The October 1998









A Critique by Members of the

Friends of Geoff Guest Group



Friends of Geoff Guest Group

Including people academically trained in the

psychiatric, psychological, intercultural, and social sciences to post doctoral level.


5 February 2001 (updated Feb 2015)






In the following critique a case is made that no paragraph in Daffen’s Executive Summary makes a case, let alone a strong case, to close Petford.


The Daffen Report is significant in that it has been used by Queensland Premier Beattie and his Ministers, the Hon. Ms Judi Spence and the Hon. Anna Bligh as the basis for their decision to confirm the closure of the Petford Aboriginal Training Farm run by the founders, Aboriginals Geoff Guest and Norma Perrot for over 20 years. Thousands of aboriginal and Islander youth have been helped while staying at this farm. While Geoff privately funded Petford for the first eight years, government funding commenced in 1986. Funding ceased early in 1999. Geoff and Norma were evicted from the very land they gifted to the Queensland Government. The eviction was timed to happen days after the Queensland election.


The following critique places a spotlight on this report.


Norma Dies: Norma Evelyn Perrott Late of Petford, formerly of Malanda. Passed away peacefully on Saturday, the 11th of July 2015, at her home in Petford, aged 68 years. Much loved Partner of Geoff Guest,





The following are direct quotes from Mr Peter Daffen’s Executive Summary about Geoff Guest and Petford.


1.    Petford has met an important need.

2.    Petford enjoys widespread community support

3.    Geoff Guest is Petford; he has the ability to establish rapport, has shown commitment and zeal well above what could be reasonable expected

4.    Geoff Guest is 72 and cannot go on forever.

5.    He has done a marvellous job.

6.    The outstanding contribution over the past two decades by Geoff Guest with the Petford Training Farm Program should not be overlooked.

7.    He is respected by indigenous communities and with his knowledge of behaviourally disturbed youth, his expertise could be distributed throughout communities rather than confined to Petford.


All the above indicate a strong case for keeping Geoff, Norma and Petford Training Farm funded.


None of the 36 segments of Daffen’s Executive Summary makes a case for closing Petford, and neither do the segments jointly or severely!


Daffen does raise a number of issues, all of which can be readily resolved.


However, given the above, Daffen recommends Petford be closed!



At the time of writing this Critique, Premier Beattie and his Ministers, are fighting an election to keep their jobs. They must have some agenda on closing Petford. It would be good if they come forward and explained themselves rather than relying on flawed investigative reports and unproven hearsay from a minority of Petford clients and bureaucrats.




The following links provide context to this Critique:


Extending Petford Training Farm.


Governments and Facilitating Community Grassroots Wellbeing Action


Equipping Politicians and Governments to Work well in Radical Modernity


Interfacing Complementary Ways






Daffen Executive Summary Paragraphs Agreed or Challenged



Daffen Report Executive Summary Paragraph Themes


Comments by the Friends of

Geoff Guest Group




1 Agreed


Dates and who were clients



There is no reason in this para to close Petford.


2 Agreed


Mix of residents; younger and older; welfare and those referred by courts



This mix matches the milieu they come from and will return to in their communities. The mix is an essential aspect of how Petford has worked through the years. Geoff is a recognised world pioneer in Indigenous Therapeutic Community Processes. Geoff is recognised as a global pioneer in this healing modality by psychiatrist pioneers of the Therapeutic Community Model - refer below, 'Other Recognition’.


In Geoff’s processes, the boys are audience to each others’ changework and a primary change process is the youths’ learning to go beyond coping with each other, to living well together with others in the Petford community, and upon leaving Petford, to live well in the wider community and to have the skills and internal strength to withstand peer pressure.


With adequate supervision and facilities, this population mix is an essential and positive feature of Petford.


When funding was stopped, Geoff was planning 8 youth per sleeping quarters, with house parents in each of the quarters, to mirror a family.  Geoff and Norma were to be ‘adopted grandparents’ and the whole complex a model community, a model used throughout the world by the very successful Salem Youth Camps (with which Geoff is affiliated).


This concept of balanced client mix was pioneered in the psychiatric Unit, Fraser House in North Ryde Hospital in NSW – itself a global pioneering model - Refer Dr Neville Yeomans (1927-2000). Also refer The Theory and Evaluation of Fraser House Psychiatric Unit Report (Clark and Yeomans, 1969). Clark went on to be Head of the Sociology Department at La Trobe university for 14 years. The Founding director and psychiatrist at Fraser House was a co-mentor with Geoff Guest in the early 1990’s.


There is no reason from this para to close Petford.



3 Correct


Was up to 40 clients, currently 6



Before government funding in the late 1980’s, typically, Geoff never refused anyone. When he first sought government funding he agreed to limit numbers.


There is no reason in this para to close Petford.



4 Assume



Information on funding; approx $371,000 and $94,491 one-off payment


There is an economic reason to keep Petford going. It is understood, as reported recently in the Cairns Post, that the cessation of Petford Training Farm has contributed to creating a need for a 30 bed secure prison accommodation to constrain the types of extreme youth that Geoff has been working with. This alternative to Petford will have an economic cost of around $30 million. For this amount of money, the people of the State of Queensland could fund Geoff around 100 times, or fund Geoff and 99 like him. The probable annual economic cost to pay all the warders to watch that the youth don’t suicide or go berserk would fund Geoff many more times.


If some have a question about Geoff’s effectiveness, there is NO doubt about the ineffectiveness of prison. There is all of the human cost, the psycho-emotional cost of placing our young people in prison, a process proven to kill some (deaths in custody) and reform few if any; rather typically, it makes them worse.


There is no reason in this para to close Petford.



5 Assume



5 rationale for amount of funding



There is no reason in this para to close Petford.


6 Challenge


The Camp does centre around horsemanship and rural skills;  we question the comments on training


Over the years, Geoff has recognised the need for education and training, and when he could, he paid teachers out of his own pocket - refer Issue 34 of the Australian Geographic. The solution is to fund and find good special education and remedial teachers willing to work with the extremely difficult youth within the Petford milieu.


Matching Aboriginal and Islander culture - Geoff matches action to the climate and energy and mood of the moment, not an arbitrary clock and timetable; he uses an open agenda rather than a fixed agenda.


Beyond the training Geoff does, other training is a function of the emotional climate in the youths from moment to moment. To imply the inadequacy of vocational training when Daffen visited as reason to recommend permanent closure is ridiculous. Geoff works with the extremely difficult end-of-the-road, rebellious youth, who often are without a cooperative bone in their body. That he gets anywhere is a miracle. After staying with Geoff, youths typically end up with a range of rural relevant vocational skills. To have an outsider impose a standard of ‘what they generally wish to see’ in ‘balanced vocational and computer training’ is ridiculous. There had been three laptops used by the boys to learn about computers. These and the main computer holding records disappeared and Geoff did not know where they were - more on this in para 8 below. Remember, these boys want to sniff petrol till they can’t feel the awful pain inside them. They want to smash houses to bits. They want to smash police stations. They want to drink to oblivion. They certainly don’t want to sit in a pretty classroom with a ‘nice fully balanced curriculum’. For Daffen to say this, is clear evidence that he clearly missed what Petford is about – putting in question his competence to do this Report of this facility.


Daffen only stayed at Petford for 24 hours on his investigation and little of this time was seeing Geoff working with the boys. Often trivial things that Geoff does with the boys are potent in their effect. Even if Daffen did watch Geoff with the boys, it would be highly problematic as to whether Daffen would make any sense of, or perceive the significance of what Geoff was doing. Most people would not make sense of Geoff’s work. Those skilled in Geoff’s mode of psychotherapy, recognise he is world class. For one, ask Dr Ernest Hunter an eminent Cairns adult and child psychiatrist. That any literacy or other skills acquisition occurs at all with these boys is due to Guest’s brilliance.


To say training lacked ‘continuance’ when funding was available, again misses the obvious - Geoff works with the energy of the moment therapeutically, and this is all edge stuff - from suicidal depression and despair to hyper-energy of the full gallop, or blinding rage. And Geoff does this edge work brilliantly - equal to any psycho-therapist in the world. To impose the wider societies ‘running things by the clock and a predetermined timetable’ cannot work - and would never work with these very troubled youth. Remember that virtually no-one, repeat no-one, has had any success with these youth before. During his hey-day - and before CDEP, Geoff was consistently getting around 60% of Petford attendees into sustained work continually. There are very reputable professional people who will vouch for that. For one, ask Dr Ray Davis of Gordonvale. A skilled qualitative researcher could easily triangulate enough people’s reports to have reliability. Geoff’s success with these boys has no parallel anywhere!


There is no reason in this para to close Petford.



7 Challenge



Limited nature of program does not meet community expectations; communities generally wish to see... vocational and computer training, greater emphasis on literacy and numeracy



The Daffen Report in point seven, repeats point 6. Our above remarks apply.


There is no reason in this para to close Petford


8 Challenge inferences


Lack of record keeping and statistical data on which to measure the degree objectives obtained. Evaluation is subjective and based on extensive consultation with key stakeholders, inspection and media reports and DFYCC documentation.


While Geoff could not find his computer containing Petford’s records when Daffen visited, before Daffen finished his report Geoff found out where that computer and the three missing laptops were, because it was Daffen himself who told Geoff where they were. The former Petford administrator had given them to the Family Services Department when she left the job at Petford and the computers were down in the Department’s Regional Office in Townsville. Geoff demanded and got them back. When they were returned, the main drive from the Computer that had contained the records was missing and the laptops had bits missing so that they were dysfunctional.


The Petford computer hard drive had records showing:


1.    how many youths were resident

2.    who they were

3.    where they were from

4.    where they went

5.    whether they had work or what their circumstances would be on leaving

6.    daily incident reports

7.    any worries they had

8.    a daily activity log comprising a number of relevant factors.


Daffen was told this. No mention was made by Daffen in his report of the computer records or that they were held by the Department without Geoff’s knowledge.


Geoff showed Daffen handwritten day sheets that contained records of youth behaviour based on a points scoring system on things such as:


1.    table manners

2.    getting on with others

3.    and on how many times they were called before they got up


There is a sliding scale of points allocated. The boys took this point system seriously and would go all out for points. No mention of these hand records were made by Daffen in his report


Geoff wanted to show Daffen many testimonial letters from past Petford boys and academic and other admirers from Far North Queensland and around the world. Daffen said he was not interested in looking at them. Surely, they were relevant, if Daffen was interested in a balanced, unbiased, reliable, valid, and trustworthy report!


Good record keeping can be addressed by funding and well selecting good staff.


However, independent of this, a skilled qualitative research could readily produce sound evidence as to whether or not Petford is successful or not. Hundreds of past Petford clients can readily be found. Criteria for high quality qualitative research has now been well established, and researching Petford outcomes would be no great challenge to an unbiased, competent, qualitative researcher.


Given that Geoff takes extreme cases that no one else has been able to have any success with, any comparison of Geoff and Norma’s outcomes with the Petford Residents would have to be made with a comparable set of extreme highly dysfunctiona disturbed youth.


And who is to establish the criteria of success in the context of Petford? With thousands through the place, no boy has ever suicided at Petford? Many suicidal boys who went to Petford are still alive. Fathers who went to Petford years ago want to send their children there? Also, compare the ‘success’ of the alternative - locking Aboriginal and Islander youth in prison. No one doubts their ineffectiveness - refer the Deaths in Custody report and rates of prisoner reform!


As to the claim that ‘extensive consultation took place, recall Daffen was only 24 hours at Petford. It is understood that the one person interviewed in Aurakun was reported as eleven people in the report, and that this person had been preselected by the Hon. Minister’s department as a ‘Petford failure’. That is not the way to get a random sample! Daffen arranged for someone to interview a number of people in Lockhart River and Kowanyama for his report on Petford. These people stated very favourable things about Geoff Guest and the Training farm. Daffen elected to not include these positive statements in his report. A few questions asked by unbiased researchers at these communities to people not under duress from government officers could quickly establish the veracity of the claim made here. An unbiased truly independent competent qualitative researcher would find that Petford Training Farm outcomes are superb and stand out as perhaps the only place to have any success with these extremely dysfunctional youth.


There is no reason in this para to close Petford.



9 Agree


Petford has met an important need.


Yes! Petford has MET an IMPORTANT NEED.


There is no reason in this para to close Petford.


There is every reason to keep Petford open!



10 Challenge



Debatable outcomes due to lack of records, many successes, some failures



Daffen repeats his point 8. Above remarks apply. Did Daffen have to repeat a ‘negative’ after the praise of para 9?


Any data on Petford residents re-offending has to be seen in comparison with other facilities and prisons. Any allegations by residents have to be seen in context – where offenders have a known tendency to make false allegations – as discussed in Hansard Reports.


There is no reason in this para to close Petford.




11 Agreed


Petford enjoys widespread community support


Geoff regularly receives phone calls from families and communities for support. Many of the family people have been through Petford themselves when they were youths.


Agreed - therefore keep it open.


There is no reason in this para to close Petford.



12 Agreed



Geoff Guest is Petford; he has ability to establish rapport, has shown commitment and zeal well above what could be reasonably expected.



Agreed. Para numbered 9, 11 & 12 together create a strong case for keeping Petford going.


There is certainly no reason in this para to close Petford.




13 Agreed



(1)  Geoff is of the land, he’s not an administrator,






(2)  or  versed in the merits of record keeping















(3)  1 and 2 has given rise to continual breaches of guidelines, funding requirements and agreements. This situation is unlikely to ever change



1.    Agreed. Geoff needs a good secretary and clerical backup. Geoff has found that people appointed by outsiders with the title ‘admin-istrator’ act as boss of the whole show and do not want to do any work themselves. When ‘clerical work’ IS their job, they do not want to do it.


2.  Disagree. Geoff:


a.    Agrees with the merits of record keeping


b.    Recognises funding depends on it, and


c.    Keeps records when not constrained by department people or their appointees.


Therefore, fund as many good clerical people as needed to ensure compliance, and ensure clear responsibilities to ensure they do not start dictating in Geoff’s area of functioning – namely indigenous therapeutic community practice, see para  23 below. Also refer ‘Other Recognition’ below.


See above point. Fund good clerical people. This will free up Geoff to get on with what he does well.


There is no reason in this para to close Petford.



14 Challenge















Continual ongoing agreement following consultation and ultimate non adherence to these guidelines and agreements has inevitably led to difficulties with funding organisations state and federal



Geoff has had difficulties - refer para 23 below. As one example, he is often extremely concerned with the department taking boys away from Petford before they are ready and without having some personal ‘program’ for them in place. For example, some boys have been taken from Petford and released to the streets. A case could be made that the selection process for imposed staff has been flawed. Nepotism and crass opportunism has occurred. Questions can be raised as to departmental involvement in staff selection, introducing problematics. Using an independent employment support organisation may eliminate these problems. Good people are out there. As for keeping case records, refer para 8. On the role of administrators, see para’s 23 & 24. Extension of Geoff’s work with the boys -  a number of indigenous Masters and PhD students could take that on as an assignment and build up resources for training people to do what Geoff does. Both the department and Geoff work in a very difficult area, though difficulties can be worked through. Also refer ‘Other Recognition’ below.


There is no reason in this para to close




15 Agreed


Petford operational prior to government funding, has not changed from its beginnings; not a government initiative or a program commenced with an appointed manager



Correct. And the wide spread claim that it works can be researched by a competent unbiased qualitative researcher. The Petford ‘formula’ can operate surrounded by competent staff that ensures its ‘fit’ into funding guidelines. An issue is that funding guidelines currently assume non-indigenous cultural ways will be used - which involves cultural imposition (neo-colonialism). This cultural imposition is never questioned, never noticed, and never considered. It’s a taken for granted ‘how it’s done ‘properly’.


Geoff’s ways are fitting with indigenous and remote area life-ways. As an example Geoff, in preparing youth to be stockmen, replicated this in campout sleeping in swags. Everyone had to get up and onto the truck quickly to drive in for breakfast (a prime mode for getting youth cooperating). The department demanded youth sleep in dorms. Another, Geoff’s engaging is context guided and as a function of the energy and vibe of the moment. Mainstream way is plan your work on a fixed agenda and then work your plan. Geoff’s way is a function of context and energy of the moment. Government way is the 10 X 10 Excel spreadsheet, with everything in little boxes to be ticked. Both ways have policy. Government policy is devised in Central Offices. With Geoff, ways that work are repeated or adapted in new contexts and after a time become ‘the way things are done’ and Petford ‘policy’. Policy is that which works – hence Petford policy works. This replicates the process used in Fraser House founded by Dr Neville Yeomans (1927-2000).


There is no reason in this para to close Petford.



16 Agreed


Petford Board of Management had its origins in the incorporation process; required to get government funding


Correct. In one sense, Geoff does not need a ‘manager’ or a ‘Board’ to do what he does - he is driven by compassionate care. However, Geoff recognises a board and manager is required. The past Board was dysfunctional - the answer is (i) get a good board and (ii) get good clerical staff.


There is no reason in this para to close Petford.



17 Agreed


Issues relating to applying funds for intended purpose; ATSIC  money applied for a different purpose


Permission was obtained from ATSIC so that is not an issue. Geoff agrees that money earmarked for a specific thing has to be applied for that purpose. What has happened is that imposed ‘administrators’ have not done this and have applied money for other purposes, and that they have done this has only come to light after the administrator has left. Again, it revolves around getting competent reliable clerical staff. These can be found. There is no evidence of Geoff or Norma diverting funds for their own use. We understanding Geoff has made good, funds misappropriated by former staff. As well, virtually every cent Geoff and Norma earn has been ploughed back into the Farm. Geoff fully funded the facility for many years from tin mining. Funding and selection of good administrative people can ensure accountability.


There is no reason in this para to close Petford.



18 Challenge



Guest views funding as global budget, to be used in accordance with perceived priorities


Not so. Refer previous para. Geoff fully recognises that money is earmarked. A good book-keeper can control these issues.


However to step back a bit - Petford could be used as a pilot for the Qld Gov to explore how they can best facilitate indigenous cultural grassroots holistic action like Petford. Geoff’s and Norma’s work is culturally fitting, pervasively integrated and holistic and covers the full range of human experience and the land, whereas governments divide the world into ‘departments’, then ‘sectors’, then ‘programs’ with little coordination between the bits. Invariably there is little cooperation between government programs, or between sectors, or between departments.


This means that a holistic place like Geoff’s has to interact with and comply with multiple points of contact with the government and with multiple people and compliance requirements. As well Geoff is fostering self-help and mutual-help.




Extending Petford Training Farm

Government and Facilitating Grassroots Action.

Geoff’s ways are indigenous and emergent, non-linear and de-linear, inherently tentative, spontaneous, and profoundly appropriate unto the moment; whereas the government ‘divided world’ wants ‘linear’ ‘certainty’, and ‘predictability’. Geoff’s knowing and ways are of the heart. It is different stuff. It is not wrong - just very different. Refer ‘Further Recognition’ below.


Government criteria for program acceptance for funding, and program evaluation is based on criteria relevant for linear, time bound, predetermined, predictable fractured bits of action. It does not fit Petford or for that matter, any other emergent grassroots organic self-help and mutual-help action. Refer Interfacing Complementary Ways.


Top down service delivery using the above splintered linear criteria crushes spontaneous holistic ways every time. There is scope for emergent holistic approaches like Geoff’s to complement the linear split approach of the government and the bulk of NGO agencies in Australia.


There is nothing in principle wrong about giving a macro budget and delegating local control - to those who know - on how best to use it. These matters can be resolved and are not grounds to close Petford. The world is a de-linear, massively interconnected, holistic, global, and fast changing. Geoff Guests processes provide government one model for adapting to the pressures created by radical modernity – refer Dr Mark Triffett.


Given the will within Government, Petford would be an ideal vehicle for exploring holistic funding of indigenous and other local grassroots holistic emergent action, and as a working model for evolving politicians and government departments that can live well with radical modernity.


There is no reason in this para to close Petford.



19 Challenge


1.    Lack of accountability evidenced by non adherence to operational standards; admissions, referrals, case management, daily logs, incident books, discharge procedures;


2.    These seen as relatively unimportant and certainly subordinate to the real task at hand.



(1) Remarks re para’s 8, 14, & 18 refer. Good staff can be funded and appointed to ensure compliance; Indigenous Masters and PhD research students can be seconded to use  Petford as a case study for the audio taping and videoing and micro-modelling of everything Geoff does, to generate resources in training people to continue Geoff’s work and way.


 (2) If the choice is Geoff working with a suicidal youth going berserk or leaving him to do some paperwork - the paper work is ‘relatively unimportant and certainly subordinate to the real task at hand’. Given good staff, they do the paper work. As it is, often Geoff is doing paperwork very late at night when the youth have settled. This mirrors Geoff’s working in his tin mine during the early hours of the morning with a torch on his head when he was self-funding Petford (over $90,000 p.a.) before tin prices fell.


There is no reason in this para to close Petford.



20 Agreed


Government employees required to comply



Absolutely. Given the foregoing:


There is nothing in this para that is a reason to close Petford.



21 Challenge



1.    Given the circum-stances it is little wonder DFYCC  Officers, in particular may be seen as obstructive, interfering and non-cooperative










2.    In  fact nothing could be further from reality



3.    They are simply trying to do their job.


(1)  Why that department? It is germane to hear Geoff’s version of the conduct of Departmental Officers and the consequences. ‘There are some good Officers. These tend to be stifled and their careers wrecked and they have blocks put on their good ideas. The bad ones fight with each other and climb the ladder.’ Repeatedly Geoff would pick up a hand set to ring out and hear a departmental person attempting to spirit negatives about Geoff out of a cook or other support person. The matters being discussed were in no way part of the cook’s role. It is unethical and destructive behaviour. Geoff can make a compelling case that departmental officers have been obstructive, interfering and non-cooperative in ways that go beyond ‘simply doing their job’


(2)  Re the word ‘fact’. - there is the issue of  who is the factor (or maker) of the facts. Geoff and departmental officers live in different realities - refer para 18.


(3)  Again ask Geoff. The above remarks and those in para 18 apply. Some of these issues could be fruitfully explored via the government setting up a taskforce to explore funding of holistic emergent grassroots action with Petford as a case in point. The Department could usefully look at the integrity of staff practices in the field.



22 Agreed



High staff turn over


Remote area living is not for everyone. However, good people who will stay can be found. (With respect, the Family Services Department probably has a higher turn-over than Petford).



23 Challenge


Why such high turnover;


1.    remote area


2.    itinerant staff


3.    position descriptions mean little to the manager
























4.    Geoff directs staff on duties and responsibilities he sees as important and/or consistent with their skills and abilities



5.    Staff do not see themselves as consulted or valued or leave in frustration






1.    Select people suited to remote area living


2.    Select non-itinerant staff


3.     On the contrary, Geoff expects people to do their assigned job. However, various staff going into town would be asked to pick something up from the shop, or to pick up the mail. Or someone would be asked to start the generator, a 40 metre walk away. These odd requests were minute in the scheme of things. There was no wholesale delegation of other duties. People would often not help in these small tasks when asked. ‘It’s not in my job description.’ Include this in the job description. The youth worker wanted to act like an urban youth worker and sit with the boys. From the outset, the youth worker’s job description was to assist Geoff throughout the day as Geoff worked with boys.


Also, ‘accountability’ within the holistic emergent grassroots way of Petford could be explored - refer para 18 above. These issues of role could be sorted out by funding, and selecting people who are clear about, and accept the job role for them at Petford, with appropriately drafted role specifications and job descriptions.



4.     Refer point 3 above. Could be seen as practical use of scarce skills in a remote area facility. Having a team approach to tasks with multiskilling is fully consistent with grassroots holistic action. If you see something that has to be done, do it, or tell some who can. Accountability can still be achieved via other than delegating a narrow job to someone.


Inappropriate staffs have been appointed by the Board and department regularly in the past, especially the last lot. People with little experience and no experience of Petford started making suggestions about how to change things after being at Petford a day or two. They suggested things that Geoff knew would never work, or that was contrary to everything about Petford. For example, the last Administrator was scared of the boys and wanted to place restrictions on who could come. She stated that it was ‘too dangerous’ for the teacher to stay at Petford of a night time. Geoff has always been able to handle ‘security’ issues. She wanted to put a ban on petrol sniffers, violent boys, and those who have committed sexual offences. These are the very boys who Geoff had been assisting for 20 years. The same administrator had her husband leave his job at Lotus Glen Prison, ‘because she was getting him a job as a security guard’ at Petford. While her husband was granted an interview for jobs at Petford, e.g. youth worker, he responded that if boys were really playing up ‘he would knock them out’. He was a boxer. Geoff has never had or needed security and he had no intention of using such a person. The husband got no job at Petford. Petford’s Chairman got his son appointed as the youth worker, though the son had minimal skills for the Petford context, and Geoff reckoned he was ‘hopeless’. He wanted to live in Cairns and travel backwards and forwards the 140 odd klms every work day - an impractical situation. He was appointed on this basis and he was often away or late.


He just wanted to talk to the boys and not work with the boys as they all went around with Geoff. This means most of the day no boys would be around for him to talk to.  Another issue was that these new staff believed that staff should be allowed alcohol. Geoff runs a dry place for good reason. The boys are skilled thieves.


The school teacher insisted on having a petrol car. Geoff has no petrol cars on the place. Again the boys are addicted to petrol sniffing and skilled thieves. A quarter of litre of petrol can cause terrible damage for months if hidden by the boys, and from experience, be impossible to find. One very bright and sharp three year old son of a Petford worker was tragically rendered a ‘permanent vegetable’ by older youths who gave the little one petrol to sniff from petrol stolen from a petrol-based car that Geoff did not want at Petford.


The preparers of this critique had no difficulty finding the above information and lots more like it. How come Daffen did not! The Staff leaving often have grievances and vested interest in falsifying what has happened. This needs very careful research as to what is actually happening. What would other skilled qualitative researchers find?


A claim may be that any group called Friends of Petford would have to be biased. Because of this ‘insider looking in issue’ we have been very conscious of following rigorous research methodologies so our critique is of high value and trustworthy. Others exploring these issues, without bias and following quality research protocols, we believe would produce a similar critique of the Daffen Report.



24 Challenge


In an attempt to divorce Geoff from administration and utilize his strengths fully in program activities - appointed manager with Geoff as program advisor; manager resigns on the claimed grounds of interference in the implementation of changes in procedures






Refer remarks in para 23. Yes Geoff did interfere in the implementation of changes in procedures. He would never have allowed her to implement, for example the restrictions on who could come, or the use of a security guard. This administrator had no place whatsoever at Petford. Her behaviour and attitudes should have been spotted before appointment as she was clearly inappropriate. Daffen should have known this from a brief chat with Geoff! One suspects that he did realise this!


While the suggestion above has been to let Geoff do what he does, and have others look after the paper work, this has to be seen against the emergent holistic spontaneous massively interconnected nature of everything that happens at Petford.


The departments (refer 18 above) live in a world split into bits where the relation between the bits is largely irrelevant. ‘If it is not part of this program or department it is not our concern.’ As well, what appears to be a straight forward bit of clerical procedure can destroy what little progress Geoff has made with a youth (refer above re ‘who can come’ and ‘security’). This fit between tentative holistic emergent and linear fractured certainty is central to the ongoing strife. Meeting Government accountability requirements AND using emergent holistic practices with indigenous youth is possible; however in all probability, no-one with skills in this interplay between paradigms exists in the Queensland government. People with those skills do exist. 




Interfacing Complementary Ways


Government and Facilitating Grassroots Action



None of the foregoing is reason to shut down Petford



25 Agreed


1.    Geoff Guest is 72 and cannot go on forever.




2.    He has done a marvellous job,

















3.    but it is his program











4.    and there is no heir apparent



This is a compelling paragraph. Though Geoff is 72 and has some aches and pains, he is otherwise fit and healthy and entirely focused on helping boys and has not stopped, despite Premier Beattie’s direction to him to do so.


AGREED! Geoff HAS DONE A MARVELLOUS JOB.  How come then that Premier Beattie, an honourable man, writes a personal letter to Geoff’ shutting down his  program  and stating that Mr Guest is ‘invited to stay on the property [his gift to the Queensland government] in a caretaker capacity on the proviso that he ceases all training activities’. The Premier himself is telling Geoff to stop helping youth. Keep in mind that Geoff funded his own way for 8 years before the government funding started in 1986. And Mr. Beattie says, because Geoff lives on government land he has to stop helping aboriginal Youth!!! Tell that to Mary Robinson, Mr Beattie. The United Nations Human Rights Commissioner would probably like to hear that one. Premier Beattie explain your motives!


On point 3, yes it is profoundly Geoff’s program. All the more reason to create contexts where his way can be passed on. For Premier Beattie to have his way is for Geoff’s way to be lost. Geoff can’t talk about what he does in a vacuum. Geoff uses an extremely eclectic process. He responds to the unfolding moment with one, two or a number of boys. The only way to encapsulate this is to record it as he does it - with boys in the rural environment.



Geoff fully recognises that passing on his wisdom and ways is a high priority, all the more so because of his age - in 2015, now over 85 and going strong, though now supporting adults using his old age pension money.


Some modelling of Geoff’s ways have been carried out:

Geoff Guests Petford Youth Camp

Old Man (Geoff Guest) - His youth as a Stolen Generation Member 

The Healing Art of Storytelling 

Healing Ways of Old Man 

More Healing Ways of Old Man 

Geoff has a number of indigenous and other people available with whom he has worked and passed on some of his ways. These could be asked to join him. Given his age, there are extremely vital reasons for him to continue while the world has a chance to learn from him. So many other wise elders have now passed on.


If people have any concern about any risk of any form, put enough researchers in so that nothing, absolutely nothing happens that is not recorded. Geoff is fully open to this.


None of the foregoing is reason to shut down Petford



26 Agreed


26 Further significant funding would be required.



Refer Comments in Para 4 Above. How much? $30 million?? That is what is being proposed instead of Petford - see the recent article in Cairns post. So it takes funding. Make this available and ensure adequate high quality staff. All of the essentials are already at Petford. It has a good history. We can all learn from the problematic history.


Given all the above comments, there is compelling reasons to continue.



27 Challenge




1.    the inadequacy of the sleeping areas,






2.    the absence of night staff,


3.    the mix of offenders and welfare residents;

4.    the spread of ages,


5.    and the absence of formal case management


6.    the duty of care responsibility cannot be guaranteed.





All of these points 1 to 6 are regularly addressed in every facility funded by the department. They can be addressed at Petford.


On 1, fund changes to make them adequate


On 2, fund night staff



On 3 and 4, a case can be made that this resident mix is what makes the program work - refer para 2.




On 5, appoint case managers skilled in holistic emergent process



On 6, Given the above, duty of care CAN be guaranteed so reinstate Geoff, Norma and the Program



28 Challenge


In recent times there have been a number of developments suggesting that other  options may be more appropriate as we approach the year 2000



Other options have been developing. These have not been developed with the intention of replacing Geoff. Who is ‘suggesting’ that these ‘number of developments’ are ‘more’ appropriate.


With respect, this vague generalised writing off of Petford is symptomatic of the quality of this report.


Any good idea within reason is worth trialling to see how it goes. However, that is no reason to axe Petford, a program with all that is going for it as inferred in this Critique.


By continuing Petford, scope is provided for Geoff to pass on his ways so they may become widely available to these other programmes.


Indigenous Therapeutic Communities modelled on Petford may be extended throughout Australia. Refer Extending Petford Training Farm.


The model may be extended to residential family units, as in the Fraser House model, where endemic inter-generational issues may be resolved. All of this supporting:


1.    Providing humane caring alternatives to criminal and psychiatric incarcerating

2.    Softening substance abuse

3.    Minimising consequent harm to heart, lungs and general wellbeing

4.    Reducing property damage and civil disobedience

5.    Reducing Self-harm and harm to others

6.    Reducing family violence


All of these issues were canvassed back in the early 1990s when the Rural Health Support and Education section of the Federal Health Department sought to fund energy linked to Petford to expand the Petford model to address the above six issues within Aboriginal and Islander Communities. This offer of funding from the Federal Government was refused because of the very issues raised in this Critique. Refer Extending Petford Training Farm.

In order to provide the Rural Health Support and Education section with a rational to explain to Prime Minister Paul Keating and Health Minister Graham Richardson why funding had not taken placed (They were the ones who were pushing the Petford Extension Program). The paper Governments and Facilitating Community Grassroots Wellbeing Action was prepared by Friends of Petford and discussed in Canberra with heads of the Rural Health Support and Education section. After appreciating the papers implications, they recognised that their section and every other government in Canberra had no capacity to fit well with non-linear/de-linear integrated holistic self-help and mutual-help ways.


To what extent will these ‘new options’ address the extreme problem youth which Geoff takes on. Where are the competent people who have the experience and skills of working with these extreme cases? If they are around, why haven’t they been used before? It is very problematic that such skilled people can be found to work with these extreme cases. Often these extremely troubled youth see their communities as a prison and offend just to get away from the place. Geoff, by Daffen’s own admission has ‘knowledge of behaviourally disturbed youth’ (para 35) and ‘Petford has met an important need.’




29-34 Challenge



Lists evolving options



Let Geoff and Petford ways be passed on to these options



35 Challenge



1.    In viewing the options





2.    the outstanding contribution over the past two decades by Geoff Guest with the Petford Training Farm Program should not be overlooked


3.    His experience and qualities could be utilised as a consultant to the LJIP.


4.    Respected by indigenous communities, and




5.    with his knowledge of behaviourally disturbed youth





6.    his expertise could be distributed throughout communities rather than confined to Petford.



On 1. This wording glosses over the hidden assumption that these options automatically replace Petford. The better ‘option’ being canvassed in this critique is to continue Petford.



On 2. Perhaps Mr Daffen should take heed of his own words! Continue Petford and let Geoff do his work.








On 3 As stated above, this is best done by having him work with boys at his place. Being ‘at his place’ is another vital part of the indigenous chemistry of how Geoff’s ‘actions’ work – geo-psycho-social-cultural


On 4. Perhaps Mr Daffen could usefully revisit the field notes from Lockhart River and Kowanyama. Geoff is very respected for VERY GOOD REASONS.



On 5. Again Mr Daffen could pay heed to his own words. And Mr Beattie requires that Geoff not use his knowledge  and not help aboriginal and islander boys who call on Geoff for help!! What does he say? ‘The Premier of this state won’t let me?


On 6. The best way, as mentioned above, to distribute these skills is to have them recorded and modelled as he does them, at his place.



36. Challenge


1.    It is considered









2.    that it would now be more appropriate



3.    for Petford Training Farm to cease operations as a  residential facility and that the funding by DFYCC be directed to local early intervention youth programs located in the indigenous communities.


4.    These local indigenous youth programs should be developed in collaboration with the successful initiatives of the Local Justice Groups or other group addressing indigenous youth issues




Considered by Mr Daffen. We conclude that Daffen has not ‘made his case’. On the contrary, the opposite case emerges - that Petford should be kept going and expanded.


Not one paragraph in Daffen’s Executive Summary makes a case, let alone a strong case, for closing Petford.


On 2. More appropriate for whom, Mr Daffen? For bureaucrats who want to administer a $30,000,000 prison with all of the millions of ongoing costs?


On 3. There is a compelling case to keep Petford going












On 4. If these options are worthy, then allocate them funding as well as Petford.




How has the wider world viewed Petford Training Farm and Geoff Guest and Norma.


Sixty-minutes featured Petford in 1993, with Mike Munro galloping like crazy up a dry creek bed to keep up with Geoff and twenty five boys.


Geoff and Norma were featured in Volume 189 (6) of the National Geographic, and Issue 34 of the Australian Geographic.


Bill Hayden, as Governor General of Australia, signed Geoff’s OAM medal.


Rotary International awarded Geoff their highest award, the Paul Harris Medal - for what? -:


‘In appreciation of tangible and significant assistance given for the furtherance of better understanding and friendly relations among peoples of the world.’


Other Recognition


As for Geoff Guests supposed lack of qualifications, Dr Neville Yeomans (1927-2000) one of the world pioneers in therapeutic community in the early 1990s recognised Geoff Guest as a global pioneer of Indigenous therapeutic community practice and well equipped to head up a university Chair and teach this at doctoral level to psychiatrists and psychologists.


Dr Rex Haig from the UK College of Community Psychiatry’s Centre for Quality Control, and Enabling Environments has personally spent time with Geoff Guest and has also recognised Geoff’s Therapeutic Community practice as pioneering work in the field.


Geoff Guest has also received EEG Neurofeedback training in America by M. Barry Sterman, Ph.D. a Professor Emeritus at the Departments of Neurobiology and Biobehavioral Psychiatry at UCLA. Professor Sterman has acknowledged Geoff as competent in EEG Neurofeedback.


Thom Hartmann a well known American radio host, prolific author, former psychotherapist, entrepreneur, and progressive political commentator has lived and travelled with Geoff and recognises Geoff’s work as exemplary and world leading edge of its kind.


Centenary Medal Geoff Guest has also received the Centenary Medal created by the Australian Government to commemorate 100 years of federation.


Guest Lecturer Geoff was a guest lecturer at the Psychology Department at the University of the Philippines (UP) in Manilla. This was following Geoff being an invited contributor to a high level international conference held in Tagaytay in the Philippines. This conference was organised by UNICEF Regional Office in Thailand and the UP Centre for Integrated Development Studies in Manilla. Delegates were selected from eleven countries in the Region. The Regional Head of UNICEF along with UNICEF Heads of Counties and Professors from UP all recognised and acknowledge Geoff’s major contribution to this high level International Gathering.





On a number of occasions Geoff has spoken in public forums of his anger, dismay, and despair at decisions made by public servants to have Aboriginal and Islander youth not attend Petford or to leave Petford against Geoff’s advice that these youth presented a clear and present danger to themselves and others. Suicides, assaults, property damage, and murder have resulted. As Friends of Petford we sense Geoff’s strong comments against high officials in public forums is coming back to bite him. With every respect, one is left with the distinct impression that Daffen knew beforehand what conclusions would suit the government, though he had the greatest difficulty having his conclusions following on naturally from his own findings. The Report worked because the government only quoted the Daffen Report conclusions in parliament and public statements and not his findings that actually support the continuance of Petford. Any competent unbiased personal advisor to the Premier and Ministers would have found that the Daffen Reports conclusions did not follow from the Daffen Report findings, and that this is the case should have been made known to the Premier and Ministers. A similar Critique to this one could be made of comments made by M. BLIGH in her 3 Mar 1999 tabling of the Daffen Report in the Queensland Legislative Assembly.



The Conclusions of this Critique of the Daffen Report



1.    Mr Daffen’s conclusions are NOT supported by his findings (something that first year social sciences students would be easily able to spot.

2.    Under scrutiny, no paragraph of Daffen’s Executive Summary supports the closure of Petford

3.    No case has been made for closing Petford

4.    Daffen’s own Report contains enough material to support the continuance of Petford


5.    Petford funding should be restored, and


6.    Geoff should be returned to head up the Program






3 Mar 1999 Legislative Assembly 95 WEDNESDAY, 3 MARCH 1999 Mr SPEAKER (Hon. R. K. Hollis, Redcliffe) read prayers and took the chair at 9.30 a.m.


M. BLIGH (South Brisbane—ALP) (Minister for Families, Youth and Community Care and Minister for Disability Services) (10.07 a.m.), by leave: I am pleased today to table a copy of an independent evaluation of and a financial report on the Petford Training Farm in far-north Queensland. I am also pleased to advise honourable members of my response to the recommendations made by the independent evaluator, Mr Peter Daffen. In making my decision, I have relied on the report of the independent evaluation, on numerous departmental investigations over a 14-year period and a recent report by the Queensland Police Service.


I have been made aware of the level of support that Mr Geoff Guest, the founder of Petford, enjoys. However, as the Minister for Families, Youth and Community Care, my responsibility lies unequivocally with the children of this State. I will not abrogate that duty of care and place one more child at risk. After 12 years of failing to ensure the safety of children, 12 years of failing to account for public funds and 12 years of failing to achieve rehabilitative outcomes, the days of the Petford Training Farm as a State-funded institution are officially over.






The following links provide context to this Critique:


Extending Petford Training Farm.


Governments and Facilitating Community Grassroots Wellbeing Action


Equipping Politicians and Governments to Work well in Radical Modernity


Interfacing Complementary Ways




Friends of Geoff Guest Group

5 February 2001



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