My first impressions of Western Australia were the warmth of our welcome by the local people and Quaker F/friends. On our arrival at Perth airport we were met by an elderly Aboriginal woman with 2 enormous suitcases and a very large bag. She asked us for directions to one of the Perth suburbs, and which bus she should take. As our shuttle bus arrived, we told the driver of the woman’s dilemma, and between us we got the baggage onto the bus. When it came time for the woman to change buses Alan, my husband, assisted the driver to transfer the bags and cases onto the new bus and we immediately became friends. The driver was from London and she picked Alan’s cockney accent. She made our journey to Claremont very simple by dropping us off at the bus-stop for our change to the bus which would take us directly to Christ Church Grammar School.
After registration and settling into our room, dinner was served and we were invited to join a group of ‘early birds’ who were there for the first event, the Fine Arts Day. We were taken to Cottesloe, a seaside suburb between Perth and Fremantle to view some of the ceramic artwork by Sandra Hills and Jenny Dawson depicting First Nations (indigenous peoples) history. Some were on the walls in Napoleon Close shops and others on the terrace walkway at the seaside shopping mall. Our guide was Sandra Hill herself. It was an enthralling evening and we learned a lot about the early history of the relationship between the settlers and the indigenous people.
On the following evening the first formal session started with ‘Welcome to Country’ given by Noel Nannup, a Noongar Elder, who explained the significance of where we were meeting on the cliffs overlooking the Derbal Yarragan (the Swan River estuary). Sandra Hill was the second speaker at this session. She informed us of the continuing injustice meted out to indigenous peoples and of the unfair bureaucracy when aborigines had to formally apply for citizenship in their own land. Sandra, a Yorga of the Noongar people, was one of the ‘stolen children’ and from 1958 was not allowed contact with her family for 27 years.
One of the most helpful things at AYM was on the first official day, Saturday afternoon. This was a meeting for ‘first timers’ to meet with the Pastoral Care Team and learn a little of the procedures of the AYM. We received invaluable advice. The most important being: ‘Don’t try to do everything!’ I was very glad of this advice and on several occasions I slipped off to swim, catch up on sleep or just visit the YM office to browse. It was very refreshing to see that Alan and I were not the only NZers at AYM, as we soon met Robert Howell, the newly appointed Peace and Earthcare worker, and Joanne Hall, the NZ YF representative.
The method of AYM is very different to ours in Aotearoa/New Zealand. We are sent Documents in Advance and we then consider them in our Monthly meetings. These minutes are then sent back to YM Clerks, collated and sent back to MMs for further consideration. The minutes from these considerations are then collated and we receive these when we arrive at Yearly Meeting. It was interesting to experience an alternate way of doing things. I enjoyed the preparatory meetings that I attended and found it a good way to learn more about the particular concerns.