for the massive increase in detritivores. This is discussed in the next section. As an illustration of fractals, Allan suggested taking a map of the Amazonian River system and reducing it in size. If we keep reducing it, it looks exactly like a smaller river system. If we keep reducing it looks exactly like a small river system. If we reduce it smaller, it looks like a creek system. If we reduce it even small it may well be a creek with its small tributary system.


Another design and intervention principle was that if there were an impasse, they would tend to maximize possibilities for provoking the system to self-organize towards functional adaptation to bypass the impasse. This was linked to looking for the free energy in the system. They would work with what works near, surrounding, associated, and connected to the impasse rather than the impasse itself. An example was how to introduce an outlet pipe through the base of the middle of the dam without water seepage along the outside of the pipe causing a washout of the dam wall. The conventional wisdom of the day was that you never put a pipe through a dam wall. The Keyline literature discusses how they designed out the impasse by working with nature rather than against nature, such that nature compacted the soil around the pipe. Self-organizing processes in nature eliminated seepage in association with the aspects they designed into the pipe and the pipe installing process.


Another design principle was, in deBono’s terms, to use all of the different kinds of thinking (de Bono 1999). One of these divergent forms of thinking was to explore the potential in doing what was the opposite, or most different to what people always do.  As an example, on a summer morning in 1993 in Yungaburra, Neville and I were about to fold a very large tarp covered in water and leaves from the mango tree. I started to straighten it out by folding it in like I always do when Neville said, ‘Let’s do what my father would do. Do the opposite. We can fold it out, not in. Each time we grab from the middle and walk the middle to the side. Doing this we will fold out so most of the leaves and water will run off rather than being trapped in the folded tarp. If we fold water in it will be so heavy, we wont be able to shift it!’ We did this folding out rather than folding in. It was simple and it worked. That tarp was one of several used in the small Laceweb campout in the rainforest in Kuranda discussed in Chapter Nine.

Creating Deep Soil Fast

The wider thinking behind this water-soil changework was that P.A and Neville did not rest with the notion prevailing in most quarters, that it can take up to 800 years to make ten centimeters of soil by rock erosion and other breaking-down processes. They asked how they could create ten centimeters or more of new topsoil in a few years? They reasoned that soil could be created by constituting an underground context/environment bringing together detritivores (creatures that live on dead organic matter) with ideal combinations of air, moisture and a steady supply of organic detritus (dead organic matter).


They knew that cropping a certain height off grasses and plants just before flowering/seeding either by grazing or cutting created a shock to the plant and a comparable size of dieback in root systems. The energy that the plant had geared up for flowering and seeding is diverted into rapid growth for survival. The roots that die create the organic material for decomposing. What’s more, the dead organic root matter is already evenly spread underground through the soil where it is needed. The space previously taken up by the root becomes air chambers. The cut vegetation material was also recycled into the soil. The plant responds with vigourous new growth that is strategically irrigated. Keyline chisel plowing and flood-flow irrigation would increase soil moisture content. This combination supplied the conditions for a massive increase in detritivores (Yeomans 1971; Yeomans 1971; Yeomans and Murray Valley Development League 1974; Yeomans 1976).


 The changes P.A. and his sons made to the farm created a context where natural emergent processes in nature made a quantum self-organizing expansion in thriving populations of soil producing detritivores and other biota and related aspects that massively increased the farms fertility and output.


Ten centimeters of new topsoil was created in three years – something that was previously thought to take around 800 years! Earthworms emerged in abundance, the size of which (over 60 cm or 24 inches) had never been seen before in the Region. The Riverland Journal carried an article stating that H. Schenk, head of the Farm Bureau of America Bureau Movement described Nevallan earthworms as among the best he had seen. His words were, ‘Boy this must be the best soil ever was’ (Yeomans 1956). Neville told me he heard one well-traveled visitor saying that the only other place he had seen comparable worms was in the fertile fields of the Nile delta in Egypt.

Other aspects of the Way

Before he acquired the farms P.A. had had a business in removing mine overburden. This experience also served him well in tackling the substantial earthworks in making farm dams, some of them very large. The largest surface area dam P.A. built on his own farms was at his Kencarley property in Orange, NSW. The largest by volume was at one of his first two farms, Nevallan in Richmond. The Kencarley dam covered 43 acres and had a dam wall over 10 meters high. P.A. suspected this wall may not hold as the soil that it was made from was far from ideal. He had checked that if the dam failed it would not jeopardize other people’s life or property. He was prepared to go ahead and construct the dam and if it failed he could still learn from the experience. Allan Yoemans told me that when the dam was filled, water did begin seeping through in parts. P.A. had devised ways of repairing dam walls by having controlled explosions under water. This is a classic example of, ‘do the opposite! One may think that you would never blow up a failing dam wall. P.A. had worked out a way to use these explosions to consolidate and compact the soil. He had had success with this method before. However, this time it did not save the dam and small tunnels formed in the sandy soil. After the water had all drained away, P.A. was able to examine the areas where the explosives had gone off and better understand the effect.

Outcomes of the Yeomans Way

The picture on the left in Photo 16 shows the lush growth on what had been very low-grade pastures. The other picture shows the worms mentioned previously.



Photo 16 Keyline outcomes.


P.A. attracted distinguished guests to the two properties. In Photo 17 Dr. Neville Yeomans is shown second from the right (leaning on the shovel). The photograph includes the following people (from the left):


His Excellency, the Governor-General of Australia, Field-Marshall Sir William Slim, G.C.B., G.C.N.G., G.C.U.L., G.B.E., D.S.O., M.C., is welcomed to "Nevallan". Left to right: Professor McMillan, Neville’s father (P. A Yeomans), Neville’s brother (Allan J. Yeomans), Mr. C. R. McKerihan, C.B.E., His Excellency, the Governor-General, Dr. Neville Yeomans, and Mr. John Darling.


In Photo 18 Neville is shown with his younger brother, Ken Yeomans, in the bottom left picture. The top two pictures show the use of tree belts to slow wind, slow evaporation and prevent soil erosion. The placement of belts of trees was designed to fit in with and complement all of the other design aspects. Trees belts were planted in varying years along differing contour lines so that years into the future, prevailing winds would come over a hill and skim over trees having their tops at the same elevation even though the land was falling; that is, the tree belts became progressively higher (and older) as the land fell. Time and the effect of passing time were designed into the farm.




Photo 17 Neville at Keyline field day leaning on the shovel






Photo 18 Keyline Photo set.


Thirty years after P.A.'s death, the system he established on the farm still works by itself with little maintenance required. As can be seen from the photo below taken in Oct 2001, when I walked the farm with Stuart Hill the farm still looks like sweeping gardens or a golf course.




Photo 19 Nevallan in 2002 looking back to the Keypoint


In 1971 P A. wrote his book, ‘The City Forest: The Keyline Plan for the Human Environment Revolution.’ (Yeomans 1971). This book explores using Keyline in urban areas. On 24 April 1974 P.A. sent off to the South Australian Government a design for a City Keyline Plan based on his book, ‘The City Forest’ for a proposed City of Monarto in South Australia. A copy of these plans is in the NSW Mitchell Library (Yeomans and Murray Valley Development League 1974). The proposal was for a population of 200,000 and incorporated the use of city effluent for irrigation of forests to be planted in the proposed city, and the purification of the surplus water by passing it through the forest soil and biosystem. In keeping with connexity, the proposal linked into the design reckoning, land-scale factors, as well as geological structure and other features including: shape, form, climate, natural plant cover, various soil types, capacities for development and use for the city, climate factors - prevailing wind, pattern of temperature, annual rainfall, amount and incidence of runoff, including all water that flows from outside and across the cityscape, waste water, and water runoff from roads, roofs, and sealed surfaces.


The Monarto plan mentions that, ‘Many species of trees that grow in medium rainfall areas respond to the greatly increased water and fertilizing factors of the effluents by producing several times their normal timber and with improved cell and fiber structure. For instance, trees for fence posts are available three years after planting. By that time rainforest soil will have been created more than 150cm (5 feet) deep. The plan was not followed through by the State Government of the day (my italics).


Elias Duek-Cohen, who first met Neville in 1968 through the Sydney Opera House Society (Neville was a founding member), was at that time lecturing at Sydney University in Town Planning. Duek Cohen told me in January 2003 that through Duek Cohen’s efforts, university research is currently under way sponsored by LandCom, the NSW Land Commission. That research is testing the feasibility of a pilot project investigating P. A.’s claims about producing deep soil using principles and processes set out in P.A.s book ‘The City Forest’. The results should be available later in 2003.


In his 1971 City Forest Book P. A. acknowledges the seminal supporting role of Neville in the forming of his ideas. He had Neville write the forward to this last book – The City Forest – about adapting his ideas to the design and layout of a city (Yeomans 1971; Yeomans 1971).  Recall that Neville had evolved Fraser House back in 1959 when P. A. had Keyline well under way. Neville worked closely with his father throughout his years at Fraser House and Fraser House outreach in the years 1968 through 1971 when the City Forest Book was published.


In the 1970’s, Neville wrote a weekly column in the Now Newspaper called ‘Yeomans Omens’ (Various Newspaper Journalists 1959-1974).



Photo 20 The Header to Neville’s Newspaper column in the Now Newspaper


In this column he wrote that between 20-50,000 acres of Keyline forest could totally absorb and purify the liquid effluent of Sydney. From this City Forest clean water would re-enter the rivers and dams or the sea.


I sense competitive aspects in the relationship between P.A. and his son Allan contributed to Neville being featured in the ‘Forward’ and ‘General Acknowledgements’ in the City Forest book. While fully recognizing that Keyline was developed by the father, there is every indication that Neville and Neville’s younger brother Allen were constantly involved and contributing to unfolding action.


P. A .Yeomans wrote, ‘Keyline and Habitat’ a paper he presented as a main platform speaker at the 1976 UN conference, ‘On Human Settlements’ in Canada (Yeomans 1976) wherein he discusses Keyline and City Forests. Eco-city projects are evolving around the world. Davis, a city of over 160,000 people in America, has adopted many of ‘The City Forest’s concepts, including extensive edible landscaping and water harvesting in public places (James 1997). This landscaping is established and sustained by volunteer community self help action. Resonant with P.A.’s, ‘The City Forest’, a Global Conference on Eco-Cities was held in the village of Yoff in Senegal in Africa in 1996. In describing Yoff, Nancy Willis (Willis 1996) quotes Robert Gilmen's definition of an EcoVillage, ‘a human-scale, full featured settlement in which human activities are harmlessly integrated into the natural world in a way that is supportive of healthy human development, and can be successfully continued into the indefinite.’ In describing her experiences during the Conference Willis writes, ‘We would see a community which has traditionally lived in harmony with nature instead of in competition with it. A community where cooperation for the betterment of the whole has always been a given, and where governance has for centuries been based on consensus decision-making and the idea that all should participate. Neville’s work is resonant with the way of the people of Yoff.


In 1993, Ken Yeomans published his book, ‘Water for Every Farm: Yeoman’s Keyline Plan’. This book clarified some aspects of Keyline. Allan Yeomans informed me in July 2002 that in keeping up the family’s tradition of being trail blazers, he has completed the design phase and is poised for commercial production of large scale solar thermal power supply system capable of servicing the needs of 100,000 people and way beyond. Allan has written the book, ‘Green Pawns and Global Warming’ (Yeomans 2001) wherein he makes a claim that the World-wide application of Keyline principles would get the carbon in the atmosphere back into storage in the ground and this would give us a small amount of ‘breathing time’ to make wider system changes.

Keyline’s Influence on Permaculture

Neville said that Hill a professor of Social Ecology from the University of Western Sydney understood the seminal part Keyline concepts and practices played in the evolving of Permaculture by David Holmgren and Bill Mollison (Mollison and Holmgren 1979.; Holmgren 2002). In a 2001 interview I had with David Holmgren, he stated that Keyline was a key precursor in the development of Permaculture. Holmgren also said that when he and Bill Mollison invited interested local people from around Tasmania to see what they were doing with Permaculture, the people who turned up were well versed in Keyline and were keenly following P.A’s innovations.


In a July 2000 interview, Hill told me that Lady Balfour, a world famous agriculturalist from England had described Neville’s father as ‘making the greatest single contribution to the development of sustainable farming in the World in the past 200 hundred years’ (Mulligan and Hill 2001). Hill was particularly engaged with the way Neville had adapted his father’s work in sustainable agriculture into the psychosocial arena (Mulligan and Hill 2001; Hill 2002; Hill 2002). In a July 2002 conversation with Ken Yeomans, Neville’s youngest brother, Ken said that Lady Balfour came to his father’s farms in Richmond and P.A. visited Lady Balfour in England. These meetings between Balfour and P.A. were confirmed by Stephanie Yeomans in July 2002.

Prophets for Ecological Profit

In all of this Keyline work, P.A. was interested in earning money. Working with nature made economic sense. Suzuki and Dressel give many examples of indigenous and other people engaging ecologically with nature for sustainable living - often very profitably (Suzuki and Dressel 2002).


To place Keyline in this research, during the 1993 Yungaburra conversation, Yeomans had mentioned that he had adapted his father’s Keyline in evolving Fraser House, and in his extension of Fraser House ways into the wider community. Neville called his adaptation, ‘Cultural Keyline’. The processes and practices that P.A and his sons evolved on their farms, Neville adapted to both the psychosocial and psychobiological fields.

To briefly introduce Cultural Keyline, recall that P.A. and Neville had introduced some changes to the soil environment. However, after they had done this, the massive changes were self-organizing. The soil, organic matter, water and detitrivores, as naturally occurring integrated systems, had emergent qualities; that is, aspects started emerging, or coming into being, which had not being present at lower levels of organization. In Cultural Keyline Neville did similar enabling at the psychosocial level, and then left the social system with its emergent properties to self-organize to richer levels of organization. Neville did set up processes and structures to ensure social ecology was maintained. Cultural Keyline will be discussed further in later Chapters. Both Keyline and Cultural Keyline were informed by Indigenous ways.


So far in this Chapter we have explored the Yeomans family’s evolving of Keyline and discussed aspects of their farm designing and the Way they worked with nature to foster the self-organizing emergence of abundant fertility. We have also introduced Neville’s adaptation of Keyline to the psychosocial. Before I expand on that, I explore some of the indigenous origins of the Yeomans’ Ways.


It will be recalled that Neville’s life was saved by a Indigenous tracker and twice nurtured by Indigenous women following life threatening trauma. In times of personal struggle with psychosocial survival, Neville was drawn to Indigenous healing way. Indigenous influences on the Yeomans’ Way will now be considered. 


Through P.A.’s work in remote areas, the Yeomans family came in considerable contact with Aboriginal communities. Neville would take every opportunity to experience their nurturing, sociohealing and social cohesion practices. For Indigenous people living as nomadic hunter-gatherers on this continent, social cohesion is a central component of healing and vice versa. The concept of Indigenous ‘sociomedicine’ is implicit in psychiatrist Cawte's book, ‘Medicine is the Law’ and other writings (Cawte 1974; Cawte 2001). In remote areas of Australia, Aboriginal wellbeing may be sustained by mutual support and staying with the group.  When food and water are scarce everyone moved on together. A pervasive aspect of indigenous healing is social cohesion (Cawte 1974; Cawte 2001). Typically, for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people living traditional lives, bush remedies for a wide range of troubles are both widely known and widely used. However, if in these contexts sickness is deemed to have it’s source in social trouble - if social cohesion is under threat - sociomedicine is used by only a few law people who know the ways. The focus for healing or prevention is the whole group and all become involved (Cawte 1974; Cawte 2001).


The dance depicted in Photo 22 indelibly portrays the potency of a decision to part company in the remote Australian Outback.


Photo 21 Parting of the Ways - Laura Festival in 2001.


Neville had firsthand experience of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander stories, sand drawings, rock paintings, songs and dances and how all are used to maintain social cohesion in being well together in community. The painting below is one of a set created by Tracy Perrot, the niece of Aboriginal neurotherapists Norma and Geoff Guest who run Petford Aboriginal Training Farm (now called Salem) as a therapeutic community (Salem International 2003). Neville knew both of these people and acted as an enabling co-learning support person for them since the 1980’s. Neville knew Tracy from when she was a baby. I interviewed Tracy in Jan 2001.



Photo 22 Tracy’s Painting Relating to Social Cohesion


In the painting in Photo 22 Goanna Earth Life interacts with gold edged Eagle Spirit Life and the child hand prints and all these mingle with other social cohesion forms. Tracy Perrot’s summary of the social cohesion between Aboriginal people and the pervasive cohesion between people and the wider Web of Life as depicted in a series of her paintings, is as follows:


'Everything in each painting is respective of what each thing in the painting gives up; the stone, the birds, the people, as well as the words and the effect, the mystery, the revelation - its all interconnected. The more we're a part of it, the more we think about it, the more we have it in our mind - to look and appreciate - we can feel it, and know that you are balancing - your balancing yourself out - you're balancing your life to be in harmony with the Earth and everything that lives in it, and everything you have been taught. The simple things in life are the keys to success. And then being whole-some and balanced, I believe.'


Note the connexity in Tracy’s comments - connexion continues between people, things, and between people and things such that they are simultaneously interwoven, inter-dependent, inter-connected, inter-related, and interlinked. I first met Tracy in 1991 when she was a young girl. In 1992 while I was at Petford for six weeks enabling the ‘Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Drug and Substance Abuse Therapeutic Communities Gathering’ (Petford Working Group 1992), Tracy outlasted the young Petford boys in riding the bull at the Dimboola rodeo! I always knew her as Norma and Geoff’s niece who was around from time to time. When I interviewed her for this research she bubbled forth what may be called ‘spontaneous wisdom poetry like the above quote for about thirty minutes. This interview was tape-recorded.


Neville evolved his social action on his understanding that for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people, social cohesion among one's people is paramount and is isomorphic with the cooperative inter-relationships found in nature. Neville pointed out to me that in Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander run health centers, in keeping with their holistic way of thinking and acting, instead of having mental health workers, these Health Centers have psychosocial-cultural-emotional-spiritual health workers.


Both Neville and his father had been linked into these ways of thinking and experiencing each other and the World. Neville had been accepted into Yolgnu Aboriginal Communities living traditional lives in their homelands in the Far North. Neville had experienced the storytelling and the singing and the corroborees. He had gone hunting with them and participated in ancient burial ceremonies that psycho-physically and metaphysically profoundly linked Neville into extremely rich antiquities. Neville described these experiences as equaling or surpassing any of the wisdom literatures he had read, and certainly having or surpassing the richness of the mythologies of Grecian, Indian, Mayan and other cultures.


Neville knew that the Mornington Island Aborigines tell, paint, sing, dance, and the spirit didgeridoo players (Aboriginal wind instrument) ‘sing’ with their didgeridoo the story of the cooperation between the oyster eater birds and the stingrays as a continual reminder to cooperate with each other - they had observed how the stingrays bury themselves under the wet sand as the tide goes out and wait for the shrill call of the oyster eater birds to signal to the stingrays that they are again covered in sea water. Only a very few Aboriginal didgeridoo players are spirit didgeridoo players.


As stated in Chapter One, Neville had firsthand experience of the destructive social fragmentation occurring in Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Communities; the aggression, the abuse of women and children, alcoholism, destructive eating habits, high mortality rates especially among the young, criminal and psychiatric incarceration and the like. And yet for all this, Neville saw in their life-ways processes that may have the potency to have indigenous peoples transform themselves towards being Well, as well as being a model for fostering transition  towards a humane caring Global Epoch.


Neville spoke of all manner of artistic expression and borrowing from nature being used by Indigenous people of the Australasia Oceania Region to sustain and enhance the social cohesion in their way of life. This artistic expression and social action is called by some Indigenous people in the Region, especially those in Vanuatu, ‘cultural action’, a term now being used throughout the Oceania Australasia SE Asia Region (CIDA 2002; Queensland Community Arts Network 2002). Neville adapted this ‘cultural action’ into ‘cultural healing action’ (Yeomans and Spencer 1993). Neville described Cultural Healing Action to me as combining and embracing the healing artistry of music making, percussion, singing, chanting, dancing, reading poetry, storytelling, artistry, sculpting, puppetry, model making and the like, and using any and all of these for increasing wellbeing. Neville was adept at using and enabling Cultural HealingAaction and he enabled me to gain competences in using it as well.


Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander wisdoms and practical action embrace and embody a profound understanding of human socio-psychobiology and its connexity with the best and worst in human conduct. For example Langloh-Parker writes of the dreamtime story of Bunbundoolooey, which is a call to mothers to ensure they foster compassion and caring in the male-child for the protection of future generations (Langloh-Parker 1993). Continually retold for tens of thousands of years, this shocking story of child neglect and abandonment and consequent matricide by a compassionless son is a telling reminder of the need to instill compassion, and the devastation and violence the absence of compassion can bring.


Neville understood the pervasive way Aboriginal sociomedicine is linked into social cohesion. Before during and after Fraser House, Neville had an increasing realization of the resonance between Keyline, Cultural Keyline and Indigenous notions of Key Lines, Self/Earth-Mother unity, and unity between, and within all human and non-human life forms. All of this experience was melded into the Way Neville and his father used in evolving their farms. As well, Neville’s experience  with Indigenous people had helped in the forming of his Way of Being and social action in Fraser House and beyond. Neville constantly evolved his Way towards evolving diverse social life worlds enacting values based upon mutual caring loving respect between the sexes and the generations, peacefulness, economic equity, social and political dignity and ecological balance (Yeomans 1974; Plumwood 1993; Plumwood 2002).


Neville searched the anthropological literature for information about village life-ways that were inherently constituting and maintaining social cohesion and well-being. He found that the Tikopians were exemplars. Anthropologist Raymond Firth’s book on Tikopia Island in the Solomon Islands East of PNG was one of many anthropological works Neville read during his university studies (Firth 1957). It was the healing feel of the communal village life on Tikopia depicted by the Firth and it’s resonance with Neville’s notions of Cultural Keyline and his own early childhood experience of Indigenous healing ways that so attracted Neville to use Tikopia as a model for setting up Fraser House like a small Tikopia Village. None of staff and residents I interviewed knew of this Tikopia connection (check Margaret Cockett); however, Neville’s younger brother Ken’s first wife Stephanie Yeomans confirmed it. Stephanie was a psychiatric nurse at Ryde Psychiatric Hospital. Like the Australian Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders, Tikopians have socio-healing and social wellbeing woven into the fabric of everyday life-ways. When Firth was exploring Tikopia ways in the 1930's, the 1,200 Tikopians spoke of themselves as 'tatou na Tikopia' - 'We the Tikopia', to declare their unity and distinguish themselves from other islanders (Firth 1957).


Approximately three miles long, the Island’s dominant feature is the remnants of a volcano surrounding a fresh water lake. Two large rocky pyramids rise up from the shoreline left when the balance of the volcano blew away.



The Island of Tikopia


Tikopia Island has an intricate system of reciprocal exchange spread as a network over the whole community of communities. Firth stated that this reciprocity was continually ‘binding (unifying) people of different (cleavered) villages and both sides of the island (the two major regions) in close alliance’ (Firth 1957). The Tikopia celebrated difference to maintain unity. Firth speaks of unifying processes among the Tikopia that recognize, acknowledge, play with, respect and celebrate cleavages (difference/diversity) - that is, ‘unifying cleavage’.


Firth writes of Tikopian sociohealing wellbeing processes repeatedly involved ‘unifying-cleavage’. Some examples - they would engage in ceremonial distributions of property, where the principle was that as far as possible, goods go to the villages on the opposite side of the island - to those most different. There would be periodic friendly inter-generational competitive assemblies among those from differing villages, clans, and valleys. At these periodic friendly competitive gatherings and assemblies among those differing from them, the Tikopians would engage in friendly competitive dancing, games and dart matches, as well as share food and friendly fireside banter – what we have referred to as ‘cultural action’. Tikopians had ceremonial distributions of property, where the principle was that, as far as possible, goods go to the opposite district. An orchard of one clan group would be within the territory of another clan group, bringing regular contact in day-to-day life. There were multiple unifying links between valleys, across ridges. According to Firth, ‘Still further are the cohesive factors of everyday operation, the use of a common language, and the sharing of a common culture…(my italics)’. 


The men from the East could only marry the women of the West. The opposite applied to the men of the West. That is, people could only marry those most different. The new brides would live with their husband’s family. As land was passed from mother to daughter, the couple would set up gardens on land belonging to the wife’s mother (Matrilineal), - that is, on the opposite side to where the couple were living. Each morning all the gardening couples from the East would get up at sunrise, bath and have breakfast. They would then make the climb through gaps in the volcanic ridge. The sun rose a little later for those on the West and when the couples from the West reached the top, the other partners would act as hosts as they had a small party for a while. They would also exchange news and banter before going to their respective gardens. The process was reversed in the evening. The sun would set first for those gardening in the East. So they would climb first and wait to be hosts for another party. There would be more chatting, drumming and dancing in the late afternoon light, and as the tropical sun set in the West, they would all return to their respective villages. There they would have exchanges of vegetables for fish with the villagers who were the seafarers - another different group to celebrate with. Often these beach exchanges were occasions for more dancing and friendly play. After dinner, the party would resume on the beach, or perhaps some would walk across the smaller ridges to visit villagers in the neighboring valleys. Firth uses these notions of unity and cleavage in the following quote from page 88 of his book, ‘We the Tikopia’ (Firth 1957):


‘A still further complicating factor is the recognition of two social strata, chiefs and commoners, which provides a measure of horizontal unity in the face of vertical cleavage between clans and between districts. In former times there was even a feeling that marriage should take place only within the appropriate clan. Important, again are the intricate systems of reciprocal exchange spread like a network over the whole community, binding people of different villages and both sides of the island (the two major regions) in close alliance’ (my italics).


Neville and other researchers at Fraser House used the above notions of horizontal unity in the face of vertical cleavage in doing sociogram research into the friendship patterns among staff and patients in Fraser house. This is discussed in Chapter Four


In all this celebrated difference, villagers were always in constant contact as they passed each other on the mountain trails and met on the beaches. There were multiple unifying links between valleys and across ridges. The Tikopia people celebrated their diversity to create social unity and cohesion.




In forming Fraser House in his mind before he started it, Neville was searching for models of a small communal village with a way of life that is inherently wellbeing sustaining and healing. In this, Neville was seeking to create Tönnies' ‘Gessellschaft’ – a small friendly village where everybody knows everybody (Tönnies and Loomis 1963). Neville was inspired by the healing and integrative aspects of small village life as explored by Tönnies in his book, ‘Gemmeinschaft and Gessellschaft’ (Tönnies and Loomis 1963). This fitted with Neville’s experiencing of the healing potency of Aboriginal women’s sociomedicine and his extensive readings in anthropology seeking healing aspects of Indigenous ways.


Firth made no comment throughout his book that the Tickopian communal village life and mores may be helping to constitute and sustain individual and communal psychosocial wellbeing. More importantly in the context of this thesis, Firth makes no comment about the potential of the Tikopian’s way of life as a practical working model for restoring psychosocial health and wellbeing in dysfunctional people, families and communities. This possibility was recognized by Neville and used by him, in association with his Cultural Keyline concept, in forming and structuring Fraser House as a psychiatric unit based on therapeutic community principles. Neville recognized that implicit in Firth’s writing was that the Tikopian’s inter-village and intra-village living and mores helped constitute and sustain individual and communal psychosocial well-being. Notice that their psychosocial well-being processes were woven completely into every aspect of their lives together. Neville drew on the Tikopia way in the design of the Fraser House buildings and his structuring of the flow of people in the Unit. He evolved a contained space for the mad and bad to live closely together as a ‘village community’.


Neville saw the Tikopia way of life as resonant with Australian Indigenous sociomedicine where psychobiological healing energy could be easily and spontaneously passed along to others as the need arises as people go about together in their every day social-life world. On Tikopia there was constant linking within and between people of differing generations, gender, clan, village, locality, status (chief/non-chief families) and occupation, that is, between differing sociological categories. Neville’s use of cleavering Fraser House Family-Friendship Networks and inter-patient factions by sociological category is discussed in Chapter Five. When Firth was writing there were about 1,200 Tikopians. Firth discussed cohesiveness within the exploration of clan membership as one framework for having an anthropological understanding of the Tikopians.


As with Tikopia, in Fraser House, the lives of all involved were linked to place and places. This created public space. Public space was community space, where people were in continual close social exchange - where friendships blossomed and were sustained by regular contact (Cf. Tönnies' Gessellschaft (Tönnies and Loomis 1963)). For Tikopians, the top of the mountain, along all the trails, within the villages, on the beaches - these were all public spaces - places for sharing, caring, and nurturing. Social news was continually circulating. Neville created isomorphic trails in the long winding corridors in Fraser House. Tikopia life was not without some contention and strife; with all of the constant social exchange, any strife soon became common knowledge and typically, it was interrupted before it could start. There was always a support network to call on to resolve any issue. How Neville set up similar processes and used similar social forces in Fraser House is discussed in Chapters Four to Seven.


In Tikopia, the common stock of practical wisdom was so readily passed on that it was widely held within the communities. People knew ‘what worked’. Socio-healing was not an ‘add on’. It was not a ‘government or private sector service’. It was community embedded mutual-help and self-help. All of this socially embedded well-being action was pervasively holistic. These socio-healing actions were preventative. They sustained wellbeing. They were the norm. They constituted their good life. They perpetuated in Maturana’s terms ‘Homo Amans’ (loving people) (Maturana, Verden-Zoller et al. 1996; Maturana, Verden-Zöller et al. 1996). Their social life world was ‘self authenticating’ and self-healing (Pelz 1974; Pelz 1975). In Neville’s view, Tikopians lived therapeutic community in celebratory links with other therapeutic communities on their island. Neville said that with dysfunction at a minimum, the term ‘therapeutic community’ more appropriately becomes, ‘well-being community’. Tikopians sustained cultural locality – within villages, on both sides of the island and at the whole Island level. Zuzenka Kutena introduced me to the term ‘Cultural Locality’ (Kutena 2002). ‘Locality’ is used as meaning ‘connexion to place’. ‘Cultural locality’ then means, ‘A way of life together connected to place’. Zuzenka started the ‘Vox Popali’ program on SBS, Victoria’s intercultural media. Zuzenka’s actions are discussed further in Chapter Nine.


Neville’s aim was to create self organizing communal living which may impact upon and create shifts away from isolation and destructive cleavage, or make functional cleavage in entangled pathological networks towards people mutually helping each other in developing a functional integrated individual and family-friendship unity in living within functional social and community networks.


Note that with both Australian Aboriginals and the Tikopians, the concept of ‘cleavages’ and ‘unities’, and ‘cleavered unities’ recognizes, respects and celebrates the cleavered. Another similar notion to ‘cleaver’ used by the Aboriginal Yolgnu people of the Australian Far Top End, may be loosely translated ‘rupture’. This is not used in the sense of ‘torn’ or ‘damaged’, rather, that there is a very distinct and important differences between two or more entities or things that are being recognized and maintained. Neville knew from personal experience of the Australian Aboriginal Yolgnu people that Tikopia’s celebration of cleavered unities has similarities to the Yolgnu experience and concepts in their social interaction and trade with East Timorese Sea Gypsies and Malaccans. Neville told me that for the Yolgnu, difference was celebrated, especially when East Timorese Sea Gypsies and Malaccans traders arrived. There was no thought among the Yolgnu of wanting to change their visitors, though sharing time with their visitors created a palpably different reality for their time together. For the Yolgnu, this temporary different shared reality is recognized as remarkable, wondrous and marvelous.




In Dec 1993, Neville suggested that Assagioli’s (Assagioli 1971) writings on Psycho-synthesis were resonant with Neville’s Way, and Firth’s concept of ‘cleavered unities’. In giving a big picture of Psycho-synthesis, Assagioli speaks of cleavered unities being evolved towards the ideal through love. Recall that Maturana has resonant ideas in his paper, ‘Biology of Love’ (Maturana, Verden-Zoller et al. 1996; Maturana, Verden-Zöller et al. 1996). The following is a resonant excerpt:


‘From a still wider and more comprehensive point of view, universal life appears to us as a struggle between multiplicity and unity, (ed: in other words cleavage and unity) a labor and an inspiration towards union. We seem to sense that - whether we conceive it as a divine Being or as cosmic energy - the Spirit working upon and within all creation is shaping it into order, harmony, and beauty (ed: refer Neville’s values research in Chapter Five), uniting all beings (some willing but the majority as yet blind and rebellious) with each other through links of love, achieving slowly and silently, but powerfully and irresistibly - the Supreme Synthesis (Assagioli 1971, p. 31) (my italics).’


During our 1993 Yungaburra conversations Neville specifically drew parallels between Assagioli’s following nine aspects for interpersonal and social Psychosynthesis and Fraser House process  (Assagioli 1971, p. 64):


1.    Comradeship - Friendship

2.    Cooperation - Team work - Sharing

3.    Empathy

4.    Goodwill

5.    Love (Altruistic)

6.    Responsibility (Sense of)

7.    Right Relations: 


a) Between the Individual and the Group

       b) Between Groups


8.    Service

9.    Understanding - Elimination of Prejudice


All of these nine aspects were central to Fraser House change processes as will be discussed in Chapters Four to Seven.


While Psychosynthesis typically focuses on the individual, Assagioli speaks of healing the individual/group/community as suggested in the following use of notions of cleavered unity (my italicized duplexes).


‘Thus inverting the analogy of man being a combination of many elements which are more or less coordinated, each man may be considered as an element or cell of a human group: this group, in its turn, forms associations with vaster and more complex groups, from the family group to town and district groups and to social classes; from workers’ unions and employers’ associations to the great national groups, and from these to the entire human family.’


‘Between these individuals and groups arise problems and conflicts which are curiously similar to those we have found existing within each individual.’


‘Their solution (interindividual Psychosynthesis) should therefore be pursued along the same lines and by similar methods as for the achievement of individual Psychosynthesis.’


This last point is resonant with Neville’s Way of working simultaneously with psychosocial (inter-individual) and psychobiological (intra-individual) systems. Neville also drew my attention to the connection between Assagioli and Taoism. Assagioli states that Psychosynthesis is or may become:


‘a method of treatment for psychological and psychosomatic disturbance when the cause of trouble is a violent and complicated conflict between groups of conscious and unconscious forces.’


One aspect of this uses the Taoist notion of, ‘letting Life act through them’ (the Wu-Wei)(Assagioli 1965, p. 27). Recall from Chapter One that Neville was familiar with and drew upon Taoist thought and Way.




Earlier I defined the word ‘Connexity’ as a relation between contexts/things that are simultaneously inter-dependent, inter-connected, inter-related, interlinked and interwoven. All contexts/things have this connexity relation between everything involved. The person(s) sensing and using connexity has it as a multi-aspect bond between themselves and the context/things that flavors all of their connecting as ‘inter-dependant connecting in relating’. Sensing and using connexity raises the possibility of understanding the other’s nature and way of being and acting, and including this understanding in the connecting.


Narby has written, ‘microbiology’s description of the pervasive sameness of DNA in all living things proclaims the fundamental unity in nature (Narby 1998, p.110). Connexity is an intrinsic property of all life and non-life on Earth. Globally, Indigenous people hold this universal inter-relatedness as fundamental. The photo below is of an Australian Aboriginal corroboree where the nature and way of the crocodile is embodied by all involved, especially the young people. They share the same locality as the crocodiles and typically come to no harm as they live in connexity relating with the crocodiles.



Photo 23 Embodying Crocodile Ways


This universal inter-relatedness is not something we set up – though we can enrich contexts by juxtapositioning. Connexity is already pervasive in and between both  the human social life and the natural life world whether we sense it or not! Neville was profoundly influenced by this understanding and embodied it as his way of being and acting.


It is little known that Neville modeled the Fraser House upon the Indigenous socio-processes and upon Keyline Ways. More aspects of Neville’s Way and practical examples of this way will be occurring throughout the rest of this Research. More detailed specifying of Neville’s micro-behaviors is given in Chapters Four through Seven. Given the innovative and societal change-work both Neville and his father achieved in their life, very few people know of them. Dominant elements had a vested interest in ensuring this was the case. This theme is discussed throughout the Research.




This Chapter has traced the evolving of Neville Yeomans’ Way of being and action that he used in his life- work. It traced the evolving of Neville’s Way firstly, from the joint work he did with his father and brother Allan in evolving sustainable agriculture practice, and secondly, from prior links that both Neville and his father had to Australian and Oceania Indigenous way. The Chapter then traced Neville’s adaptation of these influences into the psychosocial and psychobiological spheres in evolving the structures and processes of Fraser House. This adapting is extended in the next Chapter.





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