Stories

This is a collection of stories that represents an attempt to share some of the initiatives that have taken place in Australia over recent decades in building community.

The authors are linked with the Social Developers Network, a loose association of people committed to personal and social change. Hopefully the publication of these stories will stimulate others to be written and shared.

SDN Stories

My kids and I came on land at Elands on the Bulga plateau inland from Taree NSW in 1982, and the brick foundations of the building were here from 1985, the rest of the structure finished in 1990. Three adults and eight children between us bought this piece of land (about 114 acres of escarpment). We needed a piece of land where we could live, not live off, which gave us lots of space for all these kids to eventually grow up and have some space of their own. So we bought a company and have ten shareholders. The idea was to find a place where we could stay all the time if we want to, or come…

Read more of this SDN story

Explanatory background by Ned Iceton

This is a particular email that I received among regular ones from the Rev. Graham Long of the Wayside Chapel in Kings Cross, Sydney. I think it exemplifies social development work generally, in a significant way. In particular Graham conveys for me the self-starter, participatory, citizenly quality, the interpersonal quality, and the cooperative, collective aspect that is making the difference. Note that it all works without any 'command and control' philosophy. It is just 'A Day In the Life of the Wayside Chapel'.

Graham also…

Read more of this SDN story

Jane: Tell me about your involvement in regional towns in the late 60's when you came to Armidale as 'Lecturer, Community Development' and worked with others as well as Aboriginal people.

Ned: When I was first working as a community developer here in Armidale, I launched a farmers' group to help them deal with soil erosion and low productivity. I gradually got them into looking at other ways for them achieve their goals. By bringing them together in a group for the first time I helped them develop a family-style spirit, you see. The spirit in their…

Read more of this SDN story

Down through the tracks opposite the cemetery and into the forest at Moonacullah she led us, dodging the fallen branches and clumps of saltbush, winding in and out of the beautiful red gums, wattle and box trees. It had to be close.her Dad had known exactly its location. He had told them so many stories under its branches. The dreamtime story of Murrupmaginny the evil spirit of the river and forest, who lives here and comes out and about at night, making this area its home. Not many folk ventured so deep within its bounds. Today the spirit of Ngutha, the good spirit who watched over…

Read more of this SDN story

Four Posts is a beautiful natural setting on a bend in the Edward River some 8 kilometres South East from Deniliquin. It is an area used by drovers in the past to rest and overnight their stock. Crown Land with many trees and small lagoons offering clean water and shelter, it became a Scout camp site for a short time. Continually vandalised by people who had nothing better to do, it has now been transformed into a most effective youth camp. Thanks to a very dedicated community committee instigated by the Lions Club of Deniliquin, with the help of other service clubs and many community…

Read more of this SDN story

I am interested in spirituality and more specifically in male spirituality. My own first and foremost, which is why I dabble in my form of poetry. An exploration. My reading, while general mostly, leans towards the human condition. Understanding behaviour. Professionally I'm aware of an imbalance especially on Awards Nights in male performance in academic subjects (might say something about the curriculum). The need for role models exists and yet in a world of litigation we are less likely to risk the outdoor education adventures that we were attempting in the 1980's with eg 24 hour solos…

Read more of this SDN story

I am a 49-year-old woman of German origin. I have been living in Australia since 1980 and have two teenage children, one of whom still lives with me. I have always been interested in various aspects of personal and societal growth and development. For three years I have regularly participated in co-counselling (or RC, Re-Evaluation Counselling), which I began after hearing about it from two friends. I did not at that time have the feeling that I was in need of any kind of counselling, but I have always been interested in psychology, which is also my field of study. So I contacted an RC…

Read more of this SDN story

I moved from Sydney to Adelaide in 1989. My initial involvement in social development came in South Australia, where I was Executive Director of the Government-sponsored Safety House scheme. My responsibilities entailed researching, preparing, writing and presenting comprehensive submissions to various agencies about the challenges facing local communities. This was a valuable experience of community development, and I was able to contribute to public awareness of the principles and practices of social/community development. Through this experience I embarked on the social development…

Read more of this SDN story

On 8th November 2000 I returned from the Alice Springs district, where Catherine Hassall and myself, as representatives of Culture Lab, were looking into any possible ways of supporting an Aboriginal centre there for recovery from alcohol and petrol sniffing problems. This is Intjartnama, near Ntaria/Hermannsburg, 125 km to the west of Alice. Intjartnama is the Cook family Homeland or Outstation.

It works, through Aboriginal management, with what is playfully known as the "four wheel drive" principles of culture. The steering wheel is TJUKURPA DREAMING/LORE and the wheels are LAND/…

Read more of this SDN story

I became involved in the Social Developers Network (SDN) in the early 1980s, and found it a stimulating experience to learn of the many creative community initiatives in which others were involved. I had myself helped form several organisations in Canberra, including Life Line, Australian Frontier, and the Churches Commission on International Affairs, and helped revive another (United Nations Association). I was keen to do what I could to promote peaceful relationships in the community and beyond. As a Quaker I had a strong commitment to working for peace and justice. I learned that there…

Read more of this SDN story

"Call me Phil, Ma'am, I am at your service all day!" So said the driver of the mayor's mobile office. I'd had an appointment earlier with one Richard M. Daley, the last of the so-called 'Tammany Hall' politicians and mayor of Chicago. The City Hall stood in its own block, the entrance marked by an ornamental square which in turn housed a most remarkable sculpture in copper by Picasso. It certainly encompassed many of the attributes and personality of the incumbent who had ruled with a rod of iron in that famous city of Chicago.

It's a long way from Deniliquin to Chicago, USA. It…

Read more of this SDN story

To be a town and community planner requires inspiration. Three people that fit the role as inspiring in this field are (the late) Rev Ted Noffs, Jack Mundey and Gough Whitlam. I relate my early planning years in Sydney around the eras of these three men. The inner city of Sydney fascinated me when I first came to Australia on 'rest and recuperation' (R + R) from Vietnam in 1967. I marvelled at its grittiness, fairness and working class nature. I came back to catch up with Diane Parr (now Diane Rauscher) and pursue studies at the University of Sydney. In 1969 I chose Erskineville/Newtown to…

Read more of this SDN story

I was the chairman of the Warracknabeal Townscape Committee. This committee had a brief to implement suggestions in a draft plan which had been prepared by two sculptors and a landscape designer. One of its key recommendations was to build a 'town square'. The committee worked in close consultation with the Shire of Yarriambiack, and the engineer regularly attended all our meetings. At the outset we developed a creed to seek consensus at all costs, to put the community ahead of any private interest, to involve the community as much as possible, and to consult openly with any people that…

Read more of this SDN story

Pushing a baby in a pram with two toddlers dashing off at tangents to explore the universe as we progressed, the walk of three or four kilometres to the shops was no mean feat in itself, but the last lap over the river was the last straw. Struggling across the old wooden National Bridge spanning the Edward River, fighting for footholds between great cracks in the planks, dodging sheep, dogs, horses and drivers all crossing at the same time, absolutely exhausted me. I pondered the reason I was there at all.

'Bread!' I needed to buy bread for my family, and the baker's shop was…

Read more of this SDN story