Chapter Four – On Method





This chapter describes the research methods I used to source and gather data about Neville’s life work, and the processes I used in making coherent sense out of the diversity. The chapter commences with how issues concerning being an insider looking in were resolved. My data collecting, using a combination of interviewing, archival research, on-site visits and prolonged action research is discussed. My use of naturalistic enquiry is outlined. The chapter concludes with a discussion of the processes I used for data analysis, the steps I took to ensure trustworthiness, and the theoretical perspectives I used in carrying out this research.




When I started this thesis I sensed that I was an insider looking in, and that I had people’s trust. Since the mid 1980’s I had special insider knowledge that an outsider may never be given clearance to know. I had access to relevant people, and I had had a massive amount of access to Neville. I sensed that I had a feel for what Neville and the Laceweb were all about. I knew a lot. When I started disciplined data gathering towards the PhD in July 1998 I had a concern that I may be prejudiced, biased and selective in data gathering and analysis, even with the best will in the world. Any outsiders attempting to do this research would also bring their biases, presuppositions and prejudgments to the task. An outsider may never find out about the Laceweb. People involved are in remote places and go quietly about their work. Laceweb is difficult to recognise even if you are surrounded by it. Outsiders would have potentially even greater difficulty than I did in determining Neville’s and Laceweb process. Outsiders would also have had issues with bias, and what to include and exclude. It could be said that as an insider, I would be interested in promoting virtues and downplaying shortcomings. I have a vested interest because of my close connection to ensure that this research has rigor and substance. Only a very good thesis would have ‘legitimising’ value. To address these issues I endeavoured to be simultaneously close and detached. Neville specifically worked with me on attachment and detachment. Before July 1998 I was at varying times, by contextual circumstance and intentionally, an insider and outsider, native and stranger. At times I felt this role fluidity as emotionally painful, wearing and exhausting (Petford Working Group 1992). After July 1998 this ‘insider looking in’ issue became a matter of degree and being mindful of the issues. I had a strong drive to have the thesis methodologically sound; the topic deserved this. It turned out that I was not the insider I thought I was at the start of this research. I did not at first realize I had scant knowledge, understanding, or feel of Neville’s or his father’s way – even though I had been talking and working with him for twelve years. Neville told me in early 1999 he had felt despair with some of my pre-thesis writing. He said that my earlier writings outlining Laceweb action did not convey the texture, the feel and the tentativeness – I was being too definitive. (As examples, Neville’s poem ‘Inma’ starts with ‘There seems to be’ and ends with ‘I guess’; his poem ‘On Where’ starts with ‘Perhaps’.


For many of the early months of this thesis I was overwhelmed. There appeared to be a dozen or more possible theses. Which one was I doing? Focusing on my potential theses, and deciding what I was, and was not doing, was important.


One of my challenges in this thesis was how to write so as to not lose or overwhelm the reader or myself. Linked to this was how I could convey the interconnections – how to weave it all together meaningfully. The thesis has emerged as something beyond anything I had contemplated, and it emerged through contemplative action, persistence, and a lot of challenging work.


Explicating the Inexplicable


I was very aware that everyone I spoke to who had worked closely with Neville said that his way of working was incomprehensible.  All that they would say was that he was so fast, that he was way ahead of everybody, and that they could not fathom how he did it. He would tell me stories about what happened in the past. However, when I would seek information on how he did things Neville would not explicate his way. When I would ask him, he would get me to do things and tell me to read his father’s books.


My challenge was how to explicate the inexplicable; on this, Martin Heidegger wrote:


To the common comprehension, the incomprehension is never an occasion to stop and look at its own powers of comprehension, still less to notice their limitations. To common comprehension, what is incomprehensible remains merely offensive – proof enough to such comprehension which is convinced it was born comprehending everything, that it is now being imposed upon with a sham. The one thing of which sound common sense is least capable is acknowledgement and respect (Heidegger 1968, p. 76-77).


I had to move beyond my common sense and evolve respect for the incomprehensibility I was experiencing in entering Neville’s strange realities. David Silverman in writing about Castaneda’s account about entering into a Yaqui Indian, don Juan’s reality, wrote:


Here we have an account, written in English, which seeks to make a replica of how a Yaqui Indian himself understands his knowledge. Yet the problematic of the book can in no way express don Juan’s concerns. For Castaneda must seek to explicate an ‘order of conceptualisation’ which to don Juan is not at all in need of explication (Silverman 1975, p. 88).


Beyond conceptualising, I was seeking to understand subject, act and object as a melded phenomenon – Neville as subject, Neville using his process and the interconnections between all of the vast array of social things he evolved through action with others. I sense Neville sensed not only that his way was not at all in need of explication, but also that explication would fail to embrace his way. His way had to be embodied to be understood and appreciated and once embodied, would not need explicating. How these challenges were faced unfold in this research.



Note Taking


I wanted to interact naturally with informants and not have detailed note taking interfering with my attending. Taylor and Bogdan estimate that one hour of interviewing generates around forty pages of typed data (Taylor and Bogdan 1984). Most of the time Neville and I talked very fast. At the time I tested my speed of thought (timing the internal recall of piece of writing of known length) at around 650 words a minute without any sense of rush, and Neville was way faster than me. My guess is that our discussion would have generated far more than forty pages per hour. Given that I had well in excess of 150 hours of discussions with Neville, and many hours with other interviewees, the most appropriate method was note taking rather than tape recording. As my method, I followed Minichiello, Aroni, Timewell & Alexander (1995) in relying on memory aided by the briefest note taking. These notes were also what Burgess calls an ‘aide memoire’ for the next interview (Burgess 1984).


While speaking by phone I would type in key words and phrases into my computer in my own shorthand, and type up my notes more fully directly the call was finished. In face-to-face interviewing, I made brief notes throughout, concentrating my attention on themes, key words, incidents, names, and ideas. I jotted these down as they emerged in conversation.


Typically, I jotted down or recalled the meanings of remarks rather than verbatim statements. Succinct important comments were recorded verbatim. I used my own shorthand in note taking. I always wrote up my notes on a computer within an hour of an interview/discussion as Minichiello et al recommend (1995). They quote Bogdan and Biklen, ‘Researchers who have mastered the above process can conduct up to two hours of interview without the use of a tape recorder (Bogdan and Biklen 1982).’ I found I could do this.


During face-to-face interviews with Neville between 1986 and 1998 I would also take cryptic shorthand. We would speak for about 40 minutes before a break. I would then download my notes and recall onto my computer. I would print these notes as my guide for the next 40 minutes. I found that my note taking enabled recording, coding, analysis, interpretation and emergent design of my research on the run, and gave scope for analysis and interpretation to be discussed as it emerged with informants. This allowed commentaries about the mode of discussion, analysis and interpretation to be exchanged then and there. Links between things were being discussed as they arose. In using Minichiello et al’s benchmarks for this note taking mode (1995). It was ‘fair’ to me and interviewees, the data gathering was valid and effective, and it did aid in analysing the data.




My interviewees were telling absorbing stories, and describing structure and process that were very memorable. Listening for key themes and ideas encouraged my attending. With counselling skills training I had received from Terry O’Neil and Neville’s mentoring, I had well-developed interviewing and attending competencies. I had been trained to para-professional status in counselling and interviewing skills by O’Neil at the La Trobe University Student Counselling Unit, and had completed 18 months of work as a para-professional student counsellor at that unit. Terry had modelled his counselling and group work on his experiences with Neville in Fraser House. Once avid discussion with my interviewees was in flow, I would use ‘reflecting back comment’, ‘paraphrasing’, ‘summarizing’, ‘para-linguistics’ and ‘minimal encouragers’ in supporting their flow of consciousness.


As well, Neville and others had enabled me to be firstly, proficient in information gathering using the NLP language metamodel (Minichiello, Aroni et al. 1995) developed by Bandler and Grinder (Bandler and Grinder 1975), and secondly, competent in using Ericksonian language patterns (Bandler, Grinder et al. 1975; Grinder, De Lozier et al. 1977; Grinder, Bandler et al. 1981; Hanlon 1987) and patterns evolved by Virginia Satir (Satir 1967; Satir 1972; Bandler, Grinder et al. 1976; Satir 1983; Satir 1988). I used these competencies in my exchanges with Neville and my other interviewees to support recall and aid thick description (Geertz 1973). Often Neville and I would be so attuned that we would have things flow without complete sentences, and we would finish each other’s sentences as confirmation of empathetic shared understanding. This notwithstanding, some things I took a long time to comprehend, namely - community being the therapy, Cultural Keyline, and that Neville was involved in evolving global epochal transition.


Interviewing Neville


Neville and I had many overlapping interests. He had competencies I sought to acquire. During the ten years I knew Neville before commencing this thesis in July 1998, I had many hours of ‘discussions’ with Neville that were informal, prolonged, in-depth research interviews/dialogues. This was a mutually desired and supported process. We did little by way of social talk unless it was networking related. In fact for social exchange, Neville preferred the company of others, not me.


Minichiello et al (1995, p. 81) define in-depth interviewing as:


….conversation with a purpose – a conversation between researcher and informant focusing on the informant’s perception of self, life and experience, and expressed in his or her own words. It is the means by which the researcher can gain access to and subsequently understand the private interpretations of social reality that individuals hold.


My use of in-depth interviewing is consistent with my naturalistic inquiry frame and use of grounded theory (Glaser and Strauss 1967).


Before I began the research, prolonged interviews were held face-to-face with Neville when I stayed with him firstly, in Bondi Junction, New South Wales (1988-89), secondly in Yungaburra, Queensland (Dec in 1991, 1992 and 1993, and July, 1994) and thirdly, in Rapid Creek, Darwin (Feb, 1993). These face-to-face interviews were daily and sustained, often lasting all day and well into the night. A couple of times in Yungaburra I stayed for a fortnight. I stayed a week in Darwin. I stayed for a week with Neville in Bondi Junction many times during 1986 and 1987 and travelled up to Bondi Junction for long weekends monthly for eighteen months during that period coinciding with the Bondi Junction Dispersed Therapeutic Community Sharing Sundays. I also held many interviews with Neville by phone throughout 1998 and 1999.


When I commenced the thesis in July 1998, Neville and I agreed that interviews would be by phone and typically four times a week. By common agreement we worked better on the phone. Phone calls were typically around two hours or longer. In 1999, the holding of interviews was dependent on Neville’s pain levels from his bladder cancer, and during this period, we generally had discussions one or two nights a week. During 1999 discussion length was generally between thirty to sixty minutes. During the phone interviews I typed on the computer as we talked. The bulk of the time we would have unstructured discussion and storytelling themes, rather than question and answer. It emerged that thematic discussion was a fundamental aspect of Fraser House change process (Yeomans, N. 1965a, Vol . 4, p. 50 - 54). My notes referred mainly to discussion themes rather than specific questions and answers.


Most of these in-depth interviews were recording Neville’s life history, with storytelling a large part (Minichiello, Aroni et al. 1995, Chap. 7). These stories related to Fraser House, Fraser House Outreach, and the Laceweb. We constantly jumped around in time. Neville very much saw his life action as emergent, interdependent and inter-related (Minichiello, Aroni et al. 1995, p. 152).


I was endeavouring to enter Neville’s socially constituted world’s through his ‘precariously negotiated subjective views of it’ (Minichiello, Aroni et al. 1995, p. 152), the stuff of Poole’s ‘intersubjectivity’ – my experiencing of Neville’s experiencing of my experiencing of him (Poole 1972). These discussions did involve a mutual inter-subjective exchange of information (Minichiello, Aroni et al. 1995, p. 179) - what Neville called co-learning. This in turn has resonance with Gergen’s writing about meaning being jointly negotiated. ‘Its meaning and implications are open to continuous reshaping as relationships proceed (Gergen 2005).’ This is the way Neville and I related, and it was also a frame I used throughout the research.


Often Neville would initiate a new theme. During a December 1991 Yungaburra conversation, Neville mentioned that he had adapted his father’s Keyline in evolving Fraser House and extending Fraser House ways into the wider community. During that conversation Neville referred to his Keyline adaptation as ‘Cultural Keyline’.


In December 1992, Neville told me the story of his being lost as a three year old and his near death experience. The conversation flowed to his second near death with the grass fire. This led to a discussion about the evolving of his life quest. I had not heard of these aspects being related to Neville’s psychiatric work before. Even then, from December 1993, with so much storytelling and discussion going on, I did not realize till around mid 1999 that up till that time I had so filtered my hearing through my prejudices and preconceptions that I had understood little of what Neville was saying. During 1998 and early 1999 I was still seeking to find out the ‘change process’ that was used in Fraser House. I was still thinking in terms of, ‘an expert using therapy techniques on the mentally ill’ frame. Neville had told me time and again that the change process was ‘self-help’ and ‘mutual help’ and that ‘community’ was the therapy. For all this telling, I was still thinking – ‘Yes! But what was the real change process? I was a slow learner.


Neville never spoon-fed me with him telling me, as ‘fount of all wisdom’ what to do. He would set me challenges and tasks.[1] When Neville and I were together in Laceweb contexts he would never do something if I could do it myself. I now know he was creating contexts for me to embody learning. By the time I started my thesis, Neville was in his Seventies and said his memory was failing. However, I suspect that often he followed his Fraser House protocol, ‘give the tasks to those who have no experience, so they learn by doing with support’. Sometimes he could have told me things. Instead he let me find things out from my interviewees and then he would respond to my crosschecking with him about what I had found out from others.


Interviews with Bruen and Chilmaid


Apart from Neville, my first thesis interviewees were ex-Fraser House staffers Warwick Bruen and Phil Chilmaid. I had an interview with Bruen and Chilmaid in October 1998, and further interviews with each of them in March, June and July in 1999. Chilmaid was a Fraser House head charge-nurse who continued at North Ryde Hospital after Fraser House closed till his retirement in 1999. Warwick Bruen was a Fraser House psychologist. Both were pleased to help. Each of the three interviews with each of these men took place on consecutive days to aid crosschecking. I met Bruen in Canberra where he now works. My first interview with Chilmaid was at North Ryde Hospital on the Sydney North Shore and the interview commenced at 11 PM. He was doing the midnight till dawn charge nurse shift. This was my first visit to North Ryde Hospital and he and I spoke briefly. He then gave me a tour of the Reception Centre as he told stories. He then took me 150 metres down the hill in the dark to where the Fraser House buildings are (now called the Lincoln Centre). We had no access. Even so, Chilmaid identified what in the Fraser House days in the Sixties was the Administration Block, the room where Big Group was held, the two large double story dormitory blocks either side of the central administration section, and the lounge/recreation area and the dining room at their respective ends. The buildings stretch over a quarter of a kilometre, so in circling them, it was a substantial walk. I could get a sense of the room used for Big Group as it was dimly lit by street lighting. I visited ‘Fraser House’ two days later and took photos. I had no access to the interior.


I commenced my first two interviews with both Bruen and Chilmaid with a series of questions that focused on the specifics of the structure and process of Fraser House. As the interviews progressed, discussion became more unstructured. I realized some time after the second interview I had with each of them that many of my questions were based on incorrect or naive assumptions. For example, I had asked a lot of questions relating to the ‘change process’ at Fraser House. I was continually returning to asking about the kinds of therapy and change processes that were used. ‘Was it Gestalt? Was it Behaviour Modification? The response I kept getting was, ‘It was not like that’. After the first two interviews with both of them, I was still confused about the nature of the change process. Neville had already told me the changes processes many times in many ways. Therapeutic community was the process. I had not heard! He said to read his father’s books on sustainable agriculture and read his archival material.


The first reading of the books and archives left me none the wiser. That ‘experiencing and reconnecting in new ways with a peculiarly ‘total’ community’ was the reconstituting process was not initially conveyed by my reading of Neville and Alf Clark’s book. At this time I had not read the UK therapeutic community literature as Neville said he was not influenced by that – rather he had modelled his action on Keyline and Australasia Oceania Indigenous way. I interviewed Alfred Clark for the thesis (Aug, 1998). Clark was the head of the Fraser House External Research Unit, and co-writer with Neville of the book about Fraser House (Clark and Yeomans 1969). During his time at Fraser House, Clark was a senior lecturer at the University of New South Wales and was completing his PhD on Fraser House (Clark 1969). After leaving Fraser House and the University, he carried out organizational research with the Tavistock Institute in the United Kingdom. Then he became a Professor and Head of the Sociology Department at La Trobe University for fourteen years (1975 till 1990). Shortly after I first met Neville in 1986, I spoke to Alfred Clark at LaTrobe University about his Fraser House experience and work with Neville. When I interviewed Alfred Clark in August 1998 he said that he was not able to say what made Fraser House work – it was for him, still a puzzle. He reiterated this in a June 2004 phone discussion. Fraser House was a very dense complex process.


I cannot pin point the time when I realized that in Fraser House ‘community’ was the therapy and ‘therapeutic community’ was the process, not a just a name. All of the patient community governance and work by patients were change process. Everything was change process. It was there in the archives, mentioned many times, but I had just not sensed it.


Once I had this understanding about socio-therapy and community-therapy and that Neville viewed Fraser House as a complex self-organising living system, it became clear that all that Neville had said about his father’s interest in living systems was central and not peripheral. Neville had told me many times that he modelled his way on his father’s work, and I had not read P. A.’s writings. During 1999 I finally did read all of Neville’s fathers books so I had a growing understanding of Neville’s adaptation of his father’s ‘Keyline’ concept into Cultural Keyline. My research was naturalistic inquiry, emerging connoisseurship and emergent design in action. These are discussed later. This gave me a new framework for the third interview with Bruen and Chilmaid in June 1999.


It became apparent during the June 1999 and the July 1999 interviews that I had some understanding that Bruen and Chilmaid did not have. They had little idea that Fraser House was, for Neville, a pilot for exploring global cultural and intercultural transition with a time frame of possibly more than two hundred and fifty years. Neville talked about this epochal transition meta-frame of Fraser House with me through the late Eighties and the Nineties. That Neville had this metaframe in the Fraser House years was confirmed by two other interviewees, Margaret Cockett (April, 1999) and Stephanie Yeomans (Jan, July, Dec, 2002). After my increasing understanding, my following engagements with Bruen and Chilmaid shifted from question and answer to a more conversational exchange with increased storytelling.


Margaret Cockett and Other Interviewees


Apart from Neville, Bruen and Chilmaid, I interviewed six other people linked to Fraser House, namely, Margaret Cockett, Alfred Clark, Terry O’Neill, Stephanie Yeomans, as well as a former Fraser House patient, and a former outpatient. Apart from the outpatient, all of these interviewees were skilled psychosocial researchers and used these competences in our exchanges. The Fraser House patient after leaving Fraser house changed his focus from bank robber to having a career as a research assistant to a leading Australian criminologist. Some of the feel of Fraser House, especially the Big and Small Groups from a patient’s perspective, was obtained from the former patient (June 1992) and the former outpatient (July 1994, July 2001, July 2002 and December 2002).


I had interviews with Margaret Cockett in April, June and July 1999. Margaret, a psychologist and anthropologist was Neville’s personal assistant at Fraser House. Margaret stayed on as Neville’s personal assistant in his subsequent Director of Community Mental Health position and other outreach. Margaret later went into private practice and was practicing from Neville’s Bondi Junction house when we had the eighteen months of monthly gatherings during 1986 and 1987. I first met her then (though Margaret did not participate in the Sunday gatherings). Chilmaid, Bruen and Cockett each facilitated Fraser House Big Group and Small Groups on many occasions and conducted research into aspects of Fraser House.


Another interviewee was Terry O’Neill. He was a psychologist at North Ryde Hospital in the early Sixties and had voluntarily run the Fraser House children’s play therapy sessions immediately after the Unit’s parent-child play therapy sessions on Tuesday evenings (after Warrick Bruen had stopped working at the Unit). Terry went on to be a member, and then head of the La Trobe University Student Counselling Unit. Because of my voluntary on-call paraprofessional crisis counsellor role within that Unit, I was permitted to do clinical therapy research at the psychology honours level. I did not meet Neville till nine years later. Terry had never mentioned Neville or Fraser House to me. I was absorbed in Terry’s way of enabling, and it was not until I said to Terry in 1988 that I had met some one who did things similar to himself that he would probably really like to meet, mentioning Neville’s name, that Terry said he knew Neville well and that he had largely based his work on his experience at Fraser House.

Another person I interviewed (Jan, 2001, July, 2002 and Dec, 2002) was Neville’s sister-in-law, Stephanie Yeomans (Neville’s younger brother, Ken’s first wife). She had been a psychiatric nurse at North Ryde Psychiatric Hospital (where I had met Chilmaid) in the Sixties, although she did not work at the Fraser House Unit so as to avoid charges of nepotism. Neville had extensive conversations with Stephanie during their times at North Ryde Hospital and later. Stephanie said (July, 2002) that when she was working up the hill from Fraser House in another part of North Ryde Hospital, Neville would come over and talk with her about Fraser House. They would also talk at his house. Stephanie had been in her early teens an informal research assistant for her mother, a geographer. Later she used these skills when she regularly assisted Neville in University Libraries, ‘devouring’ books on anthropology, sociology, psychology, religion, history and humanitarian law. Stephanie and Neville’s brother Ken were also very active with Neville in his Fraser House outreach. In conversations I had with Stephanie (January 2001, January 2002, and July 2002), Stephanie said that back in the Sixties and early Seventies, she and Neville had had endless hours in discussing his way and action. There was evidence among all my interviewees that they had adopted many aspects of Neville’s way.


Prolonged On-Site Social Action Research


It was in September 2002 in reflecting upon the social action contexts that I had been involved in since 1986 linked to this thesis that I suddenly realized for the first time that Neville had set up for me an extensive range of contexts that were isomorphic metaphors (matching form) for each and every type of social action he had enabled. Appendix 2 is a table showing eighteen types of social action, with over fifty examples of these types that Neville had been engaged in prior to my meeting him. The third column shows over ninety mirroring contexts that he set up and/or arranged for me to be involved in. Many of these were not just for me; large numbers of people were also involved. This meticulous extensive strategic thoroughness was typical of Neville. He knew that if ever I started a PhD based thesis, I would have potentially embodied this extensive action research, and may have this embodied experience to draw upon, as well as interviews, archival research, narrative, autobiographical material and storytelling - all enriched potentially by my own prolonged action research that I am continuing to be involved in. I did not know it at the time that I had been adopting and adapting Neville’s ways both in action research and in action in everyday life in the social life world.


Gold (1958) writes of four possible roles for observers ranging from complete detached observation to complete involvement and participation in the site context. Neville arranged for me to be in the latter role – being immersed in the action and regularly taking an initiating and enabling role (1958, Vol. 36, p217-223). Neville engaged me in enabling and supporting social action research a number of times in contexts approximating Fraser House Big Group with between 100 – 180 people present, and in these he cast me in the Big Group enabler role. Through the Nineties I have enabled over 200 experiential gatherings with between 40 and 180 people attending during bush camp-out conference-festivals.


In keeping with indigenous influences on Neville’s modes of action reseach he involved me many types of actions that were resonant with Linda Tuhiwai Smith’s twenty five Indigenous Research Projects (Smith 1999, p. 142-167) namely – creating, democratising, discovering, envisioning, negotiating, naming, networking, reframing, remembering, restoring, revitalizing, sharing, storytelling, and enabling and fostering proactive action research, structural change and cultural change


In these social action contexts Neville mentored me in taking on the same enabler, mentor and ‘supporter of others’ self-help and mutual help’ roles that he engaged in. This social action had ‘research’ woven into the holistic emergent action. Actions were being continually reviewed by me and other participants together. What worked was repeated in similar contexts. What didn’t work so well was modified and adapted so it did work, or it was dropped. The process was fractal, merging, synthesising and iterative. Action, monitoring, evaluation, adaptation and modification all took place in a merged holistic way appropriate to emerging and emergent context, rather than as a linear process. The prolonged continuous action research that I have engaged in since 1986 is isomorphic with the prolonged continuous action research that Neville engaged in throughout his life.


For Neville and his ‘Cultural Keyline’ way, prolonged continuous action research became an embodied aspect of being – a way of living. It is resonant with Indigenous socio-medicine. It became woven into his every day natural perceiving and sense-making in relational social-place inter-action. Neville’s way was to have people aware of their own body’s responses to unfolding experience (especially what Neville called micro-experiences) of wellness generating action – what Neville called ‘embodied understanding’. Head knowing without embodied understanding was for Neville, of little significance.


The prolonged continuous action research that Neville pioneered in Fraser House and Fraser House outreach has resonance with what Deming termed ‘a culture of continual improvement’ (2005). There is also resonance with what Senge calls, the ‘learning organization’ (1992) and what Bateson called deutero-learning (1973). In some senses we all do this continuous everyday action research – noticing and adjusting as circumstances change. Neville did it exquisitely in a way that maximized emergent potential. He noticed, responded to and supported the positive aspects of everyone’s context role specific behaviours. While Neville monitored the unfolding context, he stayed in his own meta-context (his personal context in the context). In a June 1999 conversation he spoke of being ‘context driven’ while maintaining his own metacontext in these words:


I was context driven - if I go to ‘creative context’ then ‘everything is creative’ - it worked like that.


He attended in a way that ‘soaked up’ what was there - responding in a resonant way, noticing the unfolding action and flexibly altering and responding to responses as a natural spontaneous flow. It was an integral aspect of his way of life – his ‘culture’.


Archival Research


While I had been told and shown so much over the years I had known Neville, he only told me of his collected papers in the Original Manuscripts Collection in the Mitchell Library within the NSW State Library in Sydney when he knew my candidature had been confirmed in July 1998. As ever strategic, he had put that archival collection there in the Sixties for serious academic study. In July 1998, Neville told me where that primary source material was stored as well as the location of other materials. 


Neville told me that archival material was in three places, the Mitchell Library within the NSW State Library, in a private collection in Armidale in North East New South Wales, and in his private collection in Yungaburra. Neville’s collected papers in the Mitchell Library contained a range of primary sources including Neville’s hand written jottings and diagrams, photographs, newspaper clippings, meeting notices, monographs by Neville, staff and patients, and Neville and Fraser House staff’s conference papers, research reports and Unit reports - most of it original documents. Neville was well skilled in research methodology and had created an archival researcher’s dream cache. There was a spread of types of archival material and a spread of authors – Neville, senior staff, junior staff, patients, outpatients, newspaper reporters and other interested parties. It was not a large collection and it is not all in one place in the ‘Original Manuscript’ collection. Neville had obviously given thought to each piece’s strategic significance. I had a strong feel that this cache was sent ahead specifically for the likes of me. Additionally, there was a collection of Nevilles father’s materials, and three further collections belonging to Neville’s brothers, Allan and Ken, and Neville’s second wife, Lien.


On my first visit I did a skim read of the collection to get a sense of what was there and took some brief notes as a guide for the next visit. At this time I had no idea what thesis I was doing, or the relevance of what I was looking at. I had two further visits each lasting three days where I ‘poked around’ in the archive. It was in August 2002 on my fourth visit when I had finished my first rough draft of the whole thesis that I scanned, skimmed, and read the total archive of all family members. By this time I knew what was relevant and what was cross-confirming and where it would go in my thesis. Typically, I only wrote down what I was going to use in my thesis.


As well, on this visit I saw material that ‘stood out’ that I had never noticed before. Some small bits were seminal. These I photocopied. While plainly there all along, I had never seen just how many research papers and monographs Neville had written. I sense that given the interaction between me, my interviewees, my thesis topic, and the archive, the timing sequence was right as to when I went ‘in earnest’ into the archive. The preliminary archival viewings had given me a feel for the collection.  On those early visits the archive was becoming familiar to me, though I had little sense of what was significant. My approach and timing in the use of the Mitchell Library archives were consistent with the principles of my emergent design, i.e. contextually determined, rather than presupposed and prescripted. Some small bits of Neville’s handwritten scribbling turned out to be potent; for example, the personal file-note ‘Mental Health and Social Change’ which is Neville’s succinct half page early statement about his thinking on global transitions (Yeomans, N. 1971b). I had not had the title’s significance reach me - the culture’s margin is where social change starts. I spotted this document on my first look at the archive, and then I had no idea that it was one of two seminal linked documents. It was the precursor to the paper, ‘On Global Reform – International Normative Model Areas (INMA)’ which was in Neville’s Yungaburra Far North Queensland archives (Yeomans 1974). I found this second document in July 2000 after Neville’s death (30 May 2000).


Dr. Ned Iceton had archival materials at his home in Armidale in N.E. New South Wales relating to the 1971 to 1973 Aboriginal Human Relations Gatherings facilitated by Neville. I was able to get a photocopy of all of the relevant material so I could peruse them at my leisure. As well, Iceton informed me that a collection of the Aboriginal Human Relations Newsletters was held in the Australian National Library (I perused these in Canberra) (Aboriginal Human Relations Newsletter Working Group 1971a; Aboriginal Human Relations Newsletter Working Group 1971b). I had two interviews with Iceton on consecutive days.  My questions focused on the processes used to start and sustain group process at the Human Relations Gatherings, given the presence there of both urban and remote area Aboriginals and non-Aboriginal people. These interviews also soon became semi-structured then un-structured. Through these interviews I confirmed that the 1971-73 Aboriginal Human Relations Gatherings were resonant with Fraser House groups and fully consistent with Neville’s Cultural Keyline, therapeutic community and other socio-cohesion frameworks.


By the time I was able to get up to see the Yungaburra archive Neville had died. I was given the archive to copy. The key document, ‘On Global Reform and International Normative Model Areas (Inma)’ (Yeomans 1974) was in this archive; as well, there were materials relating to Neville’s Lake Tinaroo Mediation Workshops.


Engaging In Naturalistic Inquiry


This research is in the style and mode of the naturalist paradigm following Lincoln and Guba’s book, ‘Naturalistic Inquiry’ (1985). I used this approach because Neville himself engaged in naturalistic inquiry and helped pioneer this method in Australia in the 1950’s and 1960’s. Neville used naturalistic inquiry as the framework for his prolonged action research/praxis, and engaged others in sharing with him in naturalistic inquiry as a process for re-constituting locality, community and society. ‘Locality’ here means ‘connexity with place’ rather than ‘place’.


Consistent with naturalistic inquiry, I engaged in prolonged action research in natural settings and obtained secondary source recollections and archival materials because, to quote Lincoln and Guba, ‘Naturalistic ontology suggests that realities are wholes that cannot be understood in isolation from their contexts, nor can they be fragmented for study of the parts (1985, p. 39).’ My guiding substantive theory emerged from, or was grounded in the data (Glaser and Strauss 1967; Lincoln and Guba 1985, p. 41). I set boundaries to the inquiry:


…on the basis of emergent focus because that permits the multiple realities to define the focus…; because boundaries cannot be satisfactorily set without intimate contextual knowledge, including knowledge about the mutually shaping factors involved…’ (Lincoln and Guba 1985, p. 42).


I followed Lincoln and Guba’s special criteria for trustworthiness, namely, credibility, transferability, dependability and confirmability discussed below (1985, p. 43). Consistent with naturalistic inquiry, Neville’s way of prolonged action research was based on the same beliefs and associated principles of the New Paradigm as detailed by Lincoln and Guba (1985, p. 56) – refer Table 1 below adapted from Lincoln and Guba (1985, p. 56).


I will show in the three sections of this research that Nevilles and his father’s work is consistent with the new paradigm’s beliefs and principles and that both men helped evolve new paradigm action research in Australia.


Neville was well aware of the holographic quality of his action research in interaction between Cultural Keyline processes and social systems. For example, Lincoln and Guba could well have been quoting Neville when they wrote:


Information is distributed throughout the system rather than concentrated at specific points. At each point information about the whole is contained in the part. Not only can the entire reality be found in the part, but also the part can be found in the whole. What is detected in any part must also characterize the whole. Everything is interconnected (1985, p. 59).


The quote aptly describes the holographic and fractal quality of the way Neville interacted with connexity in a two-fold sense. 


My definition of ‘connexity’ is as follows:


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



New Paradigm

Basic Belief


Associated Principle

















Mutually causal












Real-world entities are a diverse lot of complex systems and organisms.


Systems and organisms experience many simultaneous and potentially dominant orderings – none of which are ‘naturally’ ordered.



Images of systems and organisms are created by a dynamic process of interaction that is (metaphorically) similar to the holograph.


Future states of systems and organisms are in principle unpredictable


Systems and organisms evolve and change together in such a way (with feedback and feedforward) as to make the distinction between cause and effect meaningless


New forms of systems and organisms unpredicted

(and unpredictable) from any of the parts can arise spontaneously under conditions of diversity, openness, mutual causality, and indeterminacy


Mental processes, instruments, and even disciplines are not neutral



Table 1. Basic Belief and Associated Principles of the New Paradigm



Neville maintained connexity perception in relating with the unfolding connexity. I found that Fraser House can be seen in Neville’s Festivals, community markets, smaller therapeutic community houses, and in his networking, and simultaneously Keyline can been seen in Cultural Keyline and both in Fraser House, Fraser House outreach, Cultural Healing Action and Laceweb Networks. I return to this theme in discussing holographic generalization below.




To ensure trustworthiness in my research I endeavoured to establish truth value by the test of isomorphism (Lincoln and Guba 1985, p. 294), namely, that I have revealed the form, structure and processes of the focal multiple social constructions adequately in a way that would be credible to the co-constructors of those multiple realities. In respect of external validity, again following Lincoln and Guba, I make the assumption that, ‘at best only working hypotheses may be abstracted.’ Neville used to continually exhort me to keep everything tentative and up for continual review. On another trustworthiness criterion, ‘consistency’, I use a number of processes set out below to ensure replicability and dependability.


I had sustained prolonged engagement by investing ample time to become immersed in the focal milieu. I learned the cultures. I have built respect and trust. I was around long enough to detect the subtle and non-obvious aspects (even then, with considerable difficulty). I had ample time to detect my distorted and selective perceptions and misconstructions of what Neville and others were saying; time to ‘render the inquirer (me) open to multiple influences – the mutual shapers and contextual factors (Lincoln and Guba 1985)’. This prolonged time also enabled the building of trust in some people who were extremely cautious about me. Some are still very cautious and hold back for very good reasons. There are some things I do not need to know. (As discussed in Chapter Twelve, in East Asia psychosocial healers are ‘subversives to be harassed/eliminated’ to entities using atrocity for social control.)


While engaged in prolonged action research, I believe that I have never ‘gone native’; I have never lost what Lincoln and Guba (Lincoln and Guba 1981) call ‘detached wonder’. I also engaged in persistent observation to add salience so as to:


.…identify those characteristics and elements in the situation that are most relevant to the problem or issue being pursued and focusing on them in detail. If prolonged engagement provides scope, persistent observation provides depth (Lincoln and Guba. E. G. 1981; Lincoln and Guba 1985, p. 304).


These two forms of engagement enabled me to come to terms with what Eisner calls the ‘pervasive qualities’ (Eisner 1975), in this case the ‘pervasive qualities’ of Neville and his social action, and to sort out what really matters. In my writing I have endeavoured to specify in detail the exploring I carried out, and how I sought out salience.


Another aspect of my method to ensure trustworthiness was the use of triangulation. Following Denzin (1978) I used different sources and different methods. Comments made by one interviewee were crosschecked with the other interviewees. As well, comments were crosschecked with archival material, on-site visits, and immersion in ongoing social action with me taking on the enabling and mentoring role for others, with Neville as my mentor. Archival materials were also crosschecked.


I engaged in peer debriefing (Lincoln and Guba 1985) with a number of people who were disinterested, though resonant. I also carried out ongoing member checks with my interviewees, both formally and informally, after typing up my interview notes, and when the first and later drafts were finished (Lincoln and Guba 1985). This was in the early work to provide, ‘an initial and searching opportunity to test working hypotheses, to correct for error, to provide them opportunity to ask challenging questions, probe for biases, question meanings, check the need for further information or clarification, and to give them an opportunity to give an assessment of overall adequacy (Lincoln and Guba 1985).’


My method was resonant with Neville’s own research methodology outlined in the next two segments.




When I first met Neville one of the first things he did was to discover that we shared some of the same theoretical perspectives. We were both informed by a study of phenomenology, hermeneutics and the sociology of knowledge. I had had sociology of knowledge as my substantive topic in each year of sociology for my social science degree. For both of us, meaning emerged out of our shared relational inter-subjectivity. For Neville, re-constituting and mediating relational meaning was a core activity of the Fraser House community re-socializing process (Gergen 2005).


A part of my theoretical stance was using Neville’s way of action research. I have used qualitative methods from within Neville’s worldview to provide some glimpses and feel of his way. Neville’s primary focus was on the ‘action’ part of action research. From a research point of view, Neville was not into critique of society as in ‘critical sociology’. While Neville assumed a social basis for mental illness, he was neither into criticizing society nor promoting his own solutions. If anything his work was in the general area of cultural studies, and within that, the study of ‘cultural emergence’ and ‘intercultural connexity’. His work is wider than cultural science (geistwissenshaftlich); his action was linked to many of the ‘disciplines’.


Neville engaged marginalized people in inter-subjective awareness (living experience) of the shared act of working out in everyday life how to live together well. The way of life they were co-re-constituting together was:


·         Action researched using emergent design

·         Subjected to constant review and evaluation

·         Evolving transitional community using transitional concepts

·         Guided by values of respect for human dignity, respecting all life forms and being humane and caring

·         Documenting the action research, specially what works and what does not work


Neville fostered emergence by creatively utilizing the liminal (at the threshold) tension between the actual and the possible.

The fluid freeness in Neville’s methods mirrors the fluid freeness in the ways of living Neville was enabling through cultural emergence.


Neville’s way embodies a paradigm (Kuhn 1996) fundamentally different to the logical positivist and similar paradigms pre-occupied with categorisation, universal prescriptive inter-contextual algorithms - and manipulative knowing (so we can predict, and control) (Pelz 1974; Pelz 1975). Anyone looking through the filter of a logical positivist and similar paradigms at Neville’s tentative connexity way perturbing self-organizing systems typically find little that makes sense in Neville’s life work. It may appear a confused uncontrolled mess.


The typical responses to Neville’s actions from those within the above paradigms have been to intervene to have their paradigm applied through negation, denigration, condemnation, subversion, imposition and control (typically through imposing a fixed predetermined agenda). Some examples are firstly in organising the NSW festivals (authorities seeking to curtail location and energy); secondly, at both the 1992 gathering at Geoff Guest’s place (Petford Working Group 1992), and at the 1994 Small Island Gathering on the Atherton Tablelands (where non-grassroots oriented people sought to impose top down control through imposing fixed agenda (Roberts and Widders 1994); and thirdly, all the above responses happened constantly in relation to Fraser House.


Neville’s way and Cultural Keyline has to be experienced and embodied from deep within the associated paradigm, value and behaviour system; mentoring is valuable. Neville in no way wanted to answer my questions about Cultural Keyline when he first mentioned the term in Decembr 1991; rather he mentored me and set up a stream of micro-experiences. Cognitive ‘head’-based knowing will never lead to a substantive understanding of Neville’s way; it has to be embodied. Neville’s way survives and thrives in the lived-life experience of natural nurturers and those who are continuing living their caring human values in supporting wellness action. The above is the reason I mirrored Neville’s way in carrying out this research



In keeping with Neville’s use of naturalistic inquiry, my research design was emergent rather than preordinate (Lincoln and Guba 1985, p.208). Meanings emerged from unfolded and unfolding contexts, and multiple realities; for example, from Indigenous and grassroots life-worlds throughout East Asia, Australasia, and Oceania. In my prolonged action research, what I was experiencing and learning was a function of my interaction with the contexts, and the people who had helped constitute them and who were co-constituting them. There was pervasive indeterminacy. In many aspects I was in the situation of knowing I did not know and being comfortable with that. With other aspects, I did not know I did not know, and I found out this by running into seeming inconsistencies and paradoxes - the bewildering, and into what I thought were brick walls, and Neville making me jump hurdles. My response to this was to have an even more open-ended approach (Lincoln and Guba 1985, p. 209).


My design emerged from continuous data analysis and writing as I went. I was under way for almost a year before I decided what thesis I was doing – that it would be in three parts, Fraser House, Fraser House Outreach and the evolving of the Laceweb. Recall that initially, I was looking at the archives and not knowing what I was looking at or for, or what was, and was not significant. Consistent with emergent design, I allowed the emerging data to be both a stimulus and guide for my review of literature. For example, it was after realizing the way Neville and his father worked holistically with emergence in self organizing systems that I had the literature as a ‘stimulus for thinking’ (Minichiello, Aroni et al. 1995, p. 71). Consistent with Neville and his father I was letting the archive tell me what to do.




Writing Through


I engaged in writing through rather than writing up. While I would make many file notes, right from the start of the thesis I started writing the actual thesis. I constantly added and reworked - as if it was a moist pliable clay statue. This is consistent with my emergent design. It did mean constant rereading of the latest draft, and as it got larger, it meant that I had to have the latest version ‘in my head’ all the time.  As I gathered more data and reflected, I was constantly looking for where things fitted and whether they still had a place.


In making sense of, and writing through my research I combined ‘grounded theory’ (Glaser and Strauss 1967; Lincoln and Guba 1985, p. 204-205), holographic generalization (Lincoln and Guba 1985, p.125), ‘thick description’ (Geertz 1973), ‘thematic analysis’/‘narrative analysis’ (Kellehear 1993, p. 38; Miles and Huberman 1994), ‘structure/event process analysis’ (Neuman 1997, p. 433; Neuman 2000) and Eisner’s concept of ‘connoisseurship’ (Eisner 1991). After discussing each of the above, I outline processes used to support my intuition and being what Neville called, ‘a scientific detective’.


Using Grounded Theory


Lincoln and Guba describe ‘grounded theory’ (Glaser and Strauss 1967) as a ‘theory that follows from the data rather than preceding them’. ‘The theory that is developed is then said to be grounded in the data’ (Minichiello, Aroni et al. 1995, p. 103).  Lincoln and Guba make the point that this is a ‘necessary consequence of the naturalistic paradigm that posits multiple realities and makes transferability dependent on local contextual factors’ (1985, p. 205).


Recognising Fractals and Holographs


Along with researching the transferability of Neville’s Way (including Keyline and Cultural Keyline) between many contexts, a central theme of this thesis is the fractal and holographic quality of Neville’s action. Lincoln and Guba (1985, p. 204-205) refer to Schwartz and Ogilvy’s (1979), comment that ‘the metaphor for the world is changing from the machine to the hologram’. 


Lincoln and Guba point out that a characteristic of holograms is ‘that any piece of the hologram contains in it all of the information found in the whole’ (1985, p. 204-205). While recognizing the limits of metaphor, Lincoln and Guba make the case that any part or component gathered is a ‘perfect sample in the sense that it contains all of the information about the whole that one might hope to obtain; that imperfect (blurred) information from any source can be improved (clarified), if one has the appropriate filters or other processes for so doing’ (1985, p. 204-205). Chapter Five discusses the fractal quality of the Keypoint) where information distributed in land topography is present at the Keypoint where the three main landforms meet. Chapter Nine discusses the fractal quality of Cultural Keypoints.


It was some time before I started to see the fractal quality in everything Neville was doing and how all the diverse bits were parts of the whole.


Using Thick Description


The ‘base of information’ that is appropriate for holographic generalization is suggested by Lincoln and Guba as Geertz’s ‘thick description’ (1973). I have endeavoured to obtain thick description of the many and varied contexts in which Neville worked. I then used Keyline, Cultural Keyline and other ‘filters’ or ‘lenses’ to focus and clarify what I had found and to help in form and pattern recognition.


These processes in turn helped clarify the ‘filters’. I found the ‘filters’ permeated through the various objects, events, processes, happenings, and structures that Neville set up and enabled, and their varied contexts. I then started seeing aspects of each of the particulars in the general, and the general in the particulars.


Using Thematic Analysis/Narrative Analysis


In working with thick description and holographic generalization I used thematic analysis (also called Narrative Analysis).  In this I was guided by Miles and Huberman’s themes below (1994, p. 245-261): 


·         Look for repetition

·         Note themes and patterns

·         Make metaphors and analogies

·         Check if single variable, events, experiences, are really several

·         Connect particular events to the general

·         Note differences and similarities

·         Note triggers connecting meditating variables

·         Note if patterns in the data resemble theories/concepts


Neville used each of the above processes in naturalistic inquiry. I also recognized that in large part I had been using each of them in my prolonged Laceweb action research from 1986 onwards, and increasingly using them during this thesis research. Naturalistic inquiry was for me, becoming a way of being.


In speaking of ‘thematic analysis’, Kellehear writes that ‘validity is tied to how well a researcher’s understanding of a culture parallels the way that a culture views itself’, and that the ‘central meanings the researcher attaches to objects, actions and relations should reflect the beliefs of insiders’ analysis’ (1993, p. 38). These aspects were used to increase trustworthiness along with carrying out ongoing member checks (Lincoln and Guba 1985, p. 314) with all of my interviewees. I also checked and confirmed my ‘central meanings’ – such as ‘Cultural Keyline’, ‘connexity’, and ‘emergence’ - with others involved in the focal action. When I had understanding and meanings that my interviewees did not have, I checked and confirmed the ‘fit’ of these with my interviewees and relevant others.


I drew on Berger and Luckman’s notion of ‘typification’ (1967) in looking for what Eisner calls, ‘structural collaboration’ - ‘recurrent behaviours or actions, those theme-like features of a situation that inspire confidence that events interpreted and appraised are not aberrant or exceptional, but rather characteristic of the situation (1991, p. 101)’.


I was guided by Eisner’s references to a number of aspects that all of the social sciences have in common:


…. the search for pattern in the qualities they observe, the effort to illuminate and display what has not been previously noticed, and the attempt to account for what has been seen (1991, p. 230).


Using Connoisseurship


In exploring diversity - seeking Bateson’s ‘patterns that connect’ (1980) in respect of each of Eisner’s three aspects mentioned in the previous paragraph, I endeavoured to continually improve my capacity to engage what Eisner (1991, p. 63) calls ‘connoisseurship’, defined by him as ‘the ability to make fine-grained discriminations among complex subtle qualities’. Connoisseurship is ‘the art of appreciation’. A fundamental aspect of connoisseurship is ‘allowing the situation to speak for itself, that is, to allow for an emergent focus’ (1991, p. 176).  This involves enriching perception, the sense and significance we make from all that is streaming through all our senses. In this I was mindful of Pelz’s remarks about the German word ‘erscheinung’ meaning ‘appearance’. This word contains the German, ‘schein’ that also contains for the social scientist the caution that appearance may deceive, ‘for schein, because it shines and glitters, reveals and deceives. It denotes something better and worse, more and less than appearance’ (1974, p. 88).


Pelz speaks of a particular mood in searching for understanding where appearance can reveal and deceive. In this, Pelz introduces another German word, ‘stimmung’ having, as one of its meanings, ‘a mood that attunes’ (1974, p. 89). I sensed that when I was engaged with Neville, Laceweb prolonged action research and this thesis, I worked best when I entered this attuning mood. I also explored attuning moods in group contexts (in both senses – that is exploring constituting stimmung and notice its spontaneous emergence).


My capacity for being a connoisseur was enriched through in-depth interviewing, prolonged engagement, and persistently observing someone like Neville in action. He was a connoisseur par excellence. The observational challenge was that I only saw the output of his connoisseurship, not connoisseurship per se. The perennial questions were, ‘How did he do that?’ and ‘How did he come up with that?’ To this endeavour I brought my understanding of ‘understanding’, honed by my three years of study of the sociology of knowledge with sociologist Werner Pelz. He speaks of a contemplative mode of knowing that has some resonance with connoisseurship, where, Pelz’s (1975, p. 232, 238) ‘contemplating as mode of knowing’ is:


a kind of intellective-emotive compound of seeing-hearing-smelling-tasting-feeling. It is appreciative and savouring. It leaves things as and where they are.


It neither proves or disproves, though it may approve or disapprove. It is the psychic equivalent of eating, drinking, and breathing. Contemplation does not wish to handle its subjects and need not therefore concentrate on looking for a handle. It is not exclusively interested in categorizing them according to function and utility within a conceptual framework designed by and for sectional interests.


Following Pelz ‘contemplation’ as a mode of knowing, I have endeavoured to use the German concept ‘kennen’ - not a ‘provable’ manipulatable knowing (the German concept ‘wissen’), rather kennen implies a knowing to become better acquainted with Neville’s way – to become even more familiar with it – ‘to kennen’ following Pelz is ‘denoting something personal [and inter-personal], subjective, unfinished and unfinishable, involving me and interesting me’ (1974, p. 80-83). It is relational knowing (Gergen 2005).


Allied to this is a process Jeremy Narby calls defocusing (1998). As a metaphor for defocusing, Narby speaks of those stereo pictures where the three-dimensional image only appears suddenly with the relaxed defocused gaze. Examples of defocusing approaches are daydreaming, nocturnal soliloquies, and following Pelz, contemplation. Pelz (1974, p. 80-83) goes on to say that:


The fate of one man, one women, one child, during a vast international upheaval or natural disaster, faithfully and sympathetically represented, can inform us more thoroughly concerning the reality of that situation than any number of statistics or objective descriptions.


One of the challenges in writing was what Eisner called ‘the untranslatable’ – ‘there is no verbal equivalent for Bach’s Mass in B Minor’ (1991, p.235). Prose cannot encapsulate the co-reconstituting lived-life emotive richness of Fraser House. Since an aim of this thesis is to reveal, I endeavoured to understand ‘the limits and uses of the forms used to represent what connoisseurship makes available’ and to recognize and be mindful of how ‘each form shapes content – that is by leaving out what it cannot represent’ (1991, p.235). I endeavour to give at least a ‘pale cast’ of milieu, mindful that description and explanation are always inadequate. The derivation of the word ‘explain’ hints at this – Latin ‘ex-planus’ meaning ‘out of the two dimensional’ (from a 1978 discussion with Werner Pelz) - that is, conveying an impoverished representation of the multidimensional; I was constantly challenged by making sense of rich interwoven complexity.


There is a German expression that links to connoisseurship, ‘Dichter und Denken’ (Pelz 1974). As an example, some very talented creative people are called 'dichter und denken'. When using this term to refer to say a poet, the speaker is suggesting that the listener merges in his or her reflection the poet, the poem making and the poem. This is calling for us to engage in a very rich form of reflective contemplating about process. It is about our intersubjectively responding to the intermingling of the three elements, i.e., the poet, the poem making and the poem. In doing the research I contemplated Neville as Dichter und Denken. I endeavoured to enter into a threefold mode of understanding, intermingling three views of Neville, for example, in the guise of evolver of community psychiatry, secondly, Neville in the process of evolving community psychiatry, and Neville’s version of community psychiatry – and then inter-subjectively linking with all of that.


As another example, merge Neville, as community wellbeing innovator, the evolving and sustaining of Fraser House processing, and Fraser House as an unfolding placed social life world. Do the same with Fraser House outreaching and the evolving of Laceweb networking. Note that it is easy to think about any of the three aspects of the above sets’ separately. Thinking of two simultaneously is more 'work', and merging the three in contemplation towards relational knowing (kennen) is typically a challenge - though a worthwhile experience into a new (higher?) more connexity-based mode of reflecting/perception (making sense of the senses).


Another resonant process for subtle sensing I endeavoured to use was Wolff’s twin concepts of ‘surrender’ and ‘catch’ (1976, p. 20). For Wolff, ‘surrender’ involves ‘total involvement, suspension of received notions, pertinence of everything, identification, and risk of being hurt’. In surrendering one leaves oneself open to ‘catch’ - meaning ‘the cognitive or existential result, yield or harvest, new conceiving or new conceptualising – a new being-in-the-world’. Werner Pelz introduced me to surrender and catch during 1978 and I have explored this ever since. Suspension of received notions is a major experiential shift.


Wolff refers to Tolstoy’s writing of the character Levin being with his beloved Kitty in Anna Karenina:


Then for the first time, he clearly understood...that he was not simply close to her, but that he could not tell where he ended and she began (Wolff 1976, p. 20).


Wolff uses this quote in making the point that ‘in surrender as in love, differentiation between subject, act and object disappear - an example of the suspension of even essential categories among our received notions (Wolff 1976, p. 22).’ He is talking about realizing connexity. Wolff refers to ‘subject, act and object’. These are the three aspects of dichter and denken. Wolff’s undifferentiated surrendering merges the richness of perceiving subject and act and object in an undifferentiated melding.


Structure/Event Process Analysis


With Structure/Event Process Analysis I was looking for connexity within and between events and other happenings, and their form/structure and processes, and the nexus between people constituting these unfoldings. I was looking for fractals, emergence and mutual-causality (Neuman 1997, p. 433).


Emergence of Intuition


After the emotional turmoil of learning of Neville’s impending death, I allowed everything I had done to just ‘settle’ inside, to give it all room to sort itself out. It was nearly a year later when I had a feeling that I was ready to make more sense of it all, including his death; I had busied myself in the meantime with reading more extensively about qualitative methods and the Keyline literature. As well, I reviewed the the following literature areas - Prigogine & Stengers, ‘Order out of Chaos’ (1984); secondly, on fuzziology, commencing with Dimitrov (2002); thirdly, on deep ecology commencing with Arne Naess (1998); fourthly, on emergent properties commencing with Fritjof Capra (1997); fifthly, on holistic open systems commencing with Ludwig von Bertalanffy (1950) and Fred Emery (1969); and sixthly, on self organizing systems and autopoiesis commencing with Maturana (1970). Insights from this literature review are interspersed throughout this thesis.


Beveridge (1950) speaks about having a purposeful break in these terms:


The most characteristic circumstance of an intuition are a period of intense work on the problem accompanied by a desire for its solution, abandonment of the work with the attention on something else, then the appearance of the idea with dramatic suddenness and often a sense of certainty.


I did have clarity and sudden insights ‘out of the blue’ after this long break. Other sudden insights occurred unexpectedly throughout the research. A key thing I found with the sudden insights was to write them up immediately they occurred as they had a tendency to disappear beyond recall as fast as they came. I also found that not reading my writing for a number of weeks would allow me to see with ‘fresh eyes’. I could far more easily spot things like clumsy expression, ambiguity, punctuation errors and the like when the material was less familiar.


On Being a Scientific Detective


Neville was right when he said that my Laceweb writing was, ‘like a scientific detective story’. Neville in no way did things for me. I had to do lots of detective work. Complicating my task was that Neville and his father’s actions and ways were largely non-linear, and mirrored nature; these actions and ways were pervasively inter-connected, inter-woven, interdependent and inter-related – what I have defined as having connexity. Neville and his father were both ‘groundbreaking’ - to use an appropriate metaphor - world leaders in their separate, though as it turns out, very related fields. There was scant literature that I could find on links between Indigenous wisdom, sustainable agriculture, psychosocial wellbeing and epochal transitions. As well, a lot of what they were doing was not mentioned in their writing. For example, Neville and his father were both pioneers in the evolving studies of chaos, self-organizing systems, emergence, uncertainty and complexity, and yet none of these themes are mentioned in Neville’s or his father’s writings. As well, Neville never mentioned either of the terms Keyline or Cultural Keyline in any of his Fraser House writings. While ‘Cultural Keyline’ is such a central concept to Neville and his way, I have found no mention of this term in any of his other writings either. However, Cultural Keyline is implicitly present throughout Neville’s writing if one understands the term and how to discern it.


Another complicating factor was that there were fractal forms and other resonant aspects to everything Neville and his father were engaged in, though these are not immediately obvious. If this fractal quality and connexity is not recognized, as it was not recognized by me for halfway through my research, an inquirer would miss the inter-related essence and inner potency of Neville (and his father’s) work. Any amount of analysis of the parts that missed their connexity, or laboured to make links when they are already pervasive, would again miss the essence.


Consistent with Neville’s way of enabling self-organizing, he would create contexts where I would discover his way and the things he had done. For example, the first time I knew that Neville wrote poetry was when I was handed two of his poems at his funeral by his second wife Lien. These are included at the commencement of this thesis. My sense is that these two poems introduce the thesis artistically and succinctly. In some sense they say more than my first chapter! They are typical of Neville’s potent minimalism. I found out from Neville’s son Quan that Neville had written over 2000 poems and he never told me about them. He knew I would find them if I was thorough and persistent. As at writing I have not had access to these other poems.


In our December 1993 Yungaburra conversations, Neville said that he was very conscious of not overloading people. Neville well knew how much lay behind his simplicity, brevity and strategic precision. He said that if he was linking with an Aboriginal natural nurturer for the first few times and started talking about Fraser House and epochal change, he would likely overwhelm her and he would probably never see her again. He very slowly mentioned things over months and years. The same applied to me. He had very slowly shared aspects with me. I was it seems, a slow learner.


Crafting the Writing


While I had been writing through rather than writing up, I came to the time when I thought incorrectly that the thesis was essentially finished. Even then, resonant with Neville’s scrupulous writing, I carried out sustained reshaping of the manuscript, especially looking at the sequencing and juxtapositioning of ideas. Creating headings and subheadings helped in both sequencing and thematic analysis. At one stage I made good use of Microsoft’s ‘Outline’ program that allowed me to look at the words at the start of each paragraph to check sequencing and sense.


When I essentially ‘knew what was in the research document’ I particularly used Neville’s notion of the ‘survival of the fitting’. As I scoured my file notes and musings ‘what fitted’ ‘survived’ and was woven in to the document. Similarly, what was already ‘in the document’ was tested for ‘fit’ and placement. If it did not fit it was reframed, repositioned or discarded.


A final period of writing entailed weaving everything together in a tighter, finer weave – so it was appropriately web-like. This phase lasted another eighteen months. My Aboriginal interviewee Marjorie Roberts told me:


It has to be a fine weaving; anything less than that would not reflect Neville’s life work.


Consistent with Neville and his father’s ‘letting nature tell them what to do’, in the final months my thesis was ‘telling me what to do.’




This chapter has described the research methods used in data collecting. The chapter commenced with a discussion of my being an insider looking in. My note taking and interviewing methods were outlined. Data collection (using a combination of interviewing, archival research, on-site visits and immersion in holistic social action) was discussed. My theoretical perspectives and Neville’s research methods were detailed. The chapter concluded with an outline of my use of naturalistic enquiry, the steps I took to ensure trustworthiness, and the processes I used for analysis.


The following chapter explores the precursors of Neville Yeomans’ way of psychosocial being and action, and their emergence and adaptation from the joint work Neville did with his father and brother Allan in evolving Keyline sustainable agriculture practice, and the family’s drawing from Australian and Oceania Indigenous ways.


[1] Milton Erickson the therapist would also use assignments of tasks and challenges Hanlon, W. D. (1987). Taproots: Underlying Principles of Milton Erickson's Therapy and Hypnosis. London, W.W. Norton & Co..