Chapter Twelve - Evolving the Laceweb




This chapter researches the questions:


1.    What is the Laceweb?


a.    What are the Laceweb’s structure and processes

b.    How are they being evolved and sustained?

c.    Is Cultural Keyline an aspect of Laceweb action?

d.    What is INMA?


2.    What patterns and integration are there linking aspects of Fraser House, Fraser House outreach and Laceweb? Is Cultural Keyline an integrating theme and a model of engagement?


3.    Are the Laceweb and Inma linked to epochal transition?


This chapter looks at specific action by Neville in Far North Queensland and the Darwin Top End evolving and supporting the Laceweb Social Movement networks amongst Indigenous and other Unique People in the Oceania SE Asia Australasia Region. Neville used the term ‘Unique People’ to include Indigenous people and oppressed small minorities in the Region. The seminal role of Neville’s enabling of Aboriginal Human Relations Gatherings in 1971, 1972 and 1973 in evolving the Movement is discussed. Neville’s evolving of a number of small therapeutic community houses, local-lateral networks and gatherings are detailed. His involvement in the North Queensland ‘New State’ Movement is discussed along with his evolving of an International Normative Model Area (INMA) in Far North Queensland and the Darwin Top End.



Aboriginal Human Relations Gatherings


In the view of Neville (July 1999) and Terry Widders (Aug 1999), the annual Human Relations Gatherings Neville and other people enabled in the years 1971-1973 at Armidale and Grafton in North East New South Wales were a seminal energy in the evolving of the Laceweb network. Consistent with Fraser House being a ‘balanced community’, these gatherings were attended by equal numbers of:


·         Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal people

·         Males and females

·         Under controlled and over-controlled people


The gatherings were teed up by Dr. Ned Iceton, a former Doctor with the Royal Australian Flying Doctor Service and a lecturer at the University of New England Extension Service. Iceton held the first gathering in 1970 with only Aboriginal males attending (as in Iceton’s view, the colonial experience had been more destructive to the Aboriginal men). Neville attended the 1971, 1972, and 1973 gatherings. Consistent with Neville’s earlier action research and Cultural Keyline, the 1971-1973 gatherings were theme based – using the theme ‘Surviving Well in Relating to the Dominant Culture’.


During an interview I had with Iceton in Armidale (July, 1999) he described local Aboriginal youth Terry Widders’ role as being quite crucial in these gatherings. Widders knew the cultural nuances supporting the Aborigines’ opening up during the first of these Human Relations Gatherings - a milieu that was strange and potentially very threatening for Aboriginal and Islander attendees at the outset. Terry started talking about the difficulties he had faced in surviving well and about his plans for his future. On hearing one of their own speaking in this forum, other Aboriginal people followed. Neville knew that while the social topography was diverse, this theme about ‘surviving well’ was a Keypoint touching the lives of all attendees – Aboriginal and non-aboriginal alike. Soon attendees were following keylines of discussion. Neville, Widders and Iceton all confirmed Neville’s pivotal enabling role behind the scenes.


Sociologist Margaret-Ann Franklin (1995, p. 59) makes particular reference to Terry Widders’ contributions to these Gatherings and there consequent ripple-through effects in the local Aboriginal community. She quotes Terry commenting on the Human Relations Gatherings:


They were good for different people in different ways. It intensifies communication, that’s what it does. It focuses you. You get down to the specifics of social and cultural communication rather than just, ‘how’s the weather?


Terry’s comments aptly describe Big Group at Fraser House – relational exchange (1995, p. 59) is both social and intercultural. Additionally, all involved are personally affected in differing ways.


Franklin quotes Iceton’s summary of outcomes:


……purposeful local group activity, and in which an evolving underpinning is to be provided by an updated and appropriate set of commonly accepted ideas (worked out together) about what are the right ideas and right kinds of behaviour towards each other and the world outside, and the right way to help each other stick to them after they are worked out.


This quote is resonant with Fraser House way and Aboriginal traditional sociomedicine for social cohesion (Cawte 1974; Cawte 2001).


Resonant with Fraser House, at times, the Human Relations Gathering operated at very intense though ecologically tight levels. As in Fraser House, Neville ensured that the context-specific functional aspects of behaviour were supported and that the context-specific non-functional bits were not supported. Both Neville (July, 1999) and Iceton (July, 1999) confirmed this. In sorting through big issues and the minutia like the Big Groups did at Fraser House, each Human Relations Gathering at end was deemed to be a great success.


A young Aboriginal woman sent Ned a copy of the diary she kept during the second Armidale Workshop. This diary was published with her permission in the next issue of the Human Relations Magazine - excerpts from her diary:


I feel very mixed up, uneasy, frightened and I try to get myself out of this by staying in my room while the meeting is on, but I feel that it will only work in two ways, either (1) I will close up altogether, and go back to my old ways of joking my way through, or, (2) go and sit in and listen to the discussion and see how I feel when I have finished there. I decide to go back and sit down and listen to the rest speak.


The final comment in her diary:


It was a good week for everyone I talked to, and the next one will be even better.


Further excerpts have been included in Appendix 33. Her diary is resonant with the diary of the Fraser House resident included in the back of the Clark and Yeomans’ book on Fraser House (1969). There is the same emotional turmoil and confusion. She could make little sense of what was happening within her during that Gathering, though there is a strong sense as the diary proceeds that she is integrating many aspects of her being - corrective emotional experience rather than insight.


The Self Organising Rollout for Bourke


Three people from the Aboriginal communities around Bourke attended the Human Relations gatherings in Armidale in 1971 with Professor Max Kamien a psychiatrist. In Kamien’s book, ‘The Dark People of Bourke - A study of Planned Social Change’, (1978, p. 48, 49, 55, 57, 69-70, 77-78, 297, 324) he refers to these Armidale and Grafton gatherings as ‘a milestone’ in renewal among the Aboriginal people from around Bourke, a remote town in New South Wales’ (Kamien and Australian Institute of Aboriginal Studies 1978, p. 48, 49).


While returning to Bourke, one of the three had extensive conversations with members of different Aboriginal communities visited on the way. Upon returning to their own remote community out in Bourke, and on their own initiative, the three commenced in their own community similar human relations gatherings to what they had experienced in Armidale. The Aboriginal person who had carried out the conversations in the communities on the way back to Bourke was the key enabler for the local Bourke action (Kamien and Australian Institute of Aboriginal Studies 1978, p. 48, 49). This is one example of the presence of nurturers in oppressed communities. It was also in part, an indicator of Neville’s ability to pass on community healing ways such that others who have been traumatized may be ready, willing and able to enable gatherings and have the follow-through to organize and actually hold gatherings with local members of their community on an ongoing basis.


Local non-aboriginal teachers in Bourke had their first contact with adult Aboriginals (the parents of their students) when they attended these Bourke human relations groups (Kamien and Australian Institute of Aboriginal Studies 1978, p. 48, 49).


Further Rollout for Armidale


As a follow-on gathering, Terry Widders enabled two human relations workshops for Aboriginal youth in Armidale on the weekends 26-27 June 1970 and 10-11 July, 1971 – another example of a local nurturer self starting action. He reported on these in Issue No.1, July 1971 of the Newsletter (Aboriginal Human Relations Newsletter Working Group 1971a). (An almost complete set of the Newsletter is held at the National Library in Canberra (Aboriginal Human Relations Newsletter Working Group 1971b)). This newsletter contained reports of the Human Relations Gatherings as well as wellbeing related contributions from Indigenous and resonant people from all over Australia. The University of New England cut funding for the Aboriginal Human Relations Newsletter. This was when Connexion, a self-help Functional Matrix Network evolved by Neville and others around Sydney took over the editorial, printing and distributing role with Rick Johnstone playing a lead role (he was a mover in getting the Maralinga Atomic Test Royal Commission started which resulted in a major clean-up of Aboriginal traditional lands).


During 14 - 22 May 1972 a third Human Relations Gathering was held in Armidale NSW. A group of thirty-four Aborigines from around Bourke journeyed to Armidale and twenty-one actively participated in that Gathering. The three from Bourke who attended the first gathering came to the second gathering.  Neville, Widders and Iceton again enabled these gatherings.


Wider Networks


Neville and Terry Widders (Aug 1999) confirmed that networks formed through these four Gatherings continue to this day. Many Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people who attended the Human Relations Workshops are now playing key enabler roles within Aboriginal and Islander communities and have gone on to become key people in Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander affairs. Eddie Mabo’s attendance at the 1973 Grafton Gathering is noted in Ned Iceton’s file notes in his archives, and in the Human Relations Newsletters. Eddie Mabo was the Torres Strait Islander who energized the legal challenges relating to the invalidity of the notion Terra Nullis that led to the Mabo Decision granting Indigenous land rights in Australia. Eddie Mabo wrote a letter dated 2 March 1974 published in the March 1974 Newsletter about his attempts to get funding for an Aboriginal run school in Townsville before current funding ran out.


After the Grafton Workshop in 1973, Neville and Terry enabled Human Relations Gatherings of Aborigines in Alice Springs and Katherine in the Northern Territory. Neville said that the Indigenous Networks that were evolved through the Armidale, Grafton, Alice Springs and Katherine Human Relations Gatherings and the associated Aboriginal Human Relations Newsletter were seminal in the evolving of the Laceweb (Dec 1993, Dec 1994, July 1998). These networks continue to evolve.


As one example of follow-on from the Human Relations Gatherings, Terry Widders continues to network through being on the UN Indigenous Working Group.  Neville said (Dec 1993) that Terry Widders and himself were two of a very few people who had been granted observer status at meetings of the Unrepresented Nations and People Organization (UNPO) based in The Hague.


Neville himself had returned to full time study at the University of NSW between 1972 to 1975 working on his law degree, and when this was completed he shifted north. This is discussed in the next section. Terry went on a study tour of China in the 1970’s and later obtained a Masters degree on Chinese and Japanese minorities and had teaching fellowships in both countries. In the late 1980’s Terry and Neville went to China and had a meeting with three members of the Central government on Chinese minorities.


Evolving Small Therapeutic Community Houses In Far North Queensland


In Neville’s second wife Lien Yeoman’ book, ‘The Green Papaya – New Fruit From Old Seeds’ Lien wrote in part about her life with Neville. Lien writes about heading north with Neville in 1972:


At this time there was a push for a New State of Far North Queensland. Neville saw this as a good opportunity to test out his ideas (Yeomans and Yeomans 2001, p. 104).


In preparing a global order transition model, Neville had been exploring a micro-model of three-level governance at Fraser House – local, regional and global. Neville saw the Queensland New State Movement as an energy he could tap into in exploring new forms of regional governance away from the existing Brisbane based State Government, and far away from Federal Government in Canberra.


In 1975, to explore possibilities, Neville, Lien and baby son Quan travelled up to Cape York in a Kombi Van and they travelled back down to Mackay, Queensland as there was no psychiatrist in Mackay in those days (Yeomans 1980a; Yeomans 1980b; Yeomans and Yeomans 2001).


Neville bought a house in Townsville, set it up as a Wellness Centre and attracted many Aboriginal and Islander clients. Neville ran many groups from this Centre and evolved a functional matrix called UN-Inma (Yeomans 1980a; Yeomans 1980b). This was the time he was planning the possibility of an international refugee therapeutic community cum alternative to criminal/psychiatric incarceration on Palm Island off the coast of Townsville (Yeomans 1980a; Yeomans 1980b). While it did not proceed, Neville said that organising for the possibility of this facility on Palm Island enabled him to have useful networking with at-risk Aborigines – resonant with community strengthen via preparing festivals mentioned earlier.


Neville set up an Aboriginal and Islander Therapeutic Community house modelled on Fraser House in Mackay. Neville was the key enabler for the Mackay house. The Mackay Therapeutic House was far from being a typical boarding house. Neville told me (July 1998) that he had incorporated Fraser House way (as adapted for context) in that small Mackay therapeutic community house.


Dr. Paul Wilson, a well known criminologist and former Acting Director of the Australian Institute of Criminology in Canberra (1986-91), and current Chair of Criminology at Bond University in Queensland (Bond University 2005) devotes Chapter Six of his book, ‘A life of Crime’ (Wilson 1990, p.79-80), to his personal healing experiences living within Neville’s Mackay Therapeutic Community house. The quote below from Wilson describes the changes that occurred within him. Following Fraser House’s self-organising processes, by the time Wilson started living in the Mackay Therapeutic Community, it too was self-organizing and Neville only called in occasionally.


Paul Wilson (Wilson 1990) writes of this learning how to ‘live well with others’ in describing his experience of living in Neville’s therapeutic community. Wilson was having psycho-emotional difficulties in his life at the time and used his stay in this therapeutic community house to sort out his life.


Wilson writes:


Neville Yeomans created a community free of doctrinaire principles. The Mackay setting successfully created a sense of belonging. Most people who have experienced deep personal distress have lacked, in my opinion, any sense of residing in a group or clan. They, like I, have lived their lives constructing walls around themselves, to protect themselves from other people. In the process, they have lacked the knowledge and experience of living in a community.

There was nothing magical in the process of achieving this sense of belongingness..... Our day-to-day activities were almost mundane. I would wake up in the morning and help whoever was up to get breakfast ready. Then as people came in to the kitchen, we would talk about all sorts of things people talk about over breakfasts. Marion would ask one of us to collect some groceries, or to cut the lawn, or help with the laundry.


Most importantly, there were always people around you who you felt cared for you as a human being. This interconnectedness of person with person was the thread that bound the community together and gave us a sense of ‘family’ - a unit that many of us had ignored or not had before.


This passage resonates with the Fraser House milieu, highlighting the point that everyday-life contexts can provide opportunities for learning about how to live together. This links to what Neville (Aug 1998) called, ‘caring and sharing the Aboriginal way’ – ‘home, street and rural mediation therapy’. It also links to the relating process Neville termed ‘mediation therapy’ (and ‘mediation counselling’) a form of therapy where ‘mediation’ was a descriptor (adjective) of process. Neville referred me (Dec 1993) to Amelia Renouf’s (1992) essay about the uneasy sixth step in mediating - that of a form of mediating that is inherently reconstituting and healing relating. Almost invariably, conventional mediators are not equipped to engage in this type of process and do not attempt to do so. Neville’s mediation-therapy requires a fundamentally different set of healing and therapeutic processes, competencies and abilities compared to those typically used for mainstream mediation. Neville’s ways have some resonance with Gergen’s ‘relational communicating’ (Gergen 2005).


Neville also used what he called ‘context healing, street mediation and group story performance’. These draw on Indigenous healing process, cultural action and cultural healing action (Yeomans and Spencer 1993; Queensland Community Arts Network 2002). They also draw upon dance, movement and other forms of artistry. This action also uses natural and evolving contexts as mediums with healing possibilities.


Neville and Lien travelled North to Cairns, bought a house and stayed for a decade. Neville set up a psychiatric practice; as well, Neville set up a small therapeutic community house that he called ‘Inma’ in the Cairns suburb of Edgecliff.



Photo 1. Photo of Neville’s Therapeutic Community House INMA in Cairns (R. Buschken’s Archive)


This involved two adjoining flats above a drug support and referral agency (Neville, Dec 1993; Rob Buschkens, Oct 2003). The Agency continually referred clients to Neville. Three or four people could stay at Inma. Neville held small therapy groups all the time at Inma with around 12 people attending. Aboriginal and Islander people attended. Robert Buschken from the drug referral centre also regularly sat in on the sessions. Rob was one of my interviewees. Rob said that he gained considerable skill from modelling Neville’s behaviour. Rob’s description (Oct, 2003) of Neville’s group skills was identical to the comments made by my Fraser House interviewees – that nothing seemed to miss Neville’s attention – that he would pick up on something that seemed trivial and produce a major change in a person or group – and that he was so strategic; he was way ahead of everybody. Rob, who has mixed European and Indonesian parentage, was one of the humane caring intercultural nurturer types Neville was always on the look out for. Rob began taking the small groups after Neville left Cairns.


Photo 2 Rob Buschken – Photo from Buschkens’ family archives


During Neville’s stays in Mackay, Townsville and Cairns he was continually looking for Indigenous and intercultural nurturers. Neville established links with Australian South Sea Islanders, Bougainvillians and other PNG people with links to West Papuans and other minorities living in the Cairns Atherton Tablelands Region. Once Neville found a nurturer he would create contexts where he could casually link them up with other local nurturers in everyday life. He would for example, offer a nurturer a lift into town and then invite her to come in to the home of another nurturer he ‘had to see’. He described it as a very slow painstaking process.


Neville engaged me in this linking every time I went up to stay with him. For him this linking was a daily endeavour.


Further Travels


Both Neville and Lien described the decade in the Far North from 1972 as the hedonistic period of their lives, though on all accounts they had great parties in Sydney. Lien describes their time in Cairns as one continuous party where she and Neville ‘entertained artists for fun, and social reformers and medical practitioners for favour’ (Yeomans and Yeomans 2001, p. 108). I understand that Lien is a superb cook. Her book the Green Papaya is largely a cooking book on Vietnamese cooking with her personal life as a secondary thread. (Lien now runs the widely acclaimed Green Papaya Vietnamese Restaurant in Brisbane (Yeomans 2003).


In 1982, Neville moved back to Sydney and set up another psychiatric practice. At this time Neville made a number of trips overseas attending NLP workshops. It was during this stay by Neville in Sydney that I first met him (August 1985); he had just returned from an NLP workshop in the United States.


Around 1988, Neville went north again and bought the house at Yungaburra. In extending his networks among Aboriginal nurturer women, Neville made a trip to Weipa and Aurakun and across through remote Aboriginal communities in Arnhem Land. He also had linking trips into the Kimberleys. Through these trips and another trip through Arnhem Land in 1993, Neville had so linked into networks in these remote regions that he was raising the possibility of evolving an international gathering in either of these remote regions in 1993. Neville engaged me in jointly preparing pamphlets. Note Neville’s playing with the notion of time by the term ‘Healfest Predate 1994’. He was talking up the possibility of something happening in 1996 and the pamphlet predated the possibility. Neville again uses ‘locality’ and ‘theme’ as central organising concepts. These pamphlets also reveal how Neville would weave possibilities with tenuous links into large international events and agendas.


The following flier (and other similar ones) was sent to UNHRC and other global and national governance agencies and to Aboriginal and Islander Women’s’ groups throughout remote areas of Australia. It was also sent to many Indigenous nurturers in Laceweb networks throughout the East Asia Oceania Australasia Region. Neville and I, with many others, worked consistently to have these (potential) 1995 and 1996 Gatherings happen


No events emerged from these predate fliers, though evolving of nurturers, enablers and networks were aided by the energy these fliers and the proposed gatherings created. The possibility of these 1996 gatherings was discussed by Aboriginal women from remote regions at the 1994 Small Island Gathering which I attended.


Photo 3. 1995 Flier referring to potential healing gatherings from my records


Neville also handed out to the Aboriginal and Islander attendees at the June 1994 Small Island Gathering a pamphlet he had me prepare listing details of six international conferences on wellbeing related themes occurring in the region in the following two years. He encouraged them to seek funding to attend. I was not able to trace any who did follow through with this.


Australia South Sea Islanders and Other Networking


In the 1980’s, Neville provided support and energised possibilities throughout the Australian South Sea Islander communities in Queensland and NSW. He provided support to the Australian South Sea Islanders United Council (ASSIUC) and to Nasuven Enares, the then President of the Council, as well as to other Australian South Sea Islander community based organizations and networks. Neville attended national conferences of the Australian South Sea Islanders United Council as well as participated in meetings and gatherings. Neville was fostering networking and passing on healing ways and the group process skills that were developed at Fraser House and during Fraser House outreach. When Neville moved to Darwin in 1994 he linked me with Enares and I supported action research by the Islanders and attended two ASSUIC national conferences and was in Canberra for the Official Recognition of Australian South Sea Islanders on 25 Aug 1994 (Australian South Sea Islander Recognition 2005).


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


In June 1992, Neville attended the UN NGO Rio ‘Earth Summit’ in Brazil. Neville told me (July 1992) he was asked to be a main speaker on Laceweb Healing at the Summit’s Indigenous Platform, and that he was the only non-Indigenous person to speak at that platform. This was confirmed by Zuzanka Kutena (July, 2002), the enabler of the Indigenous NGO component of the Earth Summit.


Following Rio, Neville and others from the Laceweb Functional Matrix ‘Entreaties’ (note the name reflecting function) engaged in the drafting and disseminating to his links around the World, wordings of possible treaties that may be used as resources by adults, adolescents and youth among Indigenous and Unique People. These were the Unique Healing Treaty (Yeomans 1992a) and the Young Persons Healing Learning Code (Yeomans 1992b) included in this thesis as Appendices 38 and 39. Aboriginal youth and elders signed the Treaty and Code during the 1992 Gathering at Petford Aboriginal Training Farm (Petford Working Group 1992). This is discussed in the following segment. Aboriginal nurturer Mareja Bin Juda told me (July 2002) that Aboriginal youth from the Akame Functional Matrix (‘Akame’ is Islander for ‘grandmother and me’) linked to Neville’s rainforest property on Black Mountain Road in Kuranda also signed both documents during July 1992. Mareja took groups of at-risk Aboriginal and Islander youth for outdoor experiential change work at the Black Mountain property till it was sold as part of Neville’s estate in 2004.


Geoff and Norma Guest’s Aboriginal Youth Training Farm


Neville linked with Geoff and Norma Guest at their Aboriginal Youth Training Farm in Petford, 180 kilometres inland from Cairns in Far North Queensland in 1988. Neville told me that when he first met Geoff and Norma they were superbly mirroring the therapeutic community model of Fraser House even though they had never heard of that Unit. Neville made many visits to Petford learning from Norma and Geoff and passing on his processes to them from 1988 till Neville’s death in 2000.


Over 2500 youth have passed through Petford. According to Dr. White of Gordon Vale (June 2003), before the widening of the Community Development Employment Program (CDEP) work-for-the-dole scheme in 1986/7, and the further expansion in 1991/2, Geoff had around seventy five out of every hundred boys leaving after a stay at Petford going into employment on cattle stations. Geoff has been awarded the Order of Australian Medal, The Paul Harris International Rotary Medal, and the Australian Centennial Medal for his youth work. Geoff, like Neville has strong detractors in the government. Community Services and Family Services have engaged in concerted action to close Geoff down citing the same kinds of issues used against Neville in Fraser House. Geoff is deemed to be ‘unprofessional’. Boys are said to be not supervised properly, and the place is not ‘organised properly’ (Refer Daffern Report Critique (Friends of Petford 2002)).


Geoff affirmed to me many times during 1992 to 2005 that he learned many things from Neville and that it was Neville that influenced him to become skilled in EEG neurofeedback.



Photo 4 Photo I took in July 2002 - Geoff Guest giving recognition for good riding to Grand Niece




Photo 5 Photo I took in July 2002 - Geoff helps with balanced life


Developing Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Drug and Substance Abuse Therapeutic Communities Gathering


Through my enabling action, the ‘Developing Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Drug Abuse Therapeutic Communities Gathering’ was funded $67,224 by the National Campaign Against drug Abuse (Canberra). It was held at Geoff and Norma Guest’s Aboriginal Youth Training Farm in Petford, 180 kilometres inland from Cairns in Far North Queensland in July 1992. The Gathering evolved to be hosted by three local Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Communities and was held just after Neville returned from the Rio Earth Summit.


Over Seventy Aboriginal and Islander healers from Northern Australia, including the offshore Darnley Island in the Torres Strait and Elcho Island off the Darwin Top End attended. Both Neville and his son Quan attended the Petford Gathering (Petford Working Group 1992).


The Keypoint theme for the Gathering was ‘Exploring Therapeutic Community, Keyline and Permaculture as Processes for Softening Drug Use’. The Gathering had an open agenda (devised by Neville) with three themes:


1.    Exploring Keyline and Permaculture working with Mother Earth as a context for creating work-based change in at-risk youth


2.    Experiencing Geoff and Norma Guest’s skills in running a therapeutic community for 25 (at any one time) at-risk Aboriginal, Islander and other youth (Petford Working Group 1998).


3.    Exploring therapeutic community processes and socio-healing ways.


Consistent with themes in Cultural Keyline, this threefold theme-based open agenda links with Keyline, Cultural Keyline and Fraser House.


During the Gathering many of the troubled youth at Petford assisted in completing a Keyline survey of Petford by Neville’s younger brother Ken. A summary of the Petford Keyline Survey is Appendix 35. Linked to Keyline Neville had me search, find and invite two Aboriginal Permaculture practitioners (a female and a male for gender balance) and a non-aboriginal women permaculture practitioner (for weighting in favour of aborigines and females) to attend and engage participants in Permaculture. I did this. The meticulous weighting was typically of Neville in setting up group dynamics.


Aborigines and Islanders later expressed that key insights into ‘surviving in the dominant culture’ came from seeing the way some white attendees used ‘scapegoating’, ‘stampeding’ and other group process in a futile attempt to impose fixed time-bound white agendas on a gathering set up with an open agenda with the three themes mentioned previously (Petford Working Group 1992). The gathering did continue using a themes-based open agenda and a Cultural Keyline framework in the face of white attendee pressure towards imposing top-down processes. Federal funding was only given (at very short notice and outside the department’s funding criteria) because the gathering was being organised consistent with Aboriginal traditional way.


Lake Tinaroo Mediation Gathering


Neville also organized local Aboriginal and Islander women around Atherton to host the Lake Tinaroo Mediation Gathering in November 1993, at Lake Tinaroo near Atherton on the Atherton Tablelands. A number of Aboriginal nurturer women came across from Yirrakala and other remote communities in the Top End and participated in co-learning at this Gathering. Mediation Therapy was a key theme. The following photo was taken at the Gathering.


Small Island Coastal and Estuarine People Gathering


Neville was continually scanning the World for relevant Conferences that he could use by creating the possibility of having a local small gathering as a preparatory, parallel, or follow-on conference.




Photo 6 Neville with the Yirrakala Women and Children – From M. Roberts’ Achives – used with permission


In 1992, Neville had noticed that the UN was holding a Small Island Development Conference in the Caribbean in June 1994. Neville and I talked about presuming that there was local Aboriginal and Islander energy to host a follow-on gathering to the NGO (non-government organization) section of that Caribbean Conference. Neville and I wrote a letter using vague trance-like terms:


Ideas are evolving for the gathering of Small Island Coastal and Estuarine peoples for the coming together as a follow-on Gathering Celebration to the NGO section of the UN Small Island Development Conference in the Caribbean and ……


This letter was sent to many national governments and global governance bodies. Note that this is resonant with how Neville positioned the Watson’s Bay Festival as a community based organization (CBO) festival running parallel to the Sydney All Nations Festival and in preparation for The Captain Cook Celebrations (refer Appendix 26).


A sub-section within a section of the United Nations Human Rights Commission administering the ‘UN International Year of Indigenous People’ recognized the grassroots self-organizing nature of the organic action energizing the proposed ‘Small Island’ Gathering, as well as the open agenda format. Our letter read like a trance induction and only contained one long sentence. Neville said that our letter’s wording was resonant with Jesus’ use of parables; only those of right heart would comprehend, appreciate, resonate and respond. This small sub-section of the UN Human Rights Commission agreed to fund the Gathering thirteen thousand Australian dollars, and all they asked for was some photos, a report of what happened and the bank details on where to send the money they wanted to fund.


In November 1993, Neville arranged for me to get the approval from the Down To Earth Cooperative (Victoria) (DTE) - the group that puts on ConFest - to fund the travel and accommodation expenses of three of their members experienced in the selection, design and set-up of ConFest Festival sites to come and stay with Neville in Yungaburra for 10 days over 1993/4 Christmas and the New Year. On Neville’s suggestion, during 1992 and 1993 I had briefed myself on DTE’s site selection and site set-up process. I also had been involved a number of times in ConFest site selection and set-up myself. DTE funded the travel of Kim Cosmos and Ron Fletcher and partially funded John Gibbins travel costs. Between them, these three had knowledge about site selection and set-up. I funded my own way. Neville arranged these three and me to accompany him in looking at fifteen sites in the Atherton Tablelands region, most of them owned by local aboriginal communities. These three and I had no idea at the time that Neville played such a large part in getting ConFest started and Neville made no mention of his seminal role in evolving ConFest to them.



Photo 7 Photo I took in July 2002 - Neville’s backroom in Yungaburra where we planned site visits


Neville, these three visitors and I had meetings with members of Aboriginal communities at Atherton, Black Mountain, Kuranda, Malanda, Mareeba, Ravenshoe, Petford and Yungaburra. Neville introduced the three visitors to Narelle McRobbie, a local Idindji Aboriginal women from Yungaburra. Narelle had many hours sitting in on Neville’s individual and group psychotherapy sessions. She was a member of an Aboriginal community who were the traditional small rainforest people of the local region. This woman is a successful writer of children’s stories. (In 2000 this woman travelled to speak at Neville’s funeral.) Neville also introduced the DTE visitors to Marjorie Roberts, another Aboriginal person who had sat in on Neville’s therapy sessions for over 150 hours (Yeomans 1990). Neville said he learnt a massive amount about Aboriginal socio-medicine from both of these nurturer women. Both were already highly skilled nurturers when Neville met them. Both had their difficulties through past trauma from the dominant world. Marjorie had assisted in having the three DTE visitors visit Atherton Tablelands sites and communities to meet Elders. Neville had mentioned the offer of funding from the UN to Marjorie directly after we received word from Geneva.


Following Neville’s suggestion, I obtained DTE funding for Marjorie to attend the Easter 1994 ConFest at Tocumwal in NSW - so that she may have a sense of how others put on festivals, and so that if she did decide to become involved in hosting the Atherton Tablelands-based Small Island Gathering (made possible by the UN offer of funding), she may borrow or adapt from Tocumwal ConFest what she felt appropriate to that potential Atherton Tablelands Gathering. Marjorie and a PNG nurturer, Cecilia Davern attended that Easter ConFest.


The UNHRC funded Small Island gathering did occur in June 1994 and was hosted by Marjorie and other local Aboriginal and Islander people with around 500 attendees. DTE provided seed funding when the UNHRC funding was late in arriving. The gathering site at the Barrabadeen Scout Camp on Lake Tinaroo in the Atherton Tablelands was one of the sites visited by the DTE visitors. The Gathering Celebration ran for ten days. Neville and Lien’s son Quan was also at the Gathering Celebration. Many Aboriginal women attended from remote communities – for example, from Darnley Island, a remote island in the Torres Strait, from One Arm Point a community over 200 kilometres North of Broome on the West Coast, and from Ceduna, a community out near the Nullarbor Plain in South Australia. Eddie Mabo’s son also attended; recall that Eddie Mabo was instrumental in having the doctrine of ‘Terra Nullus’ overturned leading to Aboriginal and Islander land claims. Eddie had attended the 1973 Grafton Human Relations Gathering. That Small Island, Coastal and Estuarine Indigenous people did attend symbolically linked the Gathering to the United Nations Small Island Gathering in the Caribbean.


Recall that Neville and his brother Ken and others had energized the Aquarius Festival around Nimbin, in N.E. NSW. The region around Nimbin had subsequently become a haven for ‘alternative’ people (creating locality for evolving cultural locality). Neville was keen to use cultural healing action at the Small Island Gathering and at his suggestion, I stayed around the artistic communities around Nimbin in the hills behind Byron Bay for six weeks in April and May 1994 inviting circus jugglers, musicians, drummers and fire stick twirlers to travel North over 1,800 kilometres to attend the Small Island Gathering. I thought I could get funding and told them so. When this fell through, 90 people from the Nimbin/Byron Bay region surprised me by arriving at the Gathering after paying their own way or hitchhiking. These ninety joined with Aboriginal and Islander Women from remote areas of Australia (Roberts and Widders 1994). This mass journey north further linked the Nimbin alternative people to the alternative people in the Atherton Tablelands and in remote rainforest coastal regions north of Cape Tribulation on Cape York, especially in remote Venus Bay.



Photo 8 Indigenous Participants in a Discussion Circle at the Small Island Gathering in 1994 - photo from M. Roberts’ archives – used with permission



Photo 9 Some of the Aboriginal and Islander attendees with ConFest people at the Small Island Gathering - photo from M. Roberts’ archives – used with permission


A report on the Small Island Gathering was sent to UNHRC (Roberts and Widders 1994).


Appendix 36 details one fortnight’s Laceweb action in the Atherton Tablelands over the 1993-1994 New Year period. This was the fortnight when the three DTE visitors and myself where staying with Neville. The Fortnight started with site visits interspersed with virtually all of the children of Yungaburra (over 40) including Aboriginal, Islander and small minority children engaging in preparing atmospherics for a New Year Party at Neville’s large bungalow heritage property in Yungaburra.




Photo 10 A photo I took of Neville’s house in June 2001


The New Years Eve party was held underneath Neville’s House. The mango tree is on the left of the photo.


Neville made what other people called ‘miracles’ happen regularly. Similar to Fraser House and Fraser House outreach, notice that in the above Laceweb action Neville set up a series of inter-connected, inter-related resonant actions and scenarios laden with possibilities and potential energy that enabled many things to unfold.

Some examples:


·         All the previous festivals he had energized including the Aquarius Festival and ConFest

·         Finding and linking nurturers in the Atherton Tablelands

·         Having Marjorie and Narelle sit in on his psychotherapy

·         Linking with them in linking with other local nurturers

·         Monitoring global conferences and gatherings

·         Seeding possibilities of preparatory and/or follow-on gatherings to global conferences

·         Having me writing letters

·         Not seeking funds from international and global governance agencies, though creating possibilities that they may offer it

·         Positioning this possible gathering as a follow-on gathering to a UN Conference

·         Encouraging me to be involved in ConFest site set-up

·         Getting DTE people skilled in site set-up to visit local sites and Aboriginal communities (one of the sites we visited was used for the UN funded gathering)

·         Linking with other nurturers in the region as potential support in hosting

·         Grooming me and encouraging me to ask DTE for the two lots of funding

·         Having me obtain funding at short notice and having a Laceweb person travel and link with grassroots people at the Carribean Small Island Conference

·         Having me link with Nimbin artists and invite them to attend the Small Island Gathering

·         Sending the Aboriginal and PNG women to ConFest


Notice how Neville’s way in linking diverse actions may set up and enrich possibilities for other things to happen in the future. For example, being a member of many Cultural Associations in the Sixties, Neville was able to draw on these connections in evolving the intercultural flavour of the Watson’s Bay Festival held in 1968. This is a constantly recurring pattern in Neville’s and Laceweb action. Neville was always setting up contexts he described as, ‘filled with possibilities’. If one in a hundred of these ‘possibilities’ generated one or two things of substance, it was for Neville, ‘a miracle’.


During the 1991-94 period I assisted Neville in drafting and sending off many letters to the Australian Federal Government, Indigenous Women’s Groups and United Nations and other Global governance bodies. In a series of letters to each entity Neville would always address the letter as been ‘from’ a different functional matrix according to the function of action being described. We would refer to our previous correspondence from one or more functional matrices. In this way, Neville would ‘build’ the Laceweb within the recipients filing system just as he linked functional matrices in publishing the Human Relations Newsletter in the Seventies, and then let Aboriginal Women’s groups receive information about this network of functional matrices.


The Darwin Top End


In February 1993 Neville shifted to live in Darwin so that he could evolve the Laceweb more in the Darwin Top End and link into East Timorese people and other Indo Asian Pacific Indigenous and Oppressed People. In 1997, Neville told me to ring an East Timorese woman in Darwin. She described Laceweb action exquisitely. She said that East Timorese networked healers living in the Darwin were contacting East Timorese refugees arriving from East Timor and letting them know of their existence as a grassroots voluntary and informal trauma support resource. While receiving enabling support from Neville, the East Timorese network was self-energising and self organising.


The women said that typically, the East Timorese refugees do not at first seek support. However many did seek support after they found aspects of their life overwhelming. Neville and others enabled Laceweb action in Darwin and surrounding regions with links to East Timor, the Timorese Sea Gypsies and others in the Region.


As an example of Neville sensing connexity and potential for emergence, I had a very excited phone call from Neville from Rapid Creek in Darwin in July 1993.

In one long sentence he said he had found:


1.    a fully intact, though polluted, urban creek with an urban catchment area


2.    there was already a Friends of Rapid Creek action group energizing action to restore the heavily polluted creek


3.    the creek was right next to a run-down shopping centre with many empty shops with unexpired leases


4.    the shopping centre was the home of one of Darwin’s oldest street markets of a Sunday


5.    an Aboriginal self help group met just across the street from the shopping centre


Neville finished with, ‘I have been looking for this for ages. Isn’t it perfect?’ My confused replied was, ‘Perfect for what?’ Neville then went on to say how all of these elements were fully resonant with Laceweb ways of having local people healing every aspect of their wellbeing, including environmental wellbeing. He was working with the leaseholders of the empty shops to see if permission would be granted for local self-help groups to be able to use the rooms free of charge. Neville had been talking to every self-help group he could find in Darwin about the idea. Having the street market already there of a Sunday meant that it had similar form to surrounding Australia’s first Community Mental Health Centre in Paddington with Paddington Market.


Neville called the linking of all of these diverse elements the ‘Rapid Creek Project’. An extract from Neville’s one page write up of the Rapid Creek Project follows:


Many parallel projects are coming together. They include practical rehabilitation of flora and fauna by the Friends of Rapid Creek and active planning by the Darwin City Council and Greening Australia. The more human nurturing family oriented activities are focused around the Rapid Creek Water Gardens and nearby Village shopping centre.


This is where the oldest market in Darwin is held. The market has a strong intercultural tradition with colourful stalls being run by people from many ethnic/cultural backgrounds including aborigines and people from Papua New Guinea and other Asian Pacific and European countries. A number of grassroots nurturing well-being groups are being attracted to operate from this centre. All of the above action is developing a strong sense of community. It is villaging within the city.


The complete flier on the Rapid Creek Project is in Appendix 37.


This flier was sent to various sections of the United Nations, to various Aboriginal community Women’s Groups and to many others that Neville referred me to.


I visited Neville in Darwin in 1993 and with him visited a number of Laceweb links and actions, particularly the long grass Larakia Project and the Rapid Creek Project. The long grass Larakia Project was ideally meeting the needs of Aboriginal and Islander street people who live in the long grass around Darwin. This voluntary project provided a night truck-based taxi service back to each person’s patch of long grass. It ideally met the locals’ needs.


UNPO and Other Global Action


Aboriginal and Islander Laceweb people attended the Unrepresented Nations and People Organization (UNPO) gatherings and participated in UNPO and UN Indigenous Human Rights working groups. As another example of Neville’s networking, around 1991 Neville arranged for me to meet Helen Corbett, an Aboriginal woman who went on to be assistant to the person heading up UNPO. Helen went on to head that organization. Zuzanka Kutena, who provided enabling support towards having over 2000 Indigenous groups attending the Rio Earth Summit, also supported Helen Corbett at UNPO.


Nasuven Enares, an Australian South Sea Islander (whom Neville and I both supported) addressed UNPO and the UN Indigenous Rights Working Group on the plight of Australian South Sea Islanders. I understand from Neville that many links among nurturer types throughout the SE Asia Oceania Australasia Region have evolved through travelling and working together in UNPO and UN Indigenous Rights Working Groups.


In 1994, Cecilia Davern the PNG woman who had been funded to attend the Tocumwal ConFest, with other people hosted the ‘Spirit of the Oceans Gathering Celebration’ in Townsville. This Gathering was attended by Aborigines and Islanders as well as Pacific Islander students attending the James Cook University. Participants lived in a number of theme-based Villages, as is the way at ConFest.


In 1993, Neville invited me to start writing up a timeline of things that had happened in his work. This evolved into the paper, ‘Community Ways For Healing the World’ (Yeomans and Spencer 1997). On Neville’s suggestion the Laceweb working group was set up and obtained the Laceweb web site in 1997 (Laceweb Working Group 1997). The protocol was that all of Neville’s writings would be placed on the Website along with other documents and material, as long as no person or the Laceweb functional matrices were compromised.


The North American First Nation Organization, ‘Aboriginal Healing Foundation’ (Aboriginal Healing Foundation 2000; Spencer 2000) has used material from the Laceweb Homepage on their Website and in their quarterly journal called ‘Healing Words’ distributed around all their communities and placed on the Internet.


New State Movement Update


While the New State Movement has not resulted in a New State, Inma is continuing to evolve in Far North Queensland with links across the Top of Australia - with links from these networks to the SE Asia Oceania Region.

Indigenous People Linked to Confest


During October 1997, at Neville’s suggestion, a flier about Laceweb gatherings as well as an invitation was sent to 120 Aboriginal Women’s groups throughout Australia to attend the New Years ConFest at Gum Lodge on the Murray at Tocumwal on the NSW Victoria border over the 1998/98 New Year. Eight elderly Aboriginal women visited ConFest on their way through to visit their Family and Friends further West at Dareton. In 1998 three Bougainvillians were partially funded by DTE to participate in ConFest including Michael Laimo, a member of the PNG government representing Bougainville. In 2002, Aboriginal Geoff Guest was funded by DTE to participate ConFest.


Cultural Healing Action


Neville was very aware that using all forms of artistry to specifically address cultural dysfunction emerged from Vanuatu and other Pacific Cultures as well as the Philippines (Ernie Cloma - School of People’s Theatre - Integrated Theatre Arts) and Australian Aboriginal people. Neville adapted this wellbeing use of all forms of artistry into what he called ‘Cultural Healing Action’ (Yeomans and Spencer 1993). Neville told me in June 1994 that he had worked with Ernie Cloma from the Philippines in Cultural Healing Action workshops with Aboriginal Groups in Darwin earlier that year. I interviewed Ernie Cloma in the Philippines in August 2003, August 2005 and October 2005. Cloma confirmed firstly working with Neville in 1994 and secondly, the processes described by Neville. Ernie told me that Neville helped link him into holding workshops with Aboriginal people in Alice Springs and Brisbane after leaving Darwin.


Neville told me (May 1992) that his longer-term vision for Cultural Healing Action was as a process fostering the development of Quick Response Healing Teams to resolve local community and international conflict (Yeomans and Spencer 1993). This action is currently unfolding in the Region through UN Inma and other functional matrices evolved by Neville (Yeomans 1980b). In 2002, I was invited to become part of a SE Asia Psychosocial Emergency Response Network (Psychnet) (as a person associated with the UN-Inma functional matrix- refer Appendx 30) evolving Quick Response Psychosocial Healing Teams and became consultant to that Network (Psychnet 2005b; Psychnet 2005a; Psychnet 2005c). This Psychnet action research is discussed in Chapter Thirteen.


In describing Cultural Healing Action, both Neville and Ernie spoke of contexts being set up where people may use every aspect of their artistic traditions in exploring their own wellbeing together with others - towards enriching wellbeing in family and community life. I observed Ernie engaging 43 people in artistry for wellbeing for five days at Tagaytay in the Philippines during a Psychnet Gathering in August 2005. Examples of Cultural Healing Action activities are listed in Appendix 34. Neville told me (Dec 1993, June 1994) that throughout remote areas of Northern Australia and the East Asia Oceania region, Indigenous, oppressed small minority, and intercultural people in the Laceweb have a history of using Cultural Healing Action towards fostering and maintaining all aspects of their wellbeing.  For example, the Small Island, Coastal and Estuarine People Gathering Celebration in June 1994, was based on Cultural Healing Action (Yeomans and Spencer 1993). Neville drew on his experience of this Cultural Healing Action tradition.


Neville described (December, 1993) the way he was adopting and adapting Cultural Healing Action.


Cultural Healing Action involves actively fostering and sustaining cultural wellbeing (where ‘culture’ means ‘way of living’). It fosters people extending their own culture as a balance to other cultures that may be dominant, elitist and oppressive. As well, it is a movement for intercultural reconciliation and wellbeing.


Cultural Healing Action provides scope for people to actively explore, engender and promote themes, values, mood, language, practices, modes of action, arts and other aspects of a way of life (culture).


Cultural healing action may run for less than an hour to several days (or weeks). Neville saw the potential for these new values and behaviours in turn facilitating social emancipation, intercultural healing, and cultural justice - as well as social and environmental wellbeing.


Using Ideas from the Laceweb Homepage


Emails are being received from resonant people round the world giving news of the results they obtained in using ideas from the Laceweb Homepage. As an example, an email was received from a teacher at a special needs primary school in England. She had energised the total student-staff-parent community to move into Cultural Healing Action for one week based on information contained on the Cultural Healing Action Laceweb Site (Yeomans and Spencer 1993). Teachers had invited all the parents and friends of the students to come on the Friday afternoon to be part of a revealing of the drama, music, art, sculpture, dancing, singing extravaganza that the children had created during the week with the theme, ‘The evolving of life in the Universe’. The writer of the email said ‘everyone was emotionally swept by, and in awe of the children’s artistry – the extraordinary output of people described in the official records as ‘special needs children’ (Yeomans and Spencer 1993). They were indeed very special children.




All of the varied outreach by Neville discussed in this chapter has again been resonant with Neville’s poem INMA:

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.

This chapter has introduced the Laceweb and some of its structure and process and detailed some of the ways Neville used to evolve and sustain it. Some of the parallels with Fraser House and Fraser House outreach have been discussed along with the seminal role of the Aboriginal Human Relations Gatherings in 1971, 1972, and 1973, and follow-on Human Relations Gatherings in Alice Springs and Katherine in evolving Indigenous Nurturer networks. Neville’s interest in the New State Movement in Far North Queensland was discussed. Neville’s setting up of a number of Small Therapeutic Community Houses and associated Aboriginal and Islander networking were also discussed. Cultural Healing Action and a number of gatherings were described. The Rapid Creek Project in Darwin was given as one example of Neville’s enabling Laceweb action in the Darwin Top End. My action research with Psychnet was introduced.