A Family and Community Healing Network
Written June 1995. Last Updated Aug, 2014.
Connexion has been a functional matrix since the late 1960's. It was first incorporated and registered in NSW as a not-for-profit benevolent organisation in the later 1960's under the name Nexus Groups. Later this name was changed to 'Connexion'.
It has mutual support for survivors of mental illness as a central focus as well as enabling and supporting psycho-social self-help and mutual-help, especially among Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders, Australian South Sea Islanders, other oppressed small minorities and resonant interculturals.
While engaged pervasively in grassroots self-help and mutual-help, Nexus Groups/Connexion is 'incorporated' for legal and tax purposes. The group's constitution requires that while people with 'professional' backgrounds can participate, support and be supported, they can only take a 'resource' role to the Board. They are expressly excluded from being members of the Board.
In the early 1970s, Connexion took on the editing/printing/publishing role for the Aboriginal Human Relations Newsletter. This publication immerged out of a series of Gatherings, attended by Aboriginals and Torres Strait Islanders and others. The Gatherings were held at Armidale and Grafton in North East NSW in the years 1971-1974. They were organised by Dr. Ned Iceton of the University of New England. Ned was formally a doctor with the outback Royal Flying Doctor Service which provides medical services to very remote communities and people. Dr. Neville Yeomans, a psychiatrist, sociologist and barrister, was the Gatherings' principal process enabler. The theme of these Gatherings was 'Surviving Well in a Dominant World'.
An almost complete collection of copies of the Aboriginal Human Relations Newsletter from the 1970's has been placed in the National Library in Canberra. These contain information about upcoming Gatherings and other happenings, feedback about gatherings, and news and articles from contributors right around Australia. A central theme of the articles is information about healing ways and social actions that work.
Many of the attendees have gone on to making significant contributions to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Affairs. Eddy Mabo was one of the attendees. Eddie was instrumental in getting the land doctrine of 'Terra Nullis' over ruled, hence opening up legal avenues for Australian Torres Strait Islanders and Aboriginals to have their Native Land Title recognised.
Professor Max Kamien wrote of these 1970s Gatherings in his book, 'The Dark People of Bourke'. He speaks of one Bourke Aboriginal, upon returning from the first Armidale Gathering, immediately starting up regular Human Relations workshops modelled closely on that Armidale Gathering. These Bourke Gatherings were instrumental in creating changes towards increased wellbeing in the Bourke Aboriginal community.
The Book 'Assimilation in Action - The Armidale Story' by Sociologist Margaret-Ann Franklin, also makes extensive references to the Armidale human relations Gatherings and their consequences for the Armidale Aboriginal communities.
Connexion also has a focus of providing a framework for regular self-help gatherings in the Sydney and wider areas for people to provide mutual support to each other in resolving life challenges.
Connexion is one of many energies that can be traced to the innovating action during the late 1950s at Australia's first therapeutic community Fraser House. This community was established as a separate 80 bed residential unit within the North Ryde Psychiatric Clinic. Dr Yeomans was the founding director and psychiatrist of Fraser House.
The April 9, 1962, Daily Mirror Newspaper contains an article about Fraser House entitled, 'NSW Lifts the Aboriginals' Status - Freedom in North Ryde Clinic'. The follow are excerpts from this article:
'Aboriginals mix freely with the white patients in a special community unit at the North Ryde Psychiatric Centre.'
'It's the first time in NSW that Aboriginals have been accepted with equality in a psychiatric unit. They share the same wards and have the same privileges as the white patients.'
'Five aboriginal patients and one Indian girl were patients at the centre.'
'Dr Neville Yeomans said, 'We have a plan to transfer to the centre over a period of time all 50 patients who are now patients in NSW mental hospitals (ed. - this did take place)."
'One Aboriginal who had been a patient at a mental hospital for twenty two years had been completely rehabilitated after a few months at the centre. He was now home with his family. We have found that these Aboriginals want companionship and equality with white people.'
'At North Ryde, apartheid never raises its ugly head. Aboriginals join in all activities of the centre. They have their own beds among the white patients, they do a lot of work around the wards, organize the discipline of the other patients and are an integral part of the Centre routine.'
Dr. Yeomans had created a process within Fraser House whereby the residents themselves were the primary change agents. The residents were involved in committees that could decide on virtually all aspects relating to the running of the hospital. While staff were also on committees, the residents always outnumbered them. Yeomans had a power of veto which he rarely ever used. Refer ‘Self Governance’ link in the Content list of Chapter Four
It was more than a community therapy in name. 'Community' was the therapy. The Unit was based pervasively on self-help and mutual-help. This freed up all staff to take on enabling roles. Yeomans drew upon his Fraser House experience in enabling the Armidale and Grafton Gatherings.
Connexion energy was involved in the NACADA, funded 1992 gathering in Far North Queensland called, 'Developing Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Drug and Substance Abuse Therapeutic Communities'.
Connexion also supported the 1994, Small Island, Coastal and Estuarine People Gathering Celebration which was funded by UNHRC in Geneva.
Along with UN-INMA, Connexion became involved in 2001 in preparing materials and photos for a UN-INMA briefing of delegates from UNICEF and academic delegates from Universities in the SE ASIA Pacific Region attending a gathering in Thailand which formed the 'SE Asia Pacific Psychosocial Emergency Support Network'. The aim of this network is to evolve processes whereby quick, effective and culturally appropriate psychosocial responses can be made in response to man-made and natural disasters in the region. The UN-INMA delegate was able to brief the other delegates on indigenous grassroots psychosocial self-help and mutual-help which is spreading in the region.
Connexion also contributed energy to the preparing of resources for the Healing Sharing Gatherings in July, 2001 funded by the Jessie Street Foundation. This set of Healing Sharing Gatherings was attended by people from three conflict areas North of Australia - East Timor, West Papua and Bougainville. Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders and other interculturals were also involved.