Silver Wattle Committee and Community Gathering and Board Retreat 12-16 January 2024

Trish Johnson, Queensland Regional Meeting

“Acknowledging the past and preparing for an uncertain future”


This Gathering was held as the second cyclone was approaching North Queensland along with fires, floods and heatwaves in other states. This reminder of the need to adapt and prepare for major climate challenges was an appropriate background to our meeting.

 Due to Covid, there had been no face to face gathering since 2019 for the Silver Wattle Committees and Board, and there was a strong desire to come together in community. We also saw a need to check in with our vision and purpose and consider what might be needed in a rapidly changing climate and world.

 The gathering was attended by 25 Friends, including the Silver Wattle Board, members from each of the Committees, a resident Elder, and Company Members. The two Centre Coordinators, Emily Chapman-Searle and Yarrow Goodley, did a wonderful job looking after us and found time to make valuable contributions to discussions. Our cook, Sam Hawker, created exceptionally tasty and largely plant-based meals, many sourced from our own garden. Praise for the food was universal!


The Purpose of this gathering was threefold:

  • Time for the Silver Wattle Committees and community to gather in person in worship and discussion, to recall and celebrate the story thus far, and to consider what is needed to position Silver Wattle in a changing climate and world;
  • Opportunity for the SW Board to meet and work face to face, to share spiritual retreat time together, and to hear the voices and ideas of those serving Silver Wattle;
  • To learn from a two-day eco-literacy workshop with Rowe Morrow to follow up the 2013 Property Management Plan, to evaluate how to care for and restore this land, to maintain its resilience, while acknowledging our responsibility.


From Friday night through Saturday and Sunday Rowe Morrow led us through a series of experiential eco-literacy workshops including an overview of permaculture design, ecological systems and restoration, all grounded in our Quaker culture. We were invited to experience and read the landscape through all our senses. Using observation we explored strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats at Silver Wattle. There were opportunities to evaluate the ecology of Silver Wattle, the Property Management Plan and to identify future actions. Small groups assessed the eco-stability and resilience of Silver Wattle, and were invited to record our vision and “dreams” for the next 100 years.

 Rowe’s teaching and our discussions were enhanced by the artistic skills of Siobhan Harpur, adding another dimension to our feeling and understanding for the work we are doing.

 There was an opportunity for committee members to work together, meet with the Board, and join with others to share and gain new insights. Work on the property was done by willing hands: fixing machinery, work in the vegetable garden, checking on our extensive revegetation plantings, walking on the land and weeding an early infestation of St John’s Wort on the hillside.

 Plans, Projects and Improvements

On Monday we heard from SWQC Board Clerk John Baker and Treasurer Jonathan Benyei of significant improvements to increase safety and capacity, and to ensure viability and sustainability of Silver Wattle since first coming here in 2009, especially since the property was purchased from the Catholic Church in 2011. Future plans and projects include the new machinery shed, an Equal Access Unit, new laundry and creative arts space, a library and museum space and possible new quarters for Centre Coordinators and volunteers. We heard of long delays, staff and regulation changes by the local Shire Council, all of which have hindered progress.

 Silver Wattle functions with a Quaker process of committees to discern, recommend and sometimes oversee life and activities on site. Each committee shared their role, work and challenges. We heard from the Board, Advisory Committee, Elders, Finance & Risk, Landcare & Orchard, Library & Museum, Programs & Learning Committees plus Company Members. Current Coordinators Emily Chapman-Searle and Yarrow Goodman spoke of changes, goals and challenges and brought valuable perspectives. This lively and informative session gave new insights and a sense of security regarding the health and well-being of Silver Wattle.

Revegetation:  The Tank field in 2014, and at present

Spiritual space

Daily Meeting for Worship and Epilogue with our faithful Elder Catherine Heywood was a precious opportunity to be in spiritual community, to seek discernment for both the present and the future, and to experience the blessing and the responsibility of this precious place. Our experience affirmed the value of the role of Elders to support and deepen our activities, courses and life at Silver Wattle. One participant wrote of “the wonderful, tender and uplifting eldering”, noting prayerful support throughout the weekend. We are aware of Elder Trees and First Nations sacred places here, and Rowe invited us to consider what it is to be a Spiritual Place.

 Friends observed that Spirit comes through when we spend time together and on this land which both heals and restores us. We are reminded that Friends at the initial Quaker Centre Retreat in 2009 in the Blue Mountains spent four days in worship to discern the way forward.

 Outcomes from Rowe’s Workshop

We were challenged to think more deeply about the meaning of this land, and there was a growing appreciation of Silver Wattle as a sacred responsibility. Anne Felton told the geological story of this place, taking us into deep time and unique aspects of what we have come to hold as a place for our spirituality. Indigenous people almost certainly lived its waters, plants, shelter, rocks, springs and abundance. How can we live in ways that respect all this?  

 Rowe writes positively of our stewardship: “… how absolutely, extraordinarily well the various co-ordinators and committees have served Silver Wattle since 2013. The spirit, if not the actual outline from 2013 has been largely followed … and there were no recommendations for strong deviation”.

 Responses to Identified Issues

Ideas flowed from Rowe’s workshop about a future Vision for the Land. A range of broad issues for discussion had been identified and circulated, with an invitation to write comments. Some small group sessions discussed several of these, and the main ideas are summarised below.

 Vision for the Land: The value of the whole property, freehold and Crown land licences was affirmed, with emphasis on the integrity of the area covering the full ecological range from the ridges, the scarps, the flats and the lake. We need to explore ways to share the sacredness of this place with Australian Quakers and others, and continue to build relationships and community locally.

 First Nations Peoples: We need to face the challenge of decolonising ourselves and the community, to value listening and learning circles, to encourage intergenerational engagement with this land, to map indigenous sites/marks/artefacts and develop a Fact Sheet summarising the ecology and sites in collaboration with local First Nations people.

 Relationship between Silver Wattle and AYM:  Silver Wattle is part of the Australian Quaker landscape and experience:  yin and yang part of a single whole, but distinct from one another. We have AYM Liaison on the SW Advisory Committee. Shared commitments include indigenous concerns and events, interest in supporting children and youth, such as the popular Easter Family Gathering and support for other JYF and YF Gatherings, and Zoom support and “pods” for AYM online.

 Vision for a Silver Wattle Library, Archive & Museum, Writing Ministry: The Library & Museum Committee envisions an expanded Library and a Quaker Museum to be a primary resource for Quaker studies and to be a repository of items of lasting significance to Quaker life and witness. A series of published essays to bring forth the writing gifts and ministry of Australian Friends, perhaps with longer works in due course, is being considered.

 Overall Outcomes for this Gathering

  • Our community felt enriched, nurtured, and strengthened. The gathering was a time of sharing worship, caring for each other with tenderness, and allowing gifts to find voice.
  • We are aware that we need to honour this land and its First Peoples, and to enhance its spiritual and healing potential.
  • The Silver Wattle Board was enabled to engage deeply, confirm priorities, and affirm the security and strength of the management of the Centre.
  • We increased our eco-literacy, gained a broad and personal view of the dimensions of land care, and identified weaknesses and opportunities to care for this special place.

 We end with words from Rowe Morrow:

“We are not really equipped yet to know how to manage, live on and love this land and will have to find out ways to do this. The beginning steps since 2013 are very promising showing care, integrity and reduction of harm and restoration.  This Gathering is a step towards that builds on it. There will need to be more Gatherings of this kind.”

 Silver Wattle is a resource for Quakers in Australia, and we welcome seekers of all faiths, and none. We offer a space for sojourners, gatherings and time working on the land as well as a range of courses in 2024, focusing on Caring for Land, Quaker Basics, Poetry & Spirit, Artists Retreat, Clerking Retreat, Listening to the Landscape, Windows to the Soul.

Look up


Contributed by Trish Johnson, Ann Zubrick, Rowe Morrow

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