The Life Work of Dr. Neville Yeomans
24 December 2005
For the Degree of Doctor of Philosophy
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
one such place is called Northern Queensland,
But an Aboriginal word meaning 'a coming together' is Inma.
CHAPTER ONE – ON HUMAN FUTURES
The Thesis Structure
Three Interconnected Foci
On Global Reform
Keyline and Cultural Keyline
A Warm December Morning
CHAPTER TWO - NEVILLE’S MODEL FOR A 250-YEAR TRANSITION TO A HUMANE CARING EPOCH
A New Cultural Synthesis
Webs and Lacewebs
CHAPTER THREE – THE EMERGENCE OF THERAPEUTIC COMMUNITIES AND COMMUNITY MENTAL HEALTH -
History, Types and Significance
The Emergence of Popular/Folk and Scientific Models
Nineteen and Twentieth Century Practice
Early Australian Experience
Evolving Therapeutic Communities
Social Psychiatry, Social Therapy and Milieu Therapy
Decline of Therapeutic Committees in the
Decline of Therapeutic Committees in the
Wider Applications of Therapeutic Community
Rehabilitation Services, Transitional Facilities and The Move to Community Based Care
Community Mental Health - The
Community Mental Health in the
Community Mental Health in
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
Shifts In Psychiatric Models
The Psychosocial Model, Therapeutic Governance and Global Social Control
CHAPTER FOUR – ON METHOD
On Being an Insider Looking in
Explicating the Inexplicable
Interviews With Bruen and Chilmaid
Margaret Cockett and Other Interviewees
Prolonged On-Site Social Action Research
Engaging in Naturalistic Inquiry
My Theoretical Perspectives
Using Emergent Design
Writing Through and Making Sense
Using Grounded Theory
Recognising Fractals and Holographs
Using Thick Description
Using Thematic Analysis/Narrative Analysis
Structure/Event Process Analysis
Emergence of Intuition
On Being a Scientific Detective
Crafting the Writing
CHAPTER FIVE - CONNECTING SUSTAINABLE AGRICULTURE AND PSYCHOSOCIAL TRANSITION
Water Telling Us What to do With it
Creating Deep Soil Fast
Links Between Sustainable Agriculture, Psychosocial Change And Indigenous Sociomedicine
Tikopia - Celebrating Difference to Maintain Unity And Wellbeing
Melding the Precursors
CHAPTER SIX - FRASER HOUSE MILIEU
Introducing Fraser House
Layout, Locality, and Cultural Locality
Assuming a Social Basis of Mental Illness
Locality as Connexion to Place
Back Wards and Prisons
Aboriginal and Islander Patients
Family- Friends-Workmate Network as Focus of Change
Re-Casting the System
Fraser House as Therapeutic Community
For and Against
The Use of Slogans
Fraser House Wellness Norms
Handbooks on Fraser House Structure and Process
CHAPTER SEVEN - GOVERNANCE AND OTHER RECONSTITUTING PROCESSES
The Resocializing Program – Using Governance Therapy
Committees and Balancing Governance
The New Role for all Staff
Patient Treatment and Training
Fraser House Training
The Canteen and the Little Red Van
The Domiciliary Care Committee and Domiciliary Care
The Outpatients, Relatives and Friends Committee
Constituting Rules and Constitutions
CHAPTER EIGHT – FRASER HOUSE BIG MEETING
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
CHAPTER NINE – FRASER HOUSE TRANSITIONARY PROCESSES
Social Category Based Small Group Therapy
Research as Therapy
Psychiatric Research Study Group
Work as Therapy
Margaret Mead Visits Fraser House
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
CHAPTER TEN – CRITIQUING AND REPLICATING
Critique of Fraser House in the Sixties
Replicating Fraser House In State Run Enclaves
Fraser House and Transitions to Community Self Caring
A Follow-Up Service and Liaison with Outside Organizations.
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
CHAPTER ELEVEN - FRASER HOUSE OUTREACH
Coordinator of Community Mental Health Services
Evolving Asian Links
Wellbeing Action Using Festivals, Gatherings and Other Happenings
The Second Festival – The Paddington Festival
Festival Three -
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
CHAPTER TWELVE - EVOLVING THE LACEWEB
Evolving the Laceweb
Aboriginal Human Relations Gatherings
The Self Organising Rollout for Bourke
Further Rollout for Armidale
Evolving Small Therapeutic Community Houses in Far
Speaking on the Indigenous Platform at the UN Ngo
Geoff and Norma Guest’s Aboriginal Youth Training Farm
Developing Aboriginal and
Unpo and Other Global Action
New State Movement Update
Indigenous People Linked to Confest
Cultural Healing Action
Using Ideas from the Laceweb Homepage
CHAPTER THIRTEEN – EVOLVING THE LACEWEB SOCIAL-MOVEMENT
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
CHAPTER FOURTEEN - WHITHER GOETH THE WORLD – HUMANITY OR BARBARITY?
Being in the Zone of Growth
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
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
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.
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
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
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
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
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
Dr. Neville Yeomans was born in 1928 to
Percival and Rita Yeomans and died in
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.
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
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
Neville commenced his endeavours with what he
called (Dec, 1993 and July, 1998) the ‘mad and bad’ people of
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
The thesis researches
Neville’s role firstly, in evolving social psychiatry, community psychiatry and
clinical sociology in
While the many things
Neville pioneered are now known by many in
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,
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
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).
attended NLP workshops regularly overseas since their inception in the mid
Seventies - attending in
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,
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
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
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. 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
Since A. W. Clark and I
produced the monograph ‘Fraser House’ in 1969, I have moved to private practice
‘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
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
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
 Fritz’s paper ‘The Development of the Field of Clinical Sociology’ (2005) provides a history of the field – Internet Source http://digilander.libero.it/cp47/clinica/friz.htm (accessed 1 Aug 2005/0
 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