Greetings from Australian Friends in Canberra (meeting place in the language of the
Ngunnawal people, traditional custodians of the land). Summer School study themes,
climate change, sustainable living, the role of elders, and compassionate
communication, provided the ambience of the Meeting – along with 390C heat and the
faint smell of bushfires.
Friends are concerned about the excessive use and depletion of the earth’s finite
resources, and our need to care for the earth. More than 30 Friends held a peace vigil
at the gates of the headquarters of the Australian Defence Force Joint Operational
Command near Canberra. In an amiable exchange, they presented to a senior officer a
statement calling for a renewed focus on building peace. We recognise our
responsibility to offer spiritual as well as practical leadership at local, regional, national
and international levels.
For us the relationship between earth-care and peace work is central, as is the extent to
which we will continue to fund our Peace and Earth-care Office established in 2012.
When we as Friends are most passionate about issues but are vigilant in following
proper Quaker process, we move more easily to unity. Division and conflict arise when
we neglect deep silence in the Meeting for Worship for Business. A vibrant group of
younger Friends took up the challenge of earth-care by imagining, designing and
constructing Australian towns for 2050.
A significant shift in thinking led the Meeting to establish a Children’s Fund as a resource
for developing programs for children and Junior Young Friends (JYFs). The move
addresses a long-felt need to nourish our children and bring them more fully into the life
of the Meeting, possibly by appointing a paid coordinator. We delight in the fact that
children and JYFs make up about 17 per cent of this year’s gathering. Australians
attending the 6th Friends World Conference admired the great diversity among Friends
across the world.
Recommendations from a comprehensive review of Quaker Service Australia (QSA),
(Australia Yearly Meeting’s aid organisation) were largely accepted. They encourage a
closer relationship between QSA and Yearly Meeting by more fully involving Regional
Meeting appointees. They also suggested ways to enable the organisation to be more
Jocelyn Bell Burnell, British Quaker and professional astronomer, in her Backhouse
Lecture, explained how – in billions of years – the physical universe is getting colder,
darker, emptier. Three days later, with Friends aged 6 to 17, she explored the Mount
Stromlo Observatory, the home of major scientific and astronomical discoveries.
Our challenge now is: how to continue to believe in a loving Spirit, which can guide our
actions; that is, how to use intuitive knowledge and experience to balance scientific logic.
We need our hearts as well as our heads.