Know Thy Friend: Aletia Dundas

Aletia Dundas

Peter Jones, Tasmania Regional Meeting

Although Aletia has frequently been thought of as a birth right Friend, her parents only joined Wahroonga Meeting after hearing about Quakers on a radio programme when she was three years old. With her younger siblings, she then grew up in the Children’s Meeting along with other families at a time when there were many other children, so as time passed she could participate in Junior Young Friends camps and what she referred to as “Youth Groove”.  Many of these camps were at Werona, the Quaker rural bush property in Kangaroo Valley, south of Sydney.

Growing up in Sydney, Aletia went on to Macquarie University to study psychology, creating new friendship groups as she got older, and finally applying for membership of the Society of Friends in her early twenties. Her first job after graduation was as a Human Resources assistant, still in Sydney, but drawing up employment contracts wasn’t fulfilling a more spiritual urge to do meaningful work. So, maintaining her Quaker involvement, she took part in a Young Adult Leadership Development Programme for seven weeks at Pendle Hill, the American Quaker college near Philadelphia. Immersed in a Quaker community, working as part of the grounds crew and volunteering with marginalised communities in Philadelphia, she gained a stronger sense of the direction of her life’s work. This set her off thinking more deeply about Service involvement, so her next job was as an administrative assistant with Christian World Service, the aid agency of the National Council of Churches in Australia. Meanwhile her further pursuit of academia led her on to do a Masters in Peace and Conflict Studies.

In 2006-2007, Aletia lived in Geneva, working as a programme assistant at the Quaker United Nations Office. There her focus was on involvement in the Peace and Disarmament Programme, while a developing interest in Restorative Justice led her to conduct research into that subject. While in Geneva she participated in discussions in the early days of the Peacebuilding Commission, organised the famous Quaker House lunches, took classes in French, and also co-organised the summer school in August 2007.

Back in Australia, she commenced work as a Project Officer with Quaker Service Australia, operating out of the Devonshire Street Meeting House. Here her focus was on indigenous programmes which led her to visit projects in Western Australia and Queensland.

From QSA, Aletia moved on to work for several years with APHEDA (Australian People for Health Education and Development Abroad) again as a project officer, but this time travelling overseas, particularly to the Solomon Islands which she visited on a number of occasions. This career path led her on to her next job with the Uniting Church where she took on several roles, including as an International Programs Manager with UnitingWorld where she frequently visited projects in Papua New Guinea. In 2016 Aletia spent three months in Palestine as an Ecumenical Accompanier, providing protective presence for those nonviolently opposing the occupation. As the Disaster Preparedness and Response focal point at UnitingWorld, she says she met some inspiring individuals in the region including those at the Pacific Conference of Churches, which is based in Fiji.

 This in turn led her to her current position with Act for Peace as International Partnerships and Programmes Manager. Act for Peace is the new name of Christian World Service, the same organisation where she had begun her journey in the aid and development sector almost 20 years ago, and the organisation that hosts the ecumenical accompaniment program, so it felt in many ways like a coming home.

 Although she grew up in Wahroonga Meeting, as an adult Aletia is now more involved with the Devonshire Street Meeting, though she acknowledges the sustaining value of the bush setting she visited regularly as a young person. Her wealth of experience with Friends, led to the recent invitation to deliver the State of the Society Report to the most recent Yearly Meeting, albeit delivered on ZOOM.

 

Aletia’s photo of shepherding in Palestine

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