Peter Jones, Tasmania Regional Meeting
Maddy Walker is Tasmanian, although she was born in Canberra when her parents were working there. Like many other Friends, denominationally she came from elsewhere, in this case, a strong Catholic upbringing, but always rebellious as a child, she asked too many questions and continues to do so.
Today, the mother of three girls, she is teaching Comparative Religion to Years 10-12 students at The Friends’ School in Hobart where she is also a co-clerk of Tasmania Regional Meeting.
Her parents had defied the order of the day by getting married when her father was a devout Catholic, while her mother was an Anglican. Her dad came from one of those traditions where there was always a priest in the family so not surprisingly she got sent to a Catholic primary school.
Her parents came back to Hobart when she was six and dutifully she took her first Holy Communion then got confirmed. At her Catholic girls’ school, she got into trouble for asking too many questions when the teacher’s response was always a reference to a Biblical text which is not a useful starting point for a thoughtful teenager who wants to know why. Not surprisingly, she left the Catholic Church at fourteen but Religion remained a topic for table talk at home, fairly unusual in this day and age.
Fortunately her parents knew Peter Underwood, then Chairman of the Board of Governors at The Friends’ School and later Governor of Tasmania before his untimely death. He suggested that Maddy switch to Friends where she arrived in Year 10, still alienated from the education system but in her own words, “Always a Questioner”. Once again, serendipity played a part in her life, as she had three inspiring teachers in her final year at school and opted to do Religion as a Humanities subject, attracted by the inclusion of Buddhism and Hinduism in the syllabus.
Her father suggested that Arts/Law would provide a suitable starting course for her at the University of Tasmania but having decided on her own priorities, she switched to Psychology and Philosophy. Her thesis was on how Religion was being taught in Southern Tasmania, though she admits she never finished it. Her interests then directed her to pursue her commitment to yoga and meditation so, having graduated, she headed off for three months to Osho’s (formerly The Bhagwan) community in Pune in India, though the guru himself had died some years earlier.
A relationship blossomed into a partnership with Ben Walker and two babies were born in rapid succession, while Maddy as the main breadwinner in her household, took up various teaching posts around Hobart. When a temporary Religion teacher was needed at Friends’ School, she took up the position and this rekindled her interest in Quakerism and she started to attend Meeting for Worship. Despite her alienation from her Catholic upbringing, she liked the feeling of belonging to a religious community and decided to become a Member. Maddy moved on to another teaching post at a private girls’ school after her year at Friends’, then took up the challenge of teaching “Kids at Risk” before moving back to Year 11-12 college classes in the State system – and having another baby.
At this point, John Green as principal at The Friends’ School, was looking for another Quaker coordinator and offered Maddy the job. This involved working with teachers across K-12 levels, organising Gatherings for year groups once a week (too complicated to explain here but it does involve a time of silence and reflection) and explaining Quakerism to the wider school community. While working at another college, she had been involved with international students, where she admits she felt bad about her lack of qualifications when it came to listening to their problems but was impressed by the counselling skills the college offered. Ever practical, Maddy then took on a Masters Degree in Counselling, on top of her work at a state college and then Friends’ as well as being the mother of three growing girls.
After five years as Quaker coordinator, she returned to full time teaching at Friends’ that included teaching Studies in Religion, the course she had taken herself as a teenager.
Maddy isn’t sure where her life will take her next, given that all her children will have left school by the time she reaches a half century, though travel always remains an attraction – as it does for so many Friends. She feels that she has found a spiritual home but continues to ask questions. Teaching Comparative Religion offers the opportunity to examine other faiths, and one highlight of the Studies in Religion course at Friends’ School is an annual trip to Melbourne to meet with members of the Islamic and Jewish communities there, including two of their schools.
Her husband, a practical man who works with wood, wants to go sailing overseas in an old boat so if anyone can offer them one in a few years time, you know who to contact.