Report to the United Nations
Human Rights Commission

The Asia Pacific Small Island Coastal and
Estuarine Waters People
Gathering Celebration at Lake Tinaroo in NE Australia - 1994


Written 1994. Last updated April 2014.


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Dr Yeomans drafted a number of letters that was sent to many international governance and other bodies overseas. The letters stated words to the following effect

Ideas are emerging for a Gathering Celebration of Small Island Coastal and Estuarine Aboriginal and Islander women and resonant others from across Australia for exploring humane caring alternatives to criminal and psychiatric incarceration, for soften substance abuse, and for stopping family violence using Aboriginal and Island themes-based open-agenda Way and so word is going out to the international community for funding support.

An essential feature of this gathering celebration was further developing and sharing our own healing wellness stories. Some months later a letter arrived from United Nations Human Rights Commission in Geneva that they were sending money.

The above mentioned gathering celebration was stage from 6-13 June 1994 at the Barrabadeen Scout Camp on Lake Tinaroo in Far North Queensland.


The Gathering used the lower half of the larger Peninsula above

The venue was magnificent. The area for the caring, sharing, learning gathering was set in a warm serene atmosphere surrounded by the waters of Lake Tinaroo. There was dormitory style accommodation provided for our older women and camping facilities for others.


The view from the Highway up to the Tablelands.


Cathedral Tree not far from the Gathering

Approximately 500 people came together from all parts of Australia to join in the gathering celebration on wellbeing action at a grassroots level. It was also set up as a real reconciliation process bringing black and white together to share and learn from differences and to understand ways to continue a healing process.

Aboriginal women attended from Broome, One Arm Point, Djargin, Ceduna, Darnley Island, Cape York, Innisfail, Tully, Cairns and surrounding districts. Non ATSI people also travelled long distances.

Due to being unable to acquire additional funds it was impossible to bring those participants from the following South Pacific regions:

  • Port Moresby PNG
  • West Sepik PNG
  • Solomon Islands
  • Tonga
  • New Caledonia
  • Malaysia
  • Indonesia
  • Japan
  • Taiwan
  • Vietnam

This was a great disappointment in the sense of real inter-cultural sharing learning; a lot of organising and telephoning without any funds other than personal.

The individual input and teamwork really pulled the festival together as UN funds did not arrive until the last working day before the gathering began.

Down-to-Earth (Vic) and the Australian Council of churches came to our aid with short term loans. Unfortunately these also arrived just before the beginning of the Gathering, adding to pressure.


A brief overview of the happenings of each day of the week is set out below:

Monday 6 June 1994

  • Settling in and orientation
  • Cairns and district Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Women's Coop Workshop
  • Welcoming new arrivals
  • Networking
  • Discussion of lost relatives
  • Introduction to NLP
  • Fire circles and storytelling
  • Drumming, music and dance

Tuesday 7 June

  • Morning sharing
  • Office of the Status of Women Workshop
  • Discussions on Beijing Women's Conference 1995
  • Discussions on Small Islands Conference
  • Discussions on Montreal Conference
  • Networking
  • The importance of NLP Therapy among Indigenous People
  • Fire circles and storytelling
  • Drumming, music and dance

Wednesday 8 June

  • Morning prayer - cancer patient
  • Morning sharing gathering
  • Visit to Tablelands Women's Resource Centre
  • Sharing of Information
  • Networking
  • Visit to White Rock - Reconciling living relations
  • Discussion on international healing gatherings being held in the region
  • Fire circles and storytelling
  • Drumming, music and dance

Thursday 9 June

  • Morning Sharing - speaking from the heart
  • Women's discussion
  • Men's discussion
  • Sharing discussion
  • Networking
  • Alternatives to psychiatric and correctional services
  • Fire circles and storytelling
  • Drumming, music and dance

Friday 10 June

  • Morning Sharing
  • Networking
  • Sweat Lodge (8 hour process)
  • Intercultural circle dancing
  • Shopping - social interaction - Local area visits
  • Canoeing, fishing walking
  • Fire circles and storytelling
  • Drumming, music and dance

Saturday 11 June

  • Morning sharing
  • Networking
  • Preparation of Food for Kup Murri (traditional Island under-ground cooking)
  • Intercultural circle dancing
  • Musical Workshop - Traditional and contemporary arts
  • Sharing Food of Kup Murri with Eddie Mabo Junior
  • Cultural Artistry - Dance, tumbling, acrobatics, fire stick twirling and dancing, drumming
  • Fire circles and storytelling

Sunday 12 June

  • Morning Sharing
  • Feedback
  • Networking
  • Further feedback on the UN Small Island Conference held in the Caribbean
  • BAMA Healing Centre Visit
  • NLP Workshops
  • Fire circles and storytelling
  • Drumming, music and dance

Monday 13 June

  • Feedback and debriefing
  • networking
  • final farewells

As participants departed much empowered from the weeklong Festival Gathering the feedback was overwhelming and the rapport seemed set for a life time.

We are extremely grateful to you for enabling us to stage such a Gathering for the first time in Australia.


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A possible follow-on to the Small Island Gathering

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



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