Know thy Friend: Harold Wilkinson

Harold Wilkinson

Peter Jones, Tasmania Regional Meeting

Harold Wilkinson was born in Western Australia, coming from a farming family there. His father, Laurie, was an Anglican while mother, Nancy, was a Congregationalist.  Disillusioned with the weak stand of the Anglican church on social justice issues during the Depression years, they turned to the Oxford Group and Moral Rearmament movement. In Perth, Laurie had moved towards taking a stand as a Conscientious Objector so met Cyril Gare, a local Quaker, who introduced the family to Mount Lawley Meeting, which they joined soon after the Pacific War ended. With their strong commitment to social justice, both his parents joined the Labor Party and stood for pre-selection as candidates for Federal Parliament.

 Harold attended local primary schools, Perth Modern School, and then went on to the University of Western Australia (UWA) to study Agricultural Science, continuing to do his PhD there on Soil Science and Plant Nutrition.  He strengthened his involvement in Quakerism through attending Young Friends camps and Yearly Meetings as well as joining the Student Christian Movement. Cyril Gare told him about a course at the International Peace Academy in Vienna in 1970 and from there he continued to Canada to pursue his studies at Guelph University in Ontario. There he met Barry Hollister from the Quaker UN Office in New York and went to work at the QUNO office from 1971 to 1975, concentrating on youth related activities and Conscientious Objection as a human right. He attended Mornington Heights Meeting in New York and was put on the Quaker UN Committee as a ‘young person’ and non-American!

 Heading across the Atlantic to England, they ended up in London where Harold’s wife, Nancy, found a job with the Quaker Childcare Project in Islington while Harold looked after their two young children, Rohan and Anna. Harold also returned to Philadelphia on a fund raising venture to raise money for establishing a more permanent location for the burial ground of George Fox (he had died in London in 1691). On his way back to Australia, Harold spent some time in Washington DC with Friends National Committee on Legislation (FNCL) before they all returned to Perth in 1978. His absence during these years, meant that he never got to see his father in Canberra where he has served as an ALP Senator, the party the family had become involved in because of their passion for social justice from 1968 to 1975.

 Looking for a new home with more congenial weather, the family headed for Sydney but were waylaid in Canberra where they joined forces with the Purnell family and became part of Canberra Meeting. Nancy found a job in the public service while Harold once again looked after the children at home, before he too eventually joined the public service. At Meeting, he became involved with the Peace Committee and later with the FWCC Asia-West Pacific Committee, joining forces with Ronis Chapman and Michael Searle in the FWCC Asia-West Pacific Committee. This was also a time when he became involved with the United Nations Association, serving on the local committee as well as the Federal Committee where he became President and Secretary. Nancy had died in 2002 and Harold remarried while getting involved in more Quaker concerns. This work has continued with his ongoing commitment to the Quaker Peace and Legislation Committee with David Purnell and Margaret Clark.




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1 Comment

  1. David Swain

    My goodness, Harold, you’re really a soil scientist! How wonderful!


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