The Life Work of Dr. Neville Yeomans



Thesis submitted

24 December 2005



For the Degree of Doctor of Philosophy

In the School of Social Work and Community Welfare

James Cook University







Photo 1 Four stages in Dr. Neville Yeoman’s life




Top left:                       At Fraser House, circa 1961

                                    (Yeomans, N. 1965a, p. 81)


Top Right:                   As election candidate, 1969

                                    (Yeomans, N. 1965a)


Bottom Left:                Wedding to Lien, November 1972

From Lien Yeoman’s book – used with permission

(Yeomans and Yeomans 2001)


Bottom Right:              On Atherton Tablelands, 1993 Yeomans Family photo

- used with permission



Two Poems Written by Dr. Neville Yeomans



Together the following poems (Yeomans 2000a; Yeomans 2000b) provide a feel for the subject matter of this thesis. I first knew of the existence of these two poems when they were handed out at Neville Yeomans’ funeral on 7 June 2000.


The Inma

There seems to be a new spirituality going around - or a philosophy – or is it an ethical and moral movement, or a feeling?

Anyway, this Inma religion or whatever it is – what does it believe in?

It believes in the coming-together, the inflow of alternative human energy, from all over the world.

It believes in an ingathering and a nexus of human persons’ values, feelings, ideas and actions.

Inma believes in the creativity of this gathering together and this connexion of persons and values.

It believes that these values are spiritual,
moral and ethical, as well as humane, beautiful, loving and happy.

Inma believes that persons may come and go as they wish, but also it believes that the values will stay and fertilize its area, and it believes the nexus will cover the globe.

Inma believes that Earth loves us and that we love Earth.

It believes that from the love and from the creativity will come a new model for the world of human future.

It believes that we have started that future - now.

I guess that if you and I believe these things we are Inma.



On Where

Perhaps somewhere there is an unimportant place caught
between East and West, North and South, past and future.

It is so far behind that it can only go forward.

Its Indigenous people are so badly treated they will risk anything for a better life.

Its white overlords are so distant from the centre of their
own culture that they don’t know where to go except to

It is wealthy, industrial, consumer, under-populated and chaotic.

It has tropical coasts and islands. It has cool mountains and tablelands.

It is closer to Asian and Melanesian peoples than its own capital city, and it often sees itself as the end of the earth.

Yet the desires of some of its citizens are:


to build the first free territory guided by global humane laws

to implement the UN covenants on Human Rights

to give migrants, visitors and native born an equal say

to accept ideas, people and music of living from all over

to welcome and respect every interested person

to love Planet Earth, and

to take a next step towards a happier more beautiful more human community.


Maybe one such place is called Northern Queensland, Australia.

But an Aboriginal word meaning 'a coming together' is Inma.










The Thesis Structure       

Three Interconnected Foci         

On Global Reform           

Keyline and Cultural Keyline    

Research Questions       

Life Changes        

A Warm December Morning      






A New Cultural Synthesis          

Webs and Lacewebs       





History, Types and Significance           


The Emergence of Popular/Folk and Scientific Models

Nineteen and Twentieth Century Practice      

Usa Experience   

Early Australian Experience      

Uk Experience      

Evolving Therapeutic Communities    

Uk Therapeutic Community Experience         

Usa Therapeutic Community Experience       

Social Psychiatry, Social Therapy and Milieu Therapy

Decline of Therapeutic Committees in the Uk National Health System   

Decline of Therapeutic Committees in the Usa National Health System 

Wider Applications of Therapeutic Community         

Rehabilitation Services, Transitional Facilities and The Move to Community Based Care           

Community Mental Health - The Uk, Usa And Australian Experience      

United States Experience of Community Mental Health

Community Mental Health in the Uk   

Community Mental Health in Australia           

Self-Help and Mutual Aid Groups        

Organizations, Networks and Mutual Help Providing Support and Sustenance to Marginal People          

Healthy Living Centres   

Everyday Life Mutual Help         

Natural Nurturers in Everyday Life       

Possible Futures  

Shifts In Psychiatric Models      

The Psychosocial Model, Therapeutic Governance and Global Social Control  






On Being an Insider Looking in

Explicating the Inexplicable       

Data Collecting    

Note Taking          


Interviewing Neville         

Interviews With Bruen and Chilmaid   

Margaret Cockett and Other Interviewees       

Prolonged On-Site Social Action Research   

Archival Research           

Engaging in Naturalistic Inquiry           

Ensuring Trustworthiness          

My Theoretical Perspectives      

Using Emergent Design

Writing Through and Making Sense    

Writing Through   

Using Grounded Theory 

Recognising Fractals and Holographs

Using Thick Description 

Using Thematic Analysis/Narrative Analysis 

Using Connoisseurship 

Structure/Event Process Analysis        

Emergence of Intuition   

On Being a Scientific Detective

Crafting the Writing         






Inspiring Trauma 

Water Telling Us What to do With it      

Keyline Emerges 

Creating Deep Soil Fast 

Designing Farms 

Links Between Sustainable Agriculture, Psychosocial Change And Indigenous Sociomedicine        

Tikopia - Celebrating Difference to Maintain Unity And Wellbeing

Other Influences  

Melding the Precursors  






Introducing Fraser House          

Window of Opportunity   

Layout, Locality, and Cultural Locality 

Assuming a Social Basis of Mental Illness     

Locality as Connexion to Place

Cultural Locality   

Sourcing Patients

Back Wards and Prisons

Aboriginal and Islander Patients          

Family- Friends-Workmate Network as Focus of Change   

Balancing Community   

Being Voluntary   

Re-Casting the System  

Fraser House as Therapeutic Community      

Staff Relating       

For and Against   

The Use of Slogans        

Fraser House Wellness Norms

Handbooks on Fraser House Structure and Process

Family Therapy    

Drug Use   





The Resocializing Program – Using Governance Therapy 

Committees and Balancing Governance        

Patient Administration    

The New Role for all Staff          

Flexible Rigidity   

Patient Treatment and Training

Fraser House Training    

The Canteen and the Little Red Van   

The Domiciliary Care Committee and Domiciliary Care

Crisis Support       

The Outpatients, Relatives and Friends Committee 

Constituting Rules and Constitutions 





Big Group - Using Collective Social Forces    

Preventing Session Creep         

Big Group Layout 

A Mood That Attunes      

On Neville’s Role as Leader and his Group Processes

On The Side of Constructive Striving  

Neville’s Sensory Functioning  

The Far-From-Equilibrium Learning Organization    

Gain, Loss, Threat and Frustration       






Social Category Based Small Group Therapy

Child-Parent Playgroups

Individual Therapy           

Research as Therapy      

Values Research 

Psychiatric Research Study Group      

Work as Therapy  

Margaret Mead Visits Fraser House     

Cultural Keyline   

Attending and Sensing  

Forming Cultural Locality           

Strategic Design and Context-Guided Perturbing of the Social Topography       

Leaving Nature to do the Work  

Cultural Keyline in Groups        






Critique of Fraser House in the Sixties

A Response          

Replicating Fraser House In State Run Enclaves -  Kenmore Hospital’s Therapeutic Community

Fraser House and Transitions to Community Self Caring   

A Follow-Up Service and Liaison with Outside Organizations.      

Catchment Areas 

Neville’s Actions to Phase Out Fraser House

The Decline of Therapeutic Communities      

Fraser House Evaluation           

Fraser House a Model for American Research          

Ethical Issues in Replicating Fraser House   

Inma and Fraser House 


Ex Fraser House Patients and Local Self Help Action


A Powerful Influence      






Extending Fraser House Way into the Private Sector

Advisory Roles     

Coordinator of Community Mental Health Services 

Community Health          

Evolving Asian Links      

Sidney Opera House Support   

Wellbeing Action Using Festivals, Gatherings and Other Happenings    

The Watsons Bay Festival         

The Second Festival – The Paddington Festival       

Festival Three - Centennial Park Festival       

Festival Four - Campbelltown Festival

Festival Five – The Aquarius Festival  

Festival Six – Confest     

Festival Seven – The Cooktown Arts Festival

The Keyline Trust

Divorce Law Reform       

Writing Newspaper Columns    

Implicitly Applying Cultural Keyline in Business and Other Organisational Environments       

Evolving Functional Matrices    

On Becoming an Election Candidate  

Influencing Other States







Evolving the Laceweb    

Aboriginal Human Relations Gatherings        

The Self Organising Rollout for Bourke          

Further Rollout for Armidale      

Wider Networks    

Evolving Small Therapeutic Community Houses in Far North Queensland       

Further Travels     

Australia South Sea Islanders and Other Networking

Speaking on the Indigenous Platform at the UN Ngo Rio Earth Summit 

Geoff and Norma Guest’s Aboriginal Youth Training Farm

Developing Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Drug and Substance Abuse Therapeutic

   Communities Gathering          

Lake Tinaroo Mediation Gathering       

Small Island Coastal and Estuarine People Gathering

The Darwin Top End       

Unpo and Other Global Action  

New State Movement Update    

Indigenous People Linked to Confest 

Cultural Healing Action  

Using Ideas from the Laceweb Homepage    






Evolving the Laceweb as a Social Movement

Evolving Natural Nurturer Networks    

Linking the Network into the Wider Local Community         

The Enabling Network    

The Sharing of Micro-Experiences Among Locals - A Summary   

On Global Reform           

Three Transition Phases

Laceweb and Functional Matrices       

Examples of Laceweb Action    

Inma Involvement in Urban Renewal Project

Signing UN-Inma Memorandum of Understanding and Treaties  

East Asian Oceania Linking      






Framing Values   

Being in the Zone of Growth     

Non-Expressible Knowingness

Creating a New Model of Human Future        

Contexts for Growth








Photo 2. Dr. Neville Yeomans at his desk at Fraser House - Circa 1961 (Yeomans, N. 1965a)





This thesis researches psychiatrist barrister Dr. Neville Yeomans’ lifetime action research into changing the social-life world towards becoming more caring, humane and respecting of all life-forms. Particularly, it researches Yeomans’ adapting of his father’s sustainable agriculture Keyline processes to the human social life-world as ‘Cultural Keyline’.


After a brief review of therapeutic community, community mental health and self-help networks in the UK, USA and Australia, and a brief summary of Keyline and Indigenous precursors influencing Neville, the research focuses, firstly, on describing and analysing the structures/processes used by Yeomans in evolving Australia’s first psychiatric therapeutic community ‘Fraser House’ in Sydney from 1959 to 1968. In particular, what contributions did Neville make to evolving social and community psychiatry and clinical sociology in Australia? Secondly, the thesis describes the community mental health outreach and other psychosocial wellbeing related action research that derived from Fraser House.  Thirdly, there is a description of the Laceweb social movement and network, its evolution from Neville’s action research and its current development.  Finally, there is some discussion of the significance of Neville Yeoman’s life work.  This research used the same qualitative, ‘naturalistic inquiry’ method that Neville used including in-depth interviews, archival research and action research.


Neville Yeomans’ methods of social action and research can be traced to his collaboration with his father P.A. Yeomans (along with brothers Allen and Ken).  P.A is recognised as the most significant person globally in the past 200 years in the field of sustainable agriculture (Mulligan and Hill 2001). P.A. evolved Keyline sustainable agricultural practices based around Keypoints in landform that have system implications.


In researching Cultural Keyline, the thesis details how its precursor, Keyline agricultural practice, recognizes, respects, and makes use of natural forms, functions and processes in nature - especially landform, gravity, as well as self-organizing and emergent aspects of natural systems. The research outlines how Keyline practice fosters nature’s tendency for thriving, and documents and analyses Neville’s adapting of Keyline as Cultural Keyline in fostering emergent and thriving potential in social systems. Four non-linear interconnected inter-related aspects of Cultural Keyline are identified:


1.    Attending and sensing self organising, emergence and Keypoints conducive to coherence within social contexts

2.    Forming cultural locality (people connecting together connecting to place)

3.    Strategic, design and emergent context-guided theme-based perturbing of the social topography

4.    Sensing and attending to the natural social system self-organising in response to the perturbing, and monitoring outcomes.


In developing ‘Cultural Keyline’, Neville adapted his father’s Keyline to the social life world. Neville pioneered therapeutic community in Australia. Neville worked with inmates he had arranged to be transferred to Fraser House from asylums and prisons in New South Wales.  As part of their rehabilitation the inmates were effectively placed in charge of every aspect of Fraser House administration. The research documents how, within eighteen months, these inmates and the Unit’s staff developed a style of community psychiatry practice, psychiatric nursing, collective therapy (large group as crowd and audience) and psychiatric training.


The research also traces Neville’s use of his Cultural Keyline model in pioneering family therapy, suicide/crisis telephone services, counselling and family therapy within family law, community mental health (becoming the first NSW Director of Community Mental Health, and starting Australia’s first Community Mental Health Centre), psychosocial self-help groups and networks, multicultural festivals, cultural healing action, mediation and mediation therapy.


The thesis then explores Neville’s development of a number of small therapeutic community houses in North Queensland, as well as evolving what Neville termed an ‘International Normative Model Area’ or ‘INMA’ in northern Australia that continues as a micro-model exploring linked local, regional and global governance as an aspect of epochal transition. An outcome of Neville’s action research has been the emergence of informal Laceweb networks amongst Indigenous and other intercultural healers in the northern Australia and in the East Asia-Oceania-Australasia Region. The thesis details how these networks are evolving and supporting self-help and mutual-help amongst Indigenous/Oppressed trauma survivors. Yeomans’ writings about his macro-framework for global epochal transition over the next 250-500 years, and potential global futures are detailed in the context of Cultural Keyline and linked to unfolding action.


Chapter One On Human Futures



I have elected to generally use Dr. Neville Yeomans’ first name throughout this thesis as a mark of my profound respect for him. For me he was Neville, not ‘Yeomans’.




This thesis explores Neville’s claim that his lifelong action research was towards enabling gentle transitions to a new humane, caring, life-affirming global intercultural synthesis - towards epochal transition - a two hundred and fifty to three hundred year plus project towards a more caring and humane future. Neville’s claim was that he devoted 70 of his 73 years to this dream. For Neville, the term ‘enabler’ simply meant ‘someone who supported others to be able’.




This thesis focuses upon three interconnected foci of action by Neville:


Firstly, the precursors guiding Neville and the structures/processes he used in 1959 in establishing and evolving Australia’s first therapeutic community, ‘Fraser House’, in North Ryde Psychiatric Hospital, Sydney.


Secondly, Neville’s Fraser House outreaches; and


Thirdly, the history, theory and practice leading to Neville supporting the evolving of the Laceweb Social Movement among Indigenous and intercultural healers throughout the East Asia Oceania Australasia Region.


The research explores Neville’s role in evolving social action in each of the above three foci. The thesis traces Neville’s envisaging of new forms of social realities respecting and embracing diversity and having resonance with traditional Indigenous relating to the web of life. One fundamental aspect of this Indigenous-based change explored by Neville is fostering regionality (‘connecting to region’) and locality (‘connecting to place’) in a life-world (the world of living systems) where humans are recognizing, respecting, celebrating, fostering, and sustaining both the inter-connectedness of humane nurturing values, and the diversity of all life forms and networks.

To quote Neville’s poem (Yeomans 2000a):

It believes that these values are spiritual,
moral and ethical, as well as humane, beautiful, loving and happy.


The first of the three parts of the thesis is about the precursors influencing Neville’s pioneering in Australia of community therapy and his global pioneering of full-family residential therapeutic community practices within the therapeutic community based psychiatric unit, Fraser House (Yeomans 1961a,  p. 382 - 384; Yeomans 1961b, p. 829 - 830; Yeomans, Hennessy et al. 1965b). Neville set up this Unit at North Ryde Psychiatric hospital on the North Shore in Sydney, NSW in 1959, and became its founding director and psychiatrist.  Neville and other Fraser House staff claimed that Fraser House practice established that extremely dysfunctional people could be the prime source of their own reintegration and move to wellbeing functioning (Yeomans 1961a; Yeomans 1961b; Madew, Singer et al. 1966; Clark 1969; Clark and Yeomans 1969). Neville’s pioneering in Australia of both therapeutic community and full family therapeutic community are documented and compared to overseas therapeutic communities. Fraser House’s role in Neville’s epochal transition project is specified.


In the second part of the thesis, the research documents the spread and influence of Fraser House’s guiding frames of reference, structure, processes and practices into the wider community. The claims by Neville and other ex-Fraser House staff that Fraser House’s structure, processes and practices had a substantial effect on mental health practice in Australia are investigated. The inter-related way in which Fraser House outreach fits into Neville’s epochal transition project is specified.


The third part of the thesis traces the use by Neville of Fraser House’s frames of reference, structures, processes, practices and outreach in enabling the evolving of the Laceweb Social Movement spreading among Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people and other kindred minorities in the remote regions of Far North Australia. The research documents the psychosocial and other histories of Laceweb social action since the early Seventies; it also traces the extending of the movement throughout the East Asia Oceania Australasia Region and discusses the Laceweb’s role in Neville’s epochal transition project action.


Chapter One introduces Neville’s life work and discusses the significance of the topic, outlines the nature of the research and the research questions, and discusses why they are important. It also discusses briefly the story of how I became involved with this project, and the way my biogeography has led me to undertake this research. An outline of the rest of the thesis is included. Because of the expansiveness of the subject, some of the matters that will be treated in some depth in this research are introduced briefly in this first chapter. As a further background to this research, Chapter Two introduces Neville’s macro aim of epochal change. Chapter Three provides a very brief literature review of the development of therapeutic community, community mental health and self-help groups in UK, USA and Australia as a way of differentiating Neville’s work from others. Chapter Four discusses the method used in completing this thesis, including processes used in data collection and analysis. It also identifies and gives brief backgrounds of the people interviewed. Chapter Five discusses precursors for Neville’s life work including Keyline and Indigenous influences on Neville and his father. It also details Neville’s significant life experiences, academic study and reading, as well as his theoretical and pre-theoretical reflecting. Chapters Six to Ten contain the first section of the research - detailing Neville’s evolving Fraser House as a Therapeutic Community. More specifically, Chapter Six outlines Fraser House’s structure and processes while Chapter Seven discusses Fraser House’s Self Governance and other re-constituting processes. Chapter Eight explores Fraser House’s Big Meeting process, Collective Therapy, and Neville’s group process. Chapter Nine details Fraser House’s other change processes and specifies Cultural Keyline processes evolved at Fraser House. Chapter Ten explores criticisms of Neville and Fraser House as well as the steps taken by Neville to set up transitions from government and private sector service delivery to community self-caring. Fraser house evaluation is briefly outlined along with a discussion of American research using Fraser house as a model. The Chapter concludes with ethical issues in replicating Fraser House. Chapter Eleven contains the second section of the research, the extensions of Fraser House and other outreach by Neville into the wider community and their implications. The third section of the research is in Chapters Twelve and Thirteen - exploring the nature, the evolving, and the history of the Laceweb and its potential. Chapter Thirteen is integrative; it introduces Neville’s two hundred and fifty year model of epochal transition and provides glimpses of future possibilities for Laceweb praxis in every aspect of the social-life-World. Chapter Fourteen contains my research conclusions.




In 1973, Neville wrote perhaps his most significant paper called ‘On Global Reform – International Normative Model Areas (INMA)’ (Yeomans 1974). In that paper Neville sets out his strategy and action processes for global epochal transition. This research has used that ‘On Global Reform’ paper as a key document in tracking down seemingly unconnected action and in understanding and integrating together Neville’s extensive and diverse innovative doings.


The Concise Dictionary (Hayward and Sparkes 1984) defines ‘epoch’ as ‘a stop, check or pause; a period characterized by momentous events; an era’, and defines ‘epoch-making’ as something ‘of such importance as to mark an epoch’.  An epoch is also a turning point. An ‘epochal transition’ is a time marking a shift between two long eras such as the epochal shift between feudal society and industrial society in the UK. An epoch is a highly significant keypoint – a turning point in human affairs. I refer to Neville’s ‘Cultural Keypoint and his father’s ‘Keypoint’ later in this chapter.




Dr. Neville Yeomans was born in 1928 to Percival and Rita Yeomans and died in Brisbane on 30 May 2000. Neville grew up in a stimulating household. As an adolescent he worked in sustainable agriculture with his father P. A. Yeoman’ who was described by the world famous English agriculturalist Lady Balfour in the 1970’s as the person making the greatest contribution to sustainable agriculture in the past 200 years (Mulligan and Hill 2001, p. 194). P.A. Yeomans worked closely with his son’s Neville and Allan (and later with his third son Ken) in pioneering a sustainable agriculture process called Keyline (Yeomans, Percival. A. 1955; Yeomans 1958b; Yeomans 1958a; Yeomans, P. A. 1971b; Yeomans, P. A. 1971a; Yeomans 1992b; Yeomans and Yeomans 1993).


Neville adapted Keyline as ‘Cultural Keyline’ and pioneered this in the fields of social psychiatry and community psychiatry, clinical sociology, sociology of medicine, social psychology, psychobiology, intercultural studies, future studies, peace studies, humanitarian law and global governance. Neville discussed with me many times (December 1991, December 1993, July, 1998, August, 1999) about how he had adapted his father’s sustainable agriculture work into what he called ‘Cultural Keyline’. Cultural Keyline is a core model and concept underlying Neville’s life work, and an integrating theme in this research - a model for sustaining biopsychosocial wellbeing in inter-relating and inter-acting with others. Neville Yeomans’ ‘Cultural Keyline’ adapts Keyline to human life (psychosocial, personal, interpersonal, communal, cultural and intercultural). The thesis details how Keyline agricultural practice recognizes, respects, and makes use of natural forms, functions and processes in nature, especially landform, gravity, and self-organizing and emergent aspects of natural systems. Keyline practice fosters nature’s tendency for thriving.


The Yeomans set out to ‘harvest’ all water falling or flowing onto their farms. They recognised the three primary landforms - main ridge, primary ridge and primary valley. On the main drainage line at the head of the primary valley is a small (often a metre square) patch of land where each of the three land forms meet. P.A. called this the Keypoint.


A Keypoint is on the fall line in the primary valley on the contour above the first wider gap between the contours at the higher end of the valley. The Keypoint and the contour line through the Keypoint (called the Keyline) have many special properties detailed in my thesis.


The Yeomans discovered many processes and ways to design their farm - creating contexts for nature to thrive. A key understanding is that the Yeomans set the farm up so that nature did the change work – it was self-organising. I took the following photo in 2001 at the spot where the Yeomans first discovered the significance of the Keypoint.



Photo 3. The place where the Yeomans discovered the Keypoint – Photo I took during July 2001


The photo is the view up towards the main ridge at the top of a primary valley with the primary ridges down either side of the primary valley. A smaller partial ridge splits the head of the valley above the Keypoint. The Keypoint is on the left of the far end of the dam. The Keyline is the contour marked by the edge of the water.


As Keyline fosters emergent farm potential, Cultural Keyline is a rich way of fostering emergent and thriving potential in social systems. Keyline is detailed in Chapter Five. How Neville evolved Cultural Keyline in Fraser House is introduced in Chapters Six to Eight and detailed in Chapter Nine.

All of Neville and his father’s work was informed and guided by a relational familiarity with Australian Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander wisdom about the social and natural life-worlds. While non-Aboriginal people had seen Australia as a harsh and hostile place to be conquered and tamed, Aboriginal and Islander people had a loving and affectionate relating to Earth as their mother who nurtures them – a profoundly different relating. Neville encapsulated this relating in the following words of his ‘Inma’ poem:

Inma believes that Earth loves us and that we love Earth (2000a).

‘Earth loves us’ comes first. Neville and his father’s work and way were guided and informed by this ancient loving caring respecting tradition.

In preparing for his humanitarian life work, Neville obtained degrees in zoology and then medicine – extended to psychiatry. He completed postgraduate studies in sociology and psychology, accompanied by extensive reading in history, anthropology and peace studies. He followed these studies with a degree in law, specializing in humanitarian law, and law studies in mediation as an alternative to adversarial law in dispute settlement (Carlson and Yeomans 1975). During the 1970s, he studied spoken and written Chinese and Indonesian, as well as Chinese painting. As part of his quest to become sensitive to the intercultural nuances of the East Asia, Oceania, Australasia region, Neville studied the Indonesian language at a Technical College for eighteen months and the Mandarin language for twelve months - both of them as spoken and written languages. Amongst his other studies, Neville studied 12 months at the Criminology Law School at the University of Sydney. He remained an avid reader and engaged in continuous action research throughout his life.


Neville commenced his endeavours with what he called (Dec, 1993 and July, 1998) the ‘mad and bad’ people of Sydney. Neville used these terms to aid my understanding of the patient population at Fraser House. Neville well knew the potency of labelling, especially the potency of using terms like ‘mad’, ‘bad’, ‘patient’ and ‘mental asylum’ – their potency in constituting and reifying aspects of people’s response to themselves, each other, and their place in the world. On the issue of labelling, Neville preferred the term ‘resident’ rather than ‘patient’. However, in Neville’s words (Dec, 1993), ‘not to use ‘patient’ was just too hard within the hospital milieu at the time’. All patients who arrived at Fraser House already arrived with a life history of negative labelling as ‘psychosocial baggage’ that they had to live with. In Neville and the other interviewees’ view, the combined Fraser House process easily outweighed the effect of all this negative labelling.


Neville said (July, 1998) that he recognized that in 1959, with considerable upheaval and questioning in the area of mental health in NSW, and a Royal Commission being mooted into past practices, there was a small window of opportunity for innovation. Neville started his epochal quest in earnest by setting up the psychiatric unit, Fraser House, in the grounds of the North Ryde Psychiatric Hospital in 1959. He obtained permission to have half of the patient intake from asylum back wards and half from prisons. Neville wanted to explore self-help possibilities among both the ‘mad and bad’ at the fringe of society (July, 1998).


The thesis researches Neville’s role firstly, in evolving social psychiatry, community psychiatry and clinical sociology[1] in Australia. Secondly, the research traces Neville’s role as a pioneering Australian innovator of therapeutic community, full family therapeutic community, mediation therapy, community mental health, and large group therapy. Many of the iconoclastic practices that he introduced into psychiatry have become standard practice in Australia. He pioneered suicide support and other life crisis telephone services, multicultural community markets and festivals, and other multicultural events and alternative lifestyle festivals. Neville also influenced the introduction of family counselling and family mediation into family law in Australia, and mediation into Australian society. Through initiating the Psychiatric Research Study Group (discussed in Chapter Nine) and positioning Fraser House as the leading social science research facility in NSW, Neville was also responsible for energizing praxis networks in such diverse, though related fields as social work, criminology, family counselling, community services, community mental health, prison administration, business management, intercultural relations, psychosocial self-help groups, social ecology, futures studies, self organizing systems, qualitative method, as well as world order, and global, regional, and local governance. Neville attracted people involved in researching these varied themes and disciplines to participate in the Psychiatric Research Study Group and Fraser House Groups.


While the many things Neville pioneered are now known by many in Australia and around the World, very few know he was the initiator. The (Sydney) Sun newspaper included Neville’s groundbreaking work in psychiatry and therapeutic community with six other Australians under the heading, ‘The Big Seven Secrets Australians were first to solve’ (1963). Neville was included with people like Sir John Eccles, Sir Norman Greg and Dr. V. M. Coppleson.  How all the above diverse social actions by Neville are related and were interlinked by him and others are the foci of this thesis.


After detailing Fraser House structure/process and outreach, the research traces Neville Yeomans fostering of the emergence of a social movement he called the ‘Laceweb’ evolving amongst oppressed Indigenous/Small Minorities in the East Asia, Oceania, Australasian Region.  The research documents wellbeing action by Indigenous/Small Minority and intercultural psychosocial healers and natural nurturers that has been evolving informally in the Region for over 45 years.




While aspects of this endeavour have been the subject of a PhD (Clark 1969) and other research and writings in the past (Yeomans 1961a; Yeomans 1961b; Clark and Yeomans 1965; Yeomans, N. 1965a; Clark 1969; Clark and Yeomans 1969; Watson 1970; Paul and Lentz 1977; Yeomans 1980a; Yeomans 1980b; Wilson 1990; Clark 1993, p. 61, 117), this will be the first research that attempts to draw the many aspects of the above and related social action research together.


It took a number of months of reflection after discussions with Neville and my Supervisor for three ‘natural’ parts of Neville’s epochal transition action to emerge - Fraser House, Fraser House outreach, and the evolving of the Laceweb.


The research questions are:


1.    What is Cultural Keyline and its precursor Keyline? How do you make use of them? With what potential outcomes?


2.    What were the theoretical and action precursors to Neville Yeomans evolving the therapeutic community psychiatric unit Fraser House?


3.    What change processes, innovations and social action evolved in and from Fraser House? How do these differ from processes used in other psychiatric therapeutic communities? With what effect?


4.    What was Neville’s outreach from Fraser House?


5.    What is INMA? What is the Laceweb? What are the Laceweb’s structure and process, and how has it being evolved and sustained?


6.    Were each of the above an aspect of Neville’s action research on epochal transition?

7.    What patterns and integration are there linking aspects of Neville Yeomans’ work - Fraser House, Fraser House outreach and the Laceweb? Was Cultural Keyline used in all of the above aspects?


8.    What possible futures may emerge from Laceweb praxis towards epochal transition?


9.    What is the significance of Neville’s life work?


As the thesis is investigating something with so many facets, I had to make decisions about my research focus, and what was to be included and excluded. I have elected to report extensively on structure, process and their interconnectedness while providing a broad feel for their fit in the mediums and interstices of Neville’s massive endeavour. In order to cope with the extent and complex richness of my focal interests, the following are excluded.


Firstly, while outlining and answering the criticisms others have made about Neville and Fraser House, I do not engage in identifying shortcomings, or criticizing his life work. I have gathered together material that others may use for further research, critique, and evaluation. The limits I set to my research have still left me with a massive endeavour.


Secondly, I report on Neville’s extensive life work and public persona and the public life of Fraser House staff. I exclude research concerning his personal life while acknowledging and recognizing this was, and is fundamental to an understanding of the man. In fact, Neville recognized and made restricted file notes on issues in his and other Fraser House senior staff’s private lives that were reflected in the dynamics of Fraser House. Neville drew attention to the ethical dilemmas involved in research where adequate writing up of a case would give sufficient material to identify focal people to their potential harm. (In some contexts confidentiality should be paramount.) Neville made suggestions in a short monograph to the World Health Organization that may address these dilemmas about research protocols, including anonymity of individuals, institutions and nations, where important, though socially delicate research, is being conducted (Yeomans, N. 1965a, Vol 12, p. 129 - 130).


Thirdly, while Neville’s evolving of the Laceweb and its nature as a social movement are researched, the Laceweb networks themselves have not been researched. I have scant links to these networks and I am not cleared to share information.


Fourthly, while the social action being researched has drawn on East Asia, Australasia and Oceania Indigenous socio-medicine and other social and community social cohesion knowledge and way, this thesis only briefly describes some of these without going into detail. I do not re-present or speak for anyone.




I was privileged to be mentored by Neville over a fourteen and a half year period from August 1985 to December, 1999. Neville arranged for me to engage in sustained action research into (what I sense was) every aspect of his life work. I researched and wrote this thesis with his blessing, encouragement, cooperation and support. Further, I carried out this research in part so that Australians and the World would know more about this man. With the issues facing the World, Neville’s lifework is timely, practical, seminal and potent. This thesis contributes to making his life work more accessible.


Chris Collingwood confirmed by email (Sept, 2004) that I first met Neville in August 1985 at a psychotherapy workshop Neville was co-facilitating with Chris Collingwood and Nelson Pena Y Lillo in Balmain, Sydney.  At first, all I knew about Neville was that he was a psychiatrist who had just come back from doing an interesting workshop in the USA facilitated by Steve and Connirae Andreas. That workshop had been on powerful brief therapeutic processes based upon sensory submodalities (Bandler 1985; Andreas and Andreas 1987).  At the time I knew nothing of Fraser House or Neville’s wider work.

The topic of that Balmain workshop was the therapeutic potential of sensory submodality change processes. It turned out that Neville had always been interested in the functioning of the minute parts of the hypothalamic limbic region of the brain in sensory submodality and cross-sensory processing and the therapeutic potential of these understandings (Yeomans 1986). (Examples of sensory submodalities are size, form and direction of internal visual imagery. An example of cross-sensory processing is in hearing drumming and then moving to the rhythm (auditory-kinaesthetic crossover)).

The processes for therapeutically using sensory submodality processes that Neville had just been studying in the United States are a part of Neuro-linguistic Programming (NLP) evolved by Richard Bandler, John Grinder and others (Bandler 1985; Andreas and Andreas 1987). NLP is the study of the structure of subjective experience (Dilts, Grinder et al. 1980). Neville also referred to NLP as ‘Natural Living Processes’ and ‘Natural Learning Processes’ (Nov 1989, Nov 1993; June 1998).

Neville had attended NLP workshops regularly overseas since their inception in the mid Seventies - attending in USA, England and in Bali. In a 1986 video interview of Neville recorded in Darwin in the Australian Northern Territory (Yeomans 1986) Neville states that while he had an extensive range of therapeutic interventions he could use, his gaining of NLP experiences in the Seventies and Eighties had enabled him to have, in his words, even greater brevity and precision in his work with individuals and groups. Neville also said that NLP gave him frameworks for understanding what he had done intuitively back in the Sixties. Over many interviews and discussions during the time I knew Neville, he told me that he viewed NLP as such a powerful modality, that in his NLP workshops and his own use of NLP with clients, personal and client social ecology was paramount. At the Balmain workshop Neville defined ‘social ecology’ as constantly checking ‘the personal safety, integrity, and respect of everyone by everyone in any interpersonal exchange’. During the workshop sessions I was taken with Neville’s attention to social ecology; he was precise and thorough, and incredible quick in sensing everyone in the group. I had never met anyone like him.

Neville kept himself abreast of all of the innovations in NLP during the Eighties and Nineties and continued to be an avid reader of neuro-psycho-biology till his death. Neville made good use of the Internet in keeping abreast of psycho-neurobiological research. During 1998 and 1999 he told me that he was especially monitoring the small sensory sub-systems in the hypothalamic-limbic region, and their implications and potential use in therapy.

During the Balmain workshop Neville singled me out as a resonant person. At lunch on both days of the workshop we shared life stories relating to working with groups and change processes. He specifically engaged me on my academic and work experience. In July 1998 Neville told me that when he first talked with me at the workshop lunch on both days in Balmain in 1985 he could see immediate and potentially useful ‘fit’ between his life work and many aspects of my background. By the end of the lunch of the second day in Balmain, he knew I had a Social Science degree in Sociology, and that my sociological theoretical perspectives and action research (based in part on clinical sociology and sociology of knowledge) were resonant with his own. He found out that my Behavioural Science Honours Degree in Psychology entailed research in clinical psychology and that I had completed postgraduate studies in neuro-psychology. He knew I had been eligible to do PhD level research since 1981. He was also interested in the potential relevance for his life work of my prior degree-level industry studies in actuarial and financial services to become a Fellow of the Australian Insurance Institute by examination. He also saw resonance in my Diploma level studies in Personnel Management and Organizational Training and Development. I was for a time a member of the Australian Institute of Personnel Management and the Australian Institute of Training and Development. Neville delighted in my revelation that I had been sacked from most of my jobs for provoking the system to change. At the time I did not know that Neville specifically sought out people who were living on the margin of society - those who, according to Neville, were ‘dysfunctionals laden with potential’. At that first meeting, I had no idea that Neville was a constant networker and that he was checking me out as to how I might fit and be interested in the social action he was engaged in. We discussed my consulting work supporting chief executive officers of multinational companies in resolving psychosocial issues between members of top management, and my use of clinical sociology and psychosocial group process at the senior executive level. I had been for ten years chairperson of the Australian Insurance Institute – Life Branch Management Discussion Group.  I found out later that he had seen ‘fit’ in all aspects of my background including my security consulting work in electronic article surveillance.


I had my training in counselling from Terry O’Neill at the Student Counselling Unit at La Trobe University in the late 1970’s and was an on-call para-professional crisis counsellor in the La Trobe University Student Counselling Centre for eighteen months. I found out shortly after meeting Neville that Terry’s counselling was based largely upon his voluntary work at Fraser House and the influence of Neville in the 1960’s.  When I told Neville about Terry training me in counselling, this further strengthened his interest in me as a potential resource.


In December 1993 in Yungaburra, Queensland Neville specifically broached my potential to research his lifework towards a PhD.  Key things for Neville were that I was eligible to do a PhD and also, that I had experienced major trauma in my life; I knew about trauma self-help from my personal experience. In that December 1993 conversation, Neville went thoroughly into all my background again, although the chatting was laid back. Little did I know then how my entire blend of background ‘fitted’ his interests and foci. It seems that I was potentially the person he had been looking for, for more than 20 years (Yeomans 1980a, p. 64 ; Yeomans 1980b). He tentatively suggested the possibility of me doing a PhD on his life work a number of times in the following years.


By 1997, he was keen for me to get started as he knew he was in real trouble with his health and that it was life threatening. When I told him in July 1998 that I was starting a PhD on his life he was elated. I could literally see his mind working. He was doing a final check for fit.  Then he said a big, ‘Yes! Your background is perfect!’ I knew in large part this was because of the combination of trauma in my life and my experience and abilities. As discussed throughout this research, Neville had great faith in the dysfunctional fringe. On hearing I was starting the PhD we immediately revisited our extensive discussions during December 1993 where he ‘briefed me’ – now he started filling in my understanding. While I had engaged in research since I had met Neville, July 1998 was a very busy month of discussions to get me started on disciplined seeking of data towards a PhD.




This thesis is about people connecting with each other, and discovering and learning from and supporting each other. I will share a few things that may support you in connecting with the pith and moment of this research and how I came to be doing it. It is a warm December morning in 1993 and Neville Yeomans and I are eating paw paw in Yungaburra. We are surrounded by the lush greenness of the tropics of Far North Queensland, Australia. We are talking about the origins of the passions that have energized and interwoven our lives. Neville has no hesitation in saying that a defining moment in the origins of his passions occurred in 1931 when he was three years old.


In December 1993 Neville and I had sat at the bench in photo 5 below as we ate paw paw and talked. Neville recalls becoming separated from his parents and being lost in the hot arid desert of Western Queensland.




Photo 4. The Mango Tree Outside of Neville’s Yungburra House - A photo I Took in June 2001 a Month after Neville Died.



Photo 5. A photo I took in Neville’s Yungaburra House on 30 May 2001.


Neville takes me back in time with him in wandering away from his parents as a three year old – this is Neville’s story taken from my file notes at the time:


Back there now I am absorbed in minutia - looking at the little plants and pebbles. After a time my body is demanding my attention away from the pebbles. I am becoming parched under the desert sun. My mouth and lips are becoming very dry. My attention flits again to the pebbles. Then everything begins to shimmer. Every direction seems the same. My legs rapidly are going to jelly and the world begins to tilt all over the place as I feel myself collapsing to the ground from heat exhaustion.


Neville is vividly relating his near-death delirium.


Being a bright little three year-old, I know about death and that I am about to die. I am desperately longing to live to make the world a better place. In delirium, emotions are sweeping over me. Awful dread mingles with immense love - and all this is reaching out for love and nurturing and all their possibilities. I am seeing now a shimmering black giant coming towards me and feeling being gently picked up. I melt into the giant’s gentleness - strong yet soft - and presently I savour the cool fresh water that is being poured on my body and gently touching my lips - beginning now to assuage my raging thirst. Still in delirium, I feel being carried for a time and being now passed to a nurturing Aboriginal woman by the Aboriginal tracker who had found me, and I feel truly home again among the Aboriginal women and my yearning is being full-filled.


Photo 6 Neville lost in the bush


Neville went on to tell me that this gentle nurturing supported his recovery from the delirium and trauma. Three-year-old Neville in the care of those Aboriginal women had personal experience of Aboriginal socio-medicine. He knew from his own experiencing of it that Aboriginal socio-medicine is powerful. Neville had had conversations with psychiatrist Richard Cawte and had read his writings about Aboriginal socio-medicine (Cawte 1974; Cawte 2001).  Australian Aboriginal socio-medicine entails a wide range of social processes with a central aim of community social cohesion and wellbeing. Aboriginal socio-medicine links the psychosocial with the psychobiological through special forms of embodied social interaction. Neville experienced and embodied this linking. Neville spoke of how, during the years of his childhood, he constantly returned to his desert delirium experience as he was forming his very big dream of doing things that would make the world profoundly different. The dreaming evolved as an action quest towards enabling humanity in transitioning to a humane new global epoch on Earth.


Neville said that from that traumatic experience, what he was exploring and mulling over all the time as a child and later as an adolescent, was how he could enable a sustainable transition to an enduring new global epoch. He was talking of enabling a shift of the magnitude of the one from the Feudal System to the Industrial System – though earth wide. He read up on how that epochal transition occurred in the UK. He was passionate about how he could link with others in enabling a global epochal transition to a humane, nurturing, sustainable social-life-world. He was talking about a life-world that is respecting, celebrating and sustaining diversity of all life forms and networks on the biosphere. He kept asking himself, how would someone do that? How could he do that? He realized that it might take up to 300 years to do. And if it takes a few life times to do this, what could he do that would set up action that would be self-energizing and self-organizing; processes that could, no - would withstand the withering ways of the current epoch in decline, as it seeks by any means to maintain its structure and process. What processes could enable reconstituting to continue inexorably through time, to establish and sustain a caring and humane global intercultural synthesis?


Even on hearing Neville saying words like these in 1993, it never occurred to me that that was what he was really attempting to do. It never occurred to me that someone would actually take on such a task. It was too immense. Subsequently, a number of people I interviewed about Neville all confirmed the epochal focus of his social action. Margaret Cockett (April, 1999), his personal assistant at and after Fraser House, Stephanie Yeomans, his sister-in-law (Jan, July, and Dec, 2002), and Stuart Hill (July 2000), a professor of social ecology at University of Western Sydney, all said that Neville had said similar things to the above in talking with them about the emergence of his quest from his three year old childhood sociomedicine experience. As well, Paul Wilson implies the same understanding of Neville’s quest in his writing (1990, Ch. 6).


Neville went on to tell me a story that was similar to his being lost in the bush; it again involved trauma followed by recovery through Indigenous female nurturing. In 1943, Neville’s father co-purchased with his brother-in-law Jim Barnes, two adjacent properties totalling 1000 acres at North Richmond, one hour West of Sydney in NSW (Mulligan and Hill 2001, p. 191-202; Hill 2002a; Hill 2002b). In the next year when Neville was sixteen, a second defining episode occurred. Neville was out riding on the family’s pet horse Ginger on one of their properties with his Uncle Jim (Barnes) when they were caught in a grassfire that was being fanned by powerful winds. Neville told me (December, 1993) that Jim yelled to Neville to dismount and squeeze into a hollow in a tree trunk and cover himself to shield the radiant heat. The firestorm was coming towards them at phenomenal speed. The fire front was long. Jim on his horse could neither outflank it nor out-race it. Being too large to squeeze through the gap into the stump, Jim rode straight at the fire – attempting to ride through it. The horse went from under him, and Neville, watching from within the tree stump saw his Uncle burn to death. Amid the shock and horror was the dread of his own impending horrible death. Neville said that he slumped into traumatized delirium consumed with dread, laced with pervasive love similar to his experience when lost as a three year old. He described being on the edge of oblivion and again yearning for a better reality for all people. When found, physically safe, Neville was profoundly traumatized. Ginger his horse, though singed, survived.



Photo 7 P.A Yeomans and Ginger the horse that Neville was riding during the fire - copied with permission (Yeomans P.A. 1954, p121, Plate 4)



Circumstance created another similarity. At age three it was the Aboriginal women who gave nurturing care. During the time of this grass fire there happened to be an Islander women staying with the Yeomans family as a housekeeper-support for Neville’s mother. The woman was an Australian South Sea Islander - Kathleen Mussing[2]. It was in Kathleen’s nurturing care that Neville found enfolding love.


Neville attributed his healing from this second trauma in the months following the fire, to the nurturing socio-medicine of this housekeeper, Kathleen. In essence, this entailed love, care, nurturing and affection as the central components of psychobiological healing. Neville re-met Kathleen Mussing when she was old and dying and she didn’t recognize him. Neville described (July 1999) that meeting as one of the saddest experiences in his life, though permeated for him with immense love.


In the ensuing years up till the Yungaburra 1993 conversation, Neville had progressively involved me in aspects of his quest. Even so, I knew very little. It was a bit at a time. I did not find his ‘On Global Reform’ paper on global epochal transition till after his death in 2000.


Neville had written a letter to the International Journal of Therapeutic Communities in 1980 providing an overview of his work (Yeomans 1980a; Yeomans 1980b; Hill 2002a; Hill 2002b). This short letter published in the International Journal of Therapeutic Communities is reproduced in full below:


From the Outback


Dear Sir,


Since A. W. Clark and I produced the monograph ‘Fraser House’ in 1969, I have moved to private practice in Cairns, North East Australia. This is an isolated area for this country, but is rapidly becoming an intercultural front door to Melanesia and Asia.


‘Up North’ the therapeutic community model has extended into humanitarian mutual help for social change. Two of the small cities in this region have self-help houses based on Fraser House. An Aboriginal Alcohol and Drug hostel is moving in the same direction, as are other bodies.


These are facilitated by a network called UN-Inma, the second word of which is aboriginal for Oneness. Actually, aborigines have discussed offering one of the Palm Island group off the North Queensland coast as a model therapeutic community prison.


The Director of the Australian Institute of Criminology has the support of the United Nations Secretary-General for the idea of an international island haven for otherwise condemned political prisoners. Our proposal is an application and extension, in which the Institute Director is ‘extremely interested’.


The main conditions sought by the Indigenous group are that selected aborigines in Australian prisons also be permitted to complete their sentences on such islands; and that therapeutic self-management with conjugal rights be the administrative model.


One of our major next steps is to bring together a psychosocial evaluative research team to monitor the development of this regional community movement. Such may take some time as social scientists are fairly uncommon in the area.


Some years ago, I arranged a cost-benefit analysis of Fraser House, compared first with a traditional Admission unit in another psychiatric hospital, and second with a newly constructed Admission unit which some felt might be a pseudo therapeutic community.


Somewhat to my surprise Fraser House was not only more effective but also cost less than the other two. The traditional unit was next cost-effective and the ‘pseudo’ unit least. Unfortunately this report was never publicly circulated. Until recently I was unable to locate a copy. One has now been found and it seems I may soon have a manuscript (Yeomans 1980b).


This thesis revisits the above letter in documenting the flow-on action from Fraser House. Note the reference in the letter to bringing together:


a psychosocial evaluative research team to monitor the development of this regional community movement. Such may take some time as social scientists are fairly uncommon in the area.


Neville had been looking for someone like me at least from 1980.


In November 1999, Neville asked whether I would have the thesis finished by February 2000. He was very keen to read it, though only when it was finished. When I told him it would not be finished by then he said that was regrettable. Neville never did read any versions of my thesis. In December 1999 there was inexplicably no reply on his phone for two and a half weeks. Then one morning Neville’s daughter answered the phone and said that Neville’s bladder cancer, which had been in remission, had rapidly moved everywhere in his body, that he would die very soon and that they were shifting him from hospital to his former wife (his second wife) Lien’s place in Queensland. His daughter said he was so bad I would not be able to speak to him again. This was devastating news. I rang the hospital for a status report and was knocked further emotionally to be put directly though to Neville without knowing this was about to happen. Neville spoke and sounded the best I had ever found him. He was clear, calm, relaxed, poised and centred. He said:


Les, have you heard! The cancer’s gone everywhere! I have just received a massive dose of morphine and I am going up to be with Lien (his second Wife) and Quan (his son). I can’t help you any more. Goodbye.


I said, ‘Goodbye.’ Those seconds were our last chat. Then he hung up. Quan said in April 2000, ‘If Neville died this instant it would be a mercy’.


He died about 4 weeks later on 30 May 2000. Neville’s Obituary, written by a friend Peter Carroll was read by Carroll at the funeral on 7 June 2000 at Eastern Suburb Memorial Park in Military Road Matraville, NSW. The Obituary appeared in the Sydney Morning Herald (Carroll 2000). Providing a succinct summary of Neville’s life and achievements, it is included as Appendix 1.




This chapter has briefly discussed the significance of the topic, outlined the nature of the research and the research questions, and why they are important. It has explored how I became involved in the project and the way my biography has led me to undertake the research. The next chapter introduces Neville’s model for a 250-year transition to a humane caring epoch.




Photo 8. A Yeomans family photo of Neville in his later years


[1] Fritz’s paper ‘The Development of the Field of Clinical Sociology’ (2005) provides a history of the field – Internet Source (accessed 1 Aug 2005/0

[2] Kathleen Mussing was the sister of Faith Bandler who was one of those responsible for the 1967 referendum asking people to vote yes or no on whether they wanted the Australian constitution changed so that Indigenous Australians had the same rights as other citizens (Chang, 2002). This was passed. Faith had support from Jessie Street, a feminist and social activist (1889 – 1970) who represented Australia at the United Nations Economic and Social Council in 1946, and at the United Nations Commission for the Status of Women in 1947. In later years Jessie Street was outspoken on Aboriginal Rights and peace issues (University of Sydney, 2003). The Jessie Street Foundation supported the Second SE Asia Oceania Australasia Trauma Survivors Support Network Healing Sharing Gatherings, a Laceweb Action in 2001 (Laceweb Working Group, 2001).

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