About QLA

QLA – Creating, nurturing and holding an Australian Quaker learning space.

QLA carries forward the strong historical commitment of Friends to seeking.

It’s a lily-pad. That is the metaphor we’ve chosen to capture the idea of supporting from beneath, rather than controlling from above. We are here to gather and disseminate information about learning opportunities. Where opportunity arises, we will encourage the development of new resources and programs.

We are in the business of supporting Friends who feel led to create and lead those opportunities, not in the business of delivering them.

The name “Quaker Learning Australia” was agreed at mid-year Standing Committee (2008) as a way of differentiating between the Meeting for Learning retreat program, and the work of the committee.

Quaker Learning Australia is a committee of the Australia Yearly Meeting of the Religious Society of Friends (Quakers) under the care of Tasmania Regional Meetinng.  The committee consists of Lyndsay Farrall, Stephanie Farrall, Shiobhan Harpur, Alison Imbriotis, Pamela Leach, Robin McLean, Margaret Mollison, Jen Newton, Katherine Purnell, Felicity Rose, Jenny Seaton, Kevin Sheldon.’

We continue to explore on-line learning.

You may have skills or resources to offer or ideas about Quaker learning; you may have identified a need to be met or want to report on something you’ve tried. Feel free to contact any member of the committee – we will welcome your contribution.

The QLA site will evolve and develop, as a learning site should. We welcome your further visits, and also any suggestions you have for content or capability.

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Children and Young People

Quaker Learning Australia – now based in Hobart Regional Meeting – has discerned that the current issues for the Society include thinking about Children at the Centre of the Meeting. Jenny Turton was appointed in 2014 as the Children & JYF Coordinator for AYM. She shares a newsletter which can be emailed to you quakersaustraliacjyf@gmail.com


Many Friends have practiced Quaker values in their child-rearing and educating and we have chosen some writings to stimulate further thought.

From Elise Boulding’s 1996 Backhouse Lecture to Australia Yearly Meeting ‘Our Children, Our Partners’


Yes, we underestimate our children.


Let us confess the miracle that so many children manage to grow up socially and spiritually whole. The God-seed is already present at birth. Some are in environments where the seed gets loving care and tending. We hope this is true for the children of our Meetings. Many more somehow find nurture in less supportive environments. Children can be sensitive to precious moments of beauty and caring opened up by an adult or another child in situations that might not even be noticed by others on the scene. Children can see beyond surfaces, and find hidden caring when it is there, including the caring of an often out-of-control and abusive parent. That capacity for in-depth seeing on the part of the abused child becomes a resource for breaking the often vicious cycle of abused children becoming abusing parents.


And then there are the children who apparently live in utterly barren and loveless settings, yet the seed of the spirit comes to flowering as the child matures. Somewhere in that child’s life a word of love has been spoken. With that word, the seed can flourish in barren soil, like the tree that takes root in a rocky crevice of a steep mountain side. The tree will grow toward the sky, nourished by the barest minimum of crumbled forest debris that winds have swept into the crevice, and by occasional trickles of water from passing storms.


Robert Coles, the psychiatrist who spent a lifetime studying and working with seriously troubled children, came to see after 30 years of this work that he had been ignoring a profound spiritual sensitivity that kept coming through in children’s responses to his very secular questions about their lives. Realizing that he had been missing something basic about how they were dealing with their lives, he then devoted several years to interviewing 8 to 12-year-old Muslim, Christian and Jewish children as well as children with no religious identification, about their faith and belief. These were all youngsters with serious problems.

Discovering an awesome spiritual maturity and self-insight in their answers to his questions about the meaning of life and their views of God, good and evil, he came to understand that children coped with their lives at a far deeper level than psychiatric analysis alone could reveal. They were being nurtured by sometimes very fragmentary sources of which the adults around them would not have been aware. A word of love had somehow been spoken to them.


from AYM website Quakers.org.au – under Publications-Backhouse Lectures                        

two bright sparks 

As a result of Elise’ visit these queries were compiled

Children and Quaker Meeting. Queries and Ideas

A collection drawn from the life of Australia Yearly Meeting


Queries to adults

Do you value the children in your Meeting and help make them feel welcome?

Do you seek opportunities to involve children actively in every aspect of the life of the Meeting?

Do you remember that caring involves creating and environments where each child feels safe?

When children seem a burden or interruption to your adult plans are you able to adopt a flexible, balanced approach to ensure their needs are met as well as yours?

Are you open to the ministry of children of all ages, however it may be expressed?

Do you pass on your Quaker values and beliefs in an effective way?

Do you involve children in your Meeting’s decision making?

What do we want to pass on to our children?


Awareness of God.

To give children a sense of their own worth?

To look at the world as a whole and not a lot of separate parts?

To know their own or others’ rights –including the Rights of the Child

To have a sense of their own protection and how to ask for help.

Reverence for the universe – a deep awareness of the natural world.

That everyone needs to give and receive love.

Sensitivity to gender issues.

That everyone is equal.

The gifts of love.

A love of music and the arts.

A love of precise, coherent and accurate communication.

A sense of fun – no guilt – a joy of life – a sense of their own uniqueness.

A sense of humanness and fellowship – the reality that making money is only a means to an end.

Stories from the Bible, Aborigines and Quakers. A love of life.

To be sure first, then courageous about convictions.

This planet is alive.


A sense of worth in all things and in themselves.

To be friends with older and younger people, even with their own parents.

Quaker values.

A closer sense of right and wrong – truth, beauty.

Acceptance of different lifestyles.

A questioning of authority.

Courtesy – respect for dignity and the needs of others.

Appreciating people’s differences. A sense of belonging to a Quaker community.

Queries to children

Why do we go to Meeting?

Have you made friends with some adults in the Meeting? Would you like to?

Is the Meeting a place where you think about the kind of person you would like to be?

Do you look for that of God in others that you meet?

What are the good things you have seen in yourself today?

Do you accept responsibility for what you do?

What is the importance of truth?

How can you sort out arguments that you become involved in without using violence?

What can you do to make your Meeting a more Friendly place?


Compiled by Children’s Committee Australia Yearly Meeting January 1996 – Canberra based


‘Respecting the Rights of Children & Young People’

Helen Bayes gave the 2003 Backhouse Lecture


Participation and Respect for Quaker Children


p 24Human rights standards apply equally to Quaker children and young people. In considering our Friends who are under the age of eighteen years, it is important to look at all the rights contained in the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child. However, the rights which I want particularly to raise here are the rights to participation in our religious and cultural life (Articles 14 and 31), to participate in decision-making (Article 12) and, in the following subsection, the right to be protected from harm (Article19). Many improvements to children’s status depend on these particular rights.


The first Yearly Meeting Business Session in which children participated as equals was an Open Session of Regional Meeting Children’s Committees in 1984. This occasion created the opening for the Junior Young Friends to ask that their spoken ministry “be accepted in the light of a gathered meeting and not commented on by adults”. This is a very important reflection on their status. The main outcome was that Australia Yearly Meeting recommended to Regional Meetings that “Queries on children should be read out loud in Regional Meeting at least quarterly to keep the corporate responsibility for the children of the

Regional Meeting before us.” Did any meetings do this for long?


At Australia Yearly meeting 1998, Young Friends and Junior Young Friends explained their expectation of respect and participation, in more detail:


…we would like older Quakers to know that often we feel what we say in Meeting is treated with disrespect. This disrespect either looks like what we have said is inappropriate and is ignored, or that we are gushed over and we feel patronised. …We speak because the Spirit moves us. …We don’t want to stop you from thanking us for our contribution, but we’d like you to address the content rather than the age of the speaker. Some of the older Young Friends no longer feel this disrespect,

however some of us remember it…


The Yearly Meeting responded rather paternalistically by suggesting a system of mentors for Young Friends “to assist them in understanding what is going on” in business sessions. This has not been taken up. However, in a 2000 Summer School Workshop, Young Friends demonstrated some powerful ways to strengthen friendship and trust between younger and older Friends. They reported that the workshop made a “reaffirmation that older F/friends believe in us and want us.” Since that Yearly Meeting, Young Friends have been able to nominate two representatives to any Yearly Meeting committee and any usual requirement about membership of the Society is waived for them.


When adults show they are really willing to listen, children and young people take very seriously the opportunity to state their views and experiences. Sandy Parker (Victoria Regional Meeting) has found that Junior Young Friends epistles “value and affirm the mutuality” of relationships with adults. He goes on to explain some goals:


Participation and partnership …involves working in such a way that the traditional power balance between generations shifts in favour of young people taking up more responsibility, and in consequence developing personally, socially and spiritually…It is not an abdication of responsibility, rather it is a change from a relationship of dependence to one of partnership… It is a way of relating that demands our full acceptance of their autonomy, independence and individuality.


Australia Yearly Meeting re-established the Yearly Meeting Children’s Committee in 1987, to “foster the flow of ideas between Regional Meetings to encourage the more effective involvement of children and young people in Meetings” and to “encourage the formation of links between individual adults and children in the Society.” This Committee created a surge of initiatives between 1987-97: it adopted Penn Friends in 1988 to encourage correspondence between younger and older Friends, released a guide to planning children’s meetings and produced the leaflet we still use on Children and Quaker Meetings. Then it developed guidelines for the children’s programs at Australia Yearly Meetings and restored a Young Friends’ page to the Australian Friend. In 1994, it enabled all children’s meetings to connect meaningfully with the Friends World Committee for Consultation Triennial Gathering by making a ‘Rainbow of Hope’ banner which was displayed at the Triennial (New Mexico, 1994) and then sent to various Friends’ communities around the world. It also prompted Australia Yearly Meeting to put the issue of child participation on the Triennial agenda.

…In 1996, Elise Boulding of Intermountain Yearly Meeting (USA) gave the Backhouse Lecture, Our Children, Our Partners in which she strongly encouraged Friends to respect the views and ideas of the children and young people in our meetings, and to involve them in committees and planning events. Elise Boulding pointed out that an egalitarian relationship with children and young people is much more than nurturing, teaching and providing safety, and she called on all Friends “to involve every child and every teenager in the full range of Quaker activity.”

In 1997, Australia Yearly Meeting included a worship session for ‘Friends of all ages’ and requested that this be included in the programs of future Yearly Meetings but this has not happened. There was a burst of interest in family Meetings for Worship but this faded quickly as individual Friends expressed their dislike of semi-programmed worship. Some Children’s Committees invite adult Friends to participate in “the Children’s Meeting”, but actual participation is close to nil, because people do not want to miss the “big Meeting”. Children’s experience of corporate worship is limited to ten minutes, sometimes less, at the end of ‘big meeting’ and taking part in the shaking of hands. Sometimes Friends are moved to give a summary of earlier ministry with the children in mind and this is often welcomed by older Friends as well as being helpful to children. Some meetings encourage children to speak about their own activity in the notices. But it seems to me that our Meetings, corporately, are not taking children’s need to experience worship and their real spiritual 23 experiences at all seriously, and see nothing in the sharing for ourselves! The plain fact is that we have not been able to sustain the joint adventure which Elise Boulding advocated and which would lead us into rich new spiritual experiences.

Some older Friends see this as a natural cycle, outside our control. When the number of children coming regularly to meeting declines, gatherings of the whole community get confined to special annual ‘family’ events or camps. The consequence of declining child participation in Meetings for Worship and Children’s Meetings is that parents with young children give up attending Quaker meetings as a family. Some turn to the churches for Sunday School and family services which their children find more interesting and more fun. Then it becomes more or less impossible to interest teenagers in Quaker meeting unless they are already friends with others of their own age group who attend.


Meantime Quaker practices are ever-increasingly focussed on serving the spiritual struggles, emotional neediness and social concerns of adults – serious business! Many of our members have no sense of connection with children and do not feel they have anything to share with them. Adults, on the other hand, give no place to fun and community singing in our spiritual practices. This is a spiritual loss to ourselves as well as to children.


It seems to me that some programmed and semi-programmed worship, in which our children participate as equals, would open us to new experiences of wonder, simple truths and joy. Let us give time to joyful, light-hearted ways to worship, for in these we will find healing and renewed humility. Let us also give as much respect to children’s spiritual insights and discoveries as we give to those of older Friends.


Protecting Quaker Children from Harm


Quaker children are vulnerable to many things in their childhood, just as all children are. They are also just as likely to suffer distress and a sense of helplessness over things happening to their friends and peers. The sorts of suffering experienced in childhood have not changed over the centuries. They include physical and mental abuse, sexual exploitation, domestic violence, bullying, separation from, and loss of, loved ones. What has changed is that we understand much better the long-term impact of unhealed childhood trauma and grief. Children are also now more likely to know what is going on around them and to be much better informed about services to help them.


But we cannot and must not leave all this to the general community services. Quaker children need to be protected and supported about their experiences, in the context of our faith and worship. When we do not address these issues, Quakerism has little relevance to the children’s reality. Yet corporately we have turned away from our children and young people because their realities will discomfort our own. It is the same dilemma as that which faced Friends in the 18th century and we are responding with a new sort of quietism. But the response today is entirely different for it excludes children rather than focussing on .


The best source of advice on how to communicate better and make openings between the generations is young people themselves. A ‘Share and Tell’ on the issue of sexual harassment and assault among Friends was held at Australia Yearly Meeting 1998. This was attended by sixteen Friends, most of whom knew of instances of harassment either within Australia Yearly Meeting or involving Friends. A Young Friend reported that Young Friends’ camp 1998 was free of drugs and sexual activity. However, she would have appreciated some preparation for what she experienced at her first Young Friends’ camp…


The worst thing about private violence and abuse is the damage it does to the victim’s and the perpetrator’s ability to feel and listen to the Spirit within. This injury is far above and beyond any physical damage. Interpersonal violence is an attack on God’s presence. Early Friends rejected violence because of their sacred duty to greet and nurture that of God in everyone. Today, with all our knowledge and our reasons for caution, we can and, I believe, must ask the Spirit for guidance, in both our worship and our social witness, on how to care for those who are suffering, or have suffered, violence and sexual exploitation.


from AYM website Quakers.org.au – under publications Backhouse Lectures


Include reference to Child Protection Policy of AYM

From Tracy Bourne’s Backhouse Lecture 2014 – Our Life is Love, and peace, and tenderness


A Call to Authenticity

p 45 Children teach us about ourselves, through our presence in our lives as well as the demands they make on us. Children change us, just as the world changes us. Children open us up to love; through their beauty, their vulnerability, their honesty and the incredible love they share.


Children intuitively understand the spirituality of nature through their bodies, and delight in it.


Their joy is infectious and a sign of God’s love.


Children remind us that God is in our bodies. They demonstrate that our flesh is not just a vessel – it is the Spirit, just as all of Nature is Spirit. When we are with children we no longer need to feel ashamed of our physical limitations. Children love us just as we are.


Children are authentic, they call us to be authentic too.


Authenticity means that we are honest with ourselves, even when we don’t like what we see. It means we listen to our own urgings, and through quiet contemplation, discern what we are trying to tell ourselves. It means moving beyond embarrassment for the sake of saying or doing what needs to be said. It means moving beyond a fear that we are not good enough, and trusting that we will find the strength.


Authenticity is about moving beyond our ego, and living in the Spirit so that we can act with love. It means standing apart from our name, our age, our educational background, our public status. It means standing as if naked, just as our children do, ready to take on what is asked of us.


We belong to the world. We belong to God. When we live simply, as children, then we see our true beauty in the world around us.


We are yearning for spiritual renewal. The deep crises in the world are hurting us, and we need to gather together in love. We need it, and the world needs us to get on with it.


from AYM website Quakers.org.au – under publications Backhouse Lectures





from Report on the workshop ‘Bringing Children and JYFs into the Centre of Quaker Life, 1-4 April, 2012 Silver Wattle Quaker Centre, organized by the Australian Yearly Meeting Children and Junior Young Friends Committee

What  works  for  me/what  has  gone  well  in  meetings  for  worship  with  children:  

Worship sharing responses:

  • Deeper sense of quiet when I can sit with my child. Children deepen a meeting. She has chosen that moment and practiced it.
  • Children open the hearts of people. I have seen my granddaughter moved into the meeting with ease. This happens when her friends are there and she wants to spend time with them.
  • Get a space for the younger children with a carer to sit with them in the meeting. I don’t know if it is better for it be at the beginning or the end of meeting.
  • The children gather in a circle. We have a special candle that we put in the middle of the room and then light. All the children sit around the candle in silence. It used to be a little bit rowdy, but the children have started to settle and they are used to it now. When someone is appointed to break the silence and the candle is blown out, we then share things; something that people are interested in, etc. I find that really beautiful because the group seems to form into a pattern. Then we do the activity. The lovely thing is that at the end when we go into the adult’s meeting. The children then share with the adults, after they are welcomed. Some are very shy, and some are proud of the work they’ve done.
  • We meet once a month at someone’s house on the back verandah. The kids start and end with the adult meeting. The children usually determine the amount of time that they spend in the meeting. Last meeting my oldest boy spent the whole time in the meeting. He had books with him, and he laughed sometimes. It was a pleasure to have him in meeting. It’s always been difficult to keep my younger children in the meeting,. They are of the rowdy persuasion. We usually read for them or take them for a walk. We haven’t had a lot of luck finding suitable Quaker content for young kids. We have done cooking sometimes. I also want to say that the kids really like it. They like the contact with the adults but it’s an ongoing challenge. We experimented a couple of times with the kids running the meeting. It only lasted about 10 minutes, but it was nice to give them control of the meeting.
  • As a child I remember how precious the silence was. It was obviously something that was really special. I hope that our children grow up knowing that they participate not only through the silence, but that they may also be led to speak. And that we may be able to talk with them about the experience of speaking. That if the pounding comes then they might feel compelled to speak. As well as the testing – testing whether this is for me or for the meeting. Le courant passé – something special is happening. Children need to own the meeting for it to work really well so that they can sit in the silence and also speak out of the silence. Silence is much more than silence, it is also stillness.
  • Preparing time is important for my children when going to meeting. We have a 30 minute drive, so we have a chance to talk about any number of things. It helps to ground the kids. Because they have been going for some time, there are always welcomes and smiles for them. Often the kids don’t come in to the meeting in time because they are finishing off the activity. So I would like to try having them at the beginning of the meeting sometimes.
  • There are no children at our local meeting. There are 3 children who are JYFs who come to camp. When they did come, we have a separate space which is attached to the garage. It is outside. It’s good because of the noise issue. But it has been a long time since children came to our meeting.
  • Over the years, we have tried having the children at the end of the meeting, as well as at the beginning. It is quite different. For the last few years we have settled on children coming in at the beginning of the meeting. They come in with their parents and settle down a bit. Then we have the children’s meeting downstairs. We have a carer, nowadays it’s a paid carer to prepare things. The meeting member carer will be in the meeting for the first 10-15 minutes. She will bring the children down when she things it’s time. We have a fairly well developed program. We sit the children down in a circle, usually start with a story or an exchange. The children sometimes tell us about their experiences. We try to have a story, and a theme that was chosen for that day. At the end of a meeting, after announcements, the adults come down to the area where the children are – it is also our kitchen area – and the adults see the children’s work there.
  • A couple of years ago, the children’s interest group asked the carers to run a program. They were concerned that the children weren’t sticking to Quaker rules. The carers nutted out a program called boundaries. The intent of the program was that the children would explore the edges of things. What was acceptable and what was not acceptable. So we walked every boundary we could find – edge of the property. It was a very physical response. The conversations were very interesting. Often we wouldn’t get back to worship sharing because we were too busy. We planned it so it could be run at Mt Lawley and Freemantle. It was designed to run over 18 months. Some of the kids went to both Mt Lawley and Freemantle, so we had to do some spirit led and child led work so we wouldn’t repeat things. At one point we brought in a whole lot of natural objects and toys and asked the children to make a sculpture that represented their idea of boundaries. They came up with an amazing sculpture that covered the whole children’s room. We documented everything. So we were able to remind the kids of some of the things they said. It was a very reflective process. We made a lot of collages and some kids added to other people’s boundaries. After about 9 months of program we moved the kids into what did they want out of the program. They decided they wanted a thing that they could present to the meeting. They decided that they wanted a brightly coloured curtain that they could close over the window in winter and also open it up during summer. So they painted and created a curtain over the door. It was a painted silk curtain on the front and a velvet-backed curtain over the back. It was a two-pronged curtain that was sewn together and had images that supported their notions of boundaries including mapped border, beach images, stars that hung from the sky. When we asked the kids to say what Quakers had that others didn’t have, one kid said Quakers had persistence. The image we had for persistence was of someone riding a bike through sand. We needed some afternoon sessions to finish off these curtains. All the decisions were theirs, we just provided the skills. The Freemantle kids made a table cloth instead. So each kid had a fish that they drew, the fish had a speech bubble describing things that Quakers do.
  • Persistence is something that it is important for us to remember. A classic story for me is the stance that Woolman took against slavery and how long it took. One man said that he wouldn’t have sugar in his tea when he was 15 and it took until he was 80 before he had sugar in his tea again. When the children come into our meeting we have a change in energy. In many ways he haven’t figured out how best to deal with that. I do feel that there is a substantial positive energy coming in at that point. At YM the family friendly meetings seem to have worked well – they are an experiment, just like each of our meetings for worship. I have observed with Friends school and with young friends at residential gatherings, meeting in the evenings, outdoors, and doing something a little bit different can add to the wonder of a meeting for young people. When we were co-principals we had the experience of going to daily meeting for worship over 12 years. One of the things that continually struck me about that was that I never felt that it was a burden to go to meeting with different people. Quakers don’t always set ourselves up like that. It was very interesting to be part of a community where that happened. We met with children from the kindergarten group to the older children’s group. Parents and grandparents come too, except for the older children. One of the things that strikes me is that when you do have a multi age meeting for worship. There needs to be careful thought about the ministry. It mustn’t be maternalistic or paternalistic, in the negative meaning of those words. It needs ot be challenging to lift the young people. I’m not sure if we can do that in the last 10 minutes of a meeting. I’ve noticed in the school and the Sunday meeting that if an adult or a child ministers in a way that lifts people’s spirits to higher things that they pay attention. It is a particularly good antidote to restlessness. Because the young ones catch from the older ones that this is worthwhile. It is difficult to ensure that these things happen.
  • The state college Friends school in central Pennsylvania. A lot of their classes started off each day with a short meeting for worship. A lot of them also had a weekly meeting for worship for business for the class. • There are experiences of working with children where persistence is importance and where you need to get wisdom from others, and follow your own inner teacher as well.
  • We have a small number of children, who are fairly young. Most of the meeting is older people, possibly stodgy. We try to get a connection between the adults meeting and the children’s meeting. We get the children to pin up their work on the cork board, and the adults look at it. We could probably focus on that a bit more when the adults join the children. Also the children join the adult meeting and show them what they have been doing. Adults and children really enjoy that – I think we should do that more.
  • I grew up in a meeting as a child where we would join for the final 10 minutes. I felt that the meeting was a bit unsettled at the beginning, so the end seemed a better meeting for children to come in to. When I ran a children’s meeting then we could have a discussion about what we would do in the 10 minutes of the meeting before they would do it. Young friends meetings for worship would often be in places in the bush; like kangaroo valley. The meetings for worship are always outside unless it is raining. We sit on rocks, on broken branches, or in the caves. We had one meeting that refused to end in the caves. A lot of the young friends talk about that meeting for worship being the most special – perhaps because it is outside and perhaps it is because it is with peers. A lot of them say they don’t like going to the local meeting because it is inside, with chairs, and they don’t know the people so well. Meeting outside is quite different. The silence is deeper, and there is a different noticing as well.
  • I noticed that there wasn’t much interaction between older members in our meeting with JYFs. A lot of people seemed to need an invitation. I started a series that was intermittent called ‘what are Friends for?’ I invited a woman who had profound disabilities. She brought metal shoe devices that she had to wear when she was a child that looked like torture devices. She talked about going to Friends school. She talked about her own empowerment as someone who could take charge of her like. The JYFs went into meeting that day with a great deal of awe where they had first felt pity. Another visitor was someone who worked with deaf children in Tajikistan. They brought slides so that the JYFs could relate to the faces of the children. Another visitor was a doctor and she talked about how her work and her life as a Quaker has interconnected. The JYFs are ministering to these visitors because they get to tell their story where it may not have been heard before, even by Friends. The JYFs get a sense of having connected at a gritty level with someone else’s reality and of service as something that Quakers do.
  • I think it is good in a very small meeting, for the children to come in at the beginning of meeting, and for the children to decide how long they spend in meeting. When we have sessions with children in other situations, to start out and to end with silence is a really special thing and it is sometimes overlooked.
  • Hearing from a teacher who took the children on an excursion, the children asked for time for silence because they were in a really beautiful space.
  • The use of a candle can be really special. We use them at my children’s school and we use them at school. It helps to create that space. They are really easy to make too. Meetings for worship where we have a campfire is also quite special. Provided you are able to handle the people who like to play with fire. The quality of the silence is really special.


‘In the Spirit of the Family’ – Backhouse Lecture 1968 by Williams Oats


P30 …Let us take, for example, one of these ‘facts’, the so-called ‘aggressiveness’ of the young child and its ‘event’ or outcome which so often can take the form of a spate of destructiveness. This aggressiveness is a ‘fact’ of development. It is the drive at the base of the child’s desire to acquire mastery and build up confidence. He wants to do things for himself, to find out for himself; he is impatient when others would do things for him, he thirsts for knowledge and is eager for action. This aggressiveness then has a creative aspect, and only when it is frustrated does it turn to wilful destructiveness of person and of property. Experienced parents and teachers are not shocked at the ‘fact’ of aggressiveness – nor at its ‘event’ – they will indeed react not by ‘judging’ but by keeping on hand plenty of ideas and materials ready for such an emotional crisis. They know it’s much more satisfactory for the child (and the parent) to hammer nails into a block of wood than into the piano.


I have been constantly amazed at the swiftness with which a child’s behaviour can change its direction to flow from one to the other of the two courses just described. The important thing is that the home and the school should help the child deal creatively with this aggressiveness, or it will persist into adulthood in an anti-social form. That is why, I believe, war makes an appeal subconsciously to the masses of people. It represents a return to the emotional level of the nursery and provides an outlet for the destructive impulses which should have been outgrown in childhood, when violence was accepted as the only way to handle a frustrating situation. That is why war has such an incalculable effect on the outlook of the young child. Normally, the child finds that the creative expression of his aggressiveness receives the backing and approval of the adult world and this gives him confidence. But when the whole resources of the community are bent to destruction, the child, as it were, reasons within himself: ‘Why should I struggle with that part of me which says ‘destroy, destroy’, when the world proclaims the supremacy of the powers of darkness!’


The school and home must help the child to find creative outlets for this aggressive tendency. Art provides the young child such an outlet, particularly painting and modelling (if paper and paints are liberally supplied and clay is in really good supply). At one school during the war years we tried a minor experiment to test the effect of art upon the social behaviour of the 6-7 year olds. One class had two afternoons a week for painting, the other had none. The boys in the first class covered their paper with all the themes of war: splashes of red to represent bombs falling on ships, planes crashing and destruction let loose. The boys of the other group had no such outlet in art and this, I believe, caused them to seek an outlet in ‘destructive’ play – they incessantly ‘bashed’ each other in the playground, whereas the former group were much less anti-social in their play.


If education is conducted ‘in the spirit of the family’, the teacher then has a role akin to that of the parent – that of accepting the child as he is, so that the child can accept himself, believe in himself, and free himself from the fears and anxieties that have their root in self-hatred.


window paintings

window paintings

from AYM website Quakers.org.au – under publications – Backhouse Lectures



Elizabeth Watson, a US Friend wrote in 1989 ‘On Raising Children’


“’Freedom in a framework’ became one of our family phrases and part of the philosophy by which we tried to raise our children. Children need, and want, limits set. The framework ought to be expanding all the time as children and parents learn and grow, so that young people take increasing responsibility for setting their own limits and may as soon as possible become self-determining the and responsible human beings.”


“’I learned that ultimately we cannot protect our children from hardships, disease, accidents, encounters, with evil, even death. The best we can hope to do is to help them learn to take care of themselves, to accept responsibility for their actions, to care about people, and to acquire ‘coping skills’ through experience.”


“…I am glad we chose the city, Chicago – with all its violence, dirt, sordidness, and danger, but also its opportunities for learning, its sheer excitement, its neighbourliness, and its variety of people – as the place for our family to live. And our children are all glad they grew up there. They learned to take care of themselves in practical ways. And they learned what is more important: not to judge by their color, religion, place of origin, or economic status. These things have nothing to do with whether or not you can trust a person.”


from ‘Nine Contemporary Quaker Women Speak’ compiled by Leonard S. Kenworthy. Quaker Publications 1989 reprint 1992


Values: Challenges for Educators from Stephanie Farrall


Stephanie was co-principal of The Friends School Hobart when she gave this paper to the World Education Federation. We are on a life journey searching for the meaning of God in our own lives and encouraging those around us in their journey


Challenges for educators in helping students to work out values to which they can commit themselves


Challenge 1. To make explicit the values of the school

…Although Quakers are well known for their commitment to working for peace and social justice and against discrimination of any form, these values have not been prescribed, but are seen as a response to the belief that there is ‘that of God’ in everyone. In Quakerism the particular form of each person’s reponse is not dictated: each person needs to work this out in accordance with the ‘inner light’, with their ‘conscience’, seeking to understand what their role is in relation to the experience of the community of Friends. This balance between the individual and the community is very important. Quakerism does not mean rampant individuality or an indulgent tolerance, as some people have interpreted it. The individual’s response is carefully tested against the experience of the community.


The Quaker approach to values is expressed by the choice of words Advices and Queries in the title of the work which is the closest Quakers have to setting down ethical doctrines. The tone of Advices and Queries is very well caught in the following words to introduce an early version, in 1656: Dearly beloved Friends, these things we do not lay upon you as a rule or form to walk by, but that all, with the measure of light which is pure and holy, may be guided; and so in the light walking and abiding, these things may be fulfilled in the Spirit, not from the letter, for the letter killeth, but the Spirit giveth life.



Friends’ is a co-educational Quaker School based on fundamental values such as the intrinsic worth of each person, the recognition of ‘that of God’ in everyone, the desirability of simplicity, and the need to establish peace and justice. We are concerned for the academic, cultural, physical, social and spiritual development of each person in our care. We seek to help our students grow into men and women able to think clearly and make decisions for themselves but sensitive to the needs of others, strong in service to the community and with an international perspective. We believe that these aims can best be achieved with the active support of all members of our School community….


Quakers obviously do not have a monopoly on values, but the Purpose and Concerns statement focuses on the values which Quakers have held to be central, in their testimony of simplicity, their testimony against war and their work for reconciliation and for human rights for everyone, regardless of race, gender, age or creed. The statement also draws attention to the source of Quakers’ concern for the establishment of peace and justice, in their belief that there is ‘that of God’ in everyone, a reminder of the spiritual basis for values and actions……


Challenge 2. To make it clear that the values statement is not set in concrete.


Challenge 3. To continue to clarify the values of the school

…i The intrinsic worth of each person; ‘that of God’ in every person

ii Simplicity

iii Peace and justice

iv Being sensitive to the needs of others

v Service to others; ‘No one is born to self alone’

vi International perspective

(in addition) To ensure that the human and spiritual values that are part of the School’s heritage are practiced in a meaningful way….


We are reminded too of the need to ensure that activities are directly relevant to student and ‘derive from things that are important in their lives’


…The (staff seminar) groups looking at simplicity, for example, picked up some of the deeper meanings simplicity has traditionally held for Quakers, going beyond the surface matter of dress and speech.

Simplicity was understood as more inward, an attitude of mind; linked with integrity and honesty, with directness in dealing with others, so that relationships are open, friendly, respectful. It also involves having a clear focus and removing unnecessary complications – ‘removal of cumber’ – so that we can concentrate on what is most important. This aspect spoke particularly strongly to teachers.


Challenge 4. To put these values into practice

This is one of the biggest challenges. Students are quick to pick up on gaps (or perceived gaps) between stated values and practice and to cry ‘hypocracy!’..

Don’t talk about it, do things which illuminate it

The best way to develop the value of service is to undertake some service, not to rely on discussion alone

We need to show that value in what we do rather than to claim it

…Everything we do and write and say conveys the values of our schools; through the ‘hidden curriculum’, the way we treat each other and speak to each other; and through all the formal aspects of school, its policies and practices, the formal curriculum, the co-curriculum, the pastoral care structure, the way the school is administered, through the teaching methods which are emphasised, and through the activities of the school.

…Are the connections between these policies and practices on the one hand, and the school’s values statement on the other hand made sufficiently clear and explicit to students, as well as the other members of the school community?

Do the school’s curriculum statements reflect the values of the school?

Are subjects we consider important in values education given a place in the curriculum which reflects their significance? …

What choices are available for students? Do they feel they have a voice in choosing subjects?

Do teaching methods reflect the values of the school?

What emphasis, for example, is given to cooperative learning?

What opportunities are there for students to work on negotiated studies?

What kinds of interactions do teachers have with students in each class?

Are there opportunities for staff to reflect on how they teach and reflect on how teaching methods are related to values? Is appropriate professional development available in this area?

What does the administrative style of the school say about the values of the school?

Do staff, and also student, and parents feel that they can make suggestions and that these will be taken seriously?


5. To make explicit the links between the School’s vales and practice

Communication obviously plays a crucial role in making students and members of the community more aware of the links between the school’s values statement and the practices of the School. The challenge is to find fresh and appropriate ways of making the connections clear and explicit.


Challenge 6. To make these values meaningful to students; of value to them in working out their own values.

To build on what is within each student: to confirm, nurture what is already there

To hope students grapple with values, connect, engage actively with values, examine, question and redefine values in order to arrive at a working set of values to which they can commit themselves.

Britain Yearly Meeting Advices & Queries: How do you share your deepest beliefs with children and young people, while leaving them free to develop as the Spirit of God may lead them? Do you invite them to share their insights with you? Are you ready both to learn from them an d to accept your responsibilities towards them?

Martin Buber said that ‘the greatest thing’ that anyone can do for another ‘was to confirm the deepest thing he has within him.’ Douglas Steere sees this as the special gift a teacher can give a student:

How many men and women can point back to a teacher who saw and believed in them when they neither saw nor believed in this deepest thing in themselves, and can witness to its decisiveness in their own self-discovery and subsequent life quest? The teacher didn’t put the deepest thing there. It was there already. But he confirmed it. (1985, pp 34-5)

It involves helping the student develop discernment; to find a balance between ‘hold(ing) fast to that which is good’ and being open to fresh insights.

It involves giving students the tools with which to examine and critically evaluate different sets of values in order to work out their own values, and to be able to give reasons for their choice.

…Negotiating and formulating rules and codes of behaviour also play a role: students learn to think clearly and critically and to become aware of wider issues through negotiating class rules, discussing ‘Rights and Responsibilities’ and working on committees together with staff and parents to formulate school guidelines and practices like the Drug Policy.


Challenge 7. To encourage students to act on their beliefs.


Challenge 8.   To communicate the message that engaging with values is part of a life-long process for all of us, of continual learning, examining, testing out, redefining and commitment.

This is perhaps the most important challenge in the complex series of challenges we face as educators in helping students to identify values and assume responsibility for values which will enable them to lead purposeful and meaningful lives. (précis by Katherine Purnell)


2010 Young Friends gave the Backhouse Lecture ‘Finding our Voice – Our truth, community and journey as Australian Young Friends’


Spiritual community


P6 Although we have many things in common with the broader Quaker family, it is important to note that Young Friends is a distinct and unique expression of spiritual community. We are not just a mini-Quaker gathering and neither are we simply a social club. We are also not a spiritual community in the traditional sense; that is, a group of people bound together by a common belief. Rather, we are a community of young people exploring spirituality and life together, within an identifiably Quaker context.


We create a place for young people to experiment with, and draw from the Society’s unwritten rules and written history, as we explore our spirituality as individuals and as a community. As one Young Friend said:


I feel like I get things from Young Friends that aren’t available in the wider Quaker community. That’s why I stick around — for the ability to have spiritual conversations that aren’t really structured. I don’t have conversations that challenging anywhere else.


We recognise that Quakers have varied beliefs. For many of us this is what attracted us to Quakers, and is what sets Quakers apart from many other religious traditions. However, as a Young Friends community we experience a great tension between creating a diverse culture, embracing a broad range of beliefs within Young Friends, and maintaining our Quaker identity.


This freedom of belief and acceptance of everyone means that there is naturally a reluctance to articulate exactly what we believe, both individually and collectively. Without a corporate spiritual identity, we struggle with questions about who we are. While not having a creed serves to encourage a broader range of seekers to Quakers, it also raises the question ‘What do you need to believe to be a Quaker?’. One Young Friend thought the catchphrase for Quakerism could be ‘No God, No Problem’.


Choosing to be involved with Quakers entails either being comfortable with some ambiguity or determining one’s own views, belief and identity. However, even with these struggles for identity, Young Friends still find immense value in being together as a spiritual community, whether exclusively as Young Friends, or as members of the broader Quaker community.


Quakerism gives me the language I need to consider my spiritual journey, the framework to begin exploring questions about conflict in the world.


Finally, as a unique spiritual community actively involved in the broader Quaker context, we hope that our journeys and stories will move the whole Society in new and exciting ways.


I feel that Quakerism will change as the group of people our age grow into being ‘older’, (weightier?!), Quakers over the decades to come. Sometimes in local Meetings I feel that there is almost a pre-ordained set of rules and beliefs that must be taken on. I feel with Young Friends (perhaps like all younger generations), we feel more free to question these traditional beliefs and maybe even those ‘issues that Quakers must have a certain view on’. In doing so, we come up with our own views, which I don’t think are any less spiritual or any less valid. In fact, sometimes letting go of the way we are used to doing things and being free to explore new ways is being more open for the spirit to move more freely and guide Quakerism to where it’s going. That’s exciting!


from AYM website Quakers.org.au – under publications – Backhouse Lecture                                      


Canberra Junior Young Friends program from July 2013 to June 2014 one session per month


The program theme is Extreme Sports and Extreme Integrity. It investigates what extreme athletes can tell us about practicing one of the most challenging of the Quaker testimonies – practicing integrity when the going gets tough.  We look at things from both the everyday and what ‘the still small voice’ inside may be saying.


Friends have a long history of practicing extreme integrity. Many Friends live their lives on the edge, they take risks to make a difference, to follow the ‘still small voice’ inside them. But how do they do this? Is there something we can learn from extreme athletes to practice extreme integrity in our lives today? …questions arising from the group have included: cheating, being inside or outside school groups, bullying, parties, studying, answering the only question grown-ups ever ask ‘what are you going to do when you grow up?’ and the ultimate question – who am I?


If the sports/integrity connection still doesn’t make sense, consider the following list of characteristics of a winning team as define by both Arizona Airspeed, an elite skydiving team and Team Eco-Internet, and adventure racing team: eliminate defensiveness in conversation (listen to everyone), practice consensus decision making, have in place procedures to fix problems which include both positive and negative feedback (so that everyone walks away feeling good even if their performance needs work), share leadership, and a favourite quote; ‘If you’re in a team only to win, winning will disappoint you. Friendship supersedes winning’.


Session 1 ‘Peak performances happen when the mind and body work together at a gold medal level’

2 Prepare, prepare, prepare. ‘If you’re prepared for your adventure, the answer you need in a crisis will come.’

3 Balance and timing. ‘The whole athlete has to be prepared to go to the gym.’

4 Dare to be different. ‘If you question your ability, you only have a slight chance of succeeding.’

5 Competence and practice, practice, practice. ‘When a trick is too fast to visialise in detail, visualise a clear start and finish. Your body will handle the rest.’

6 Living with passion. ‘A desire to succeed can strengthen you but a fear of failure can immobilise you.’

7. Personal responsibility. ‘If you think you’ll need eggs, don’t kill the chickens.’

8. Fuel for up, down and the long run. ‘Junk in means junk out, easy.’


Each Junior Young Friends Meeting begins with a short catch-up, followed by a period of silent worship and then moves into the program activity/discussion. The group joins the large Meeting for Worship for the last 15 minutes of the meeting.



Helping Children be ready for Meeting for Worship – Stephanie Farrall


Some Thoughts about Gatherings (these notes were prepared for sharing with students and staff when the Friends School was introducing Gatherings in 1998 by Stephanie Farrall and later by Andrew Gibson)


Feeling at home in Gatherings

A time to look forward to; we each come into the silence in our own way, at our own level; no beliefs are imposed; careful choice of the name Gathering


Gatherings are an opportunity

To be still, to still our bodies and our minds; to be quiet, to ‘centre’; to reflect; to wrestle with questions; to think about what is important to us, what has meaning for us; to allow thoughts to rise, to deal with them or set aside for later; openings/solutions may come as we quieten down; to listen to sounds outside, to someone speaking, sharing a thought, an insight, with the Gathering, to the ‘still, small voice within’ (‘promptings’); to connect with our inner selves, deeper selves, with each other (a ‘gathered silence’), with God, Spirit…however we name or cannot name; to value the inner, the intangible, the inexpressible; to think of those we know are ill, in need of support; to pray, to worship; to give thanks; to share on a deeper level


It helps to:

come in quietly; sit comfortably, close your eyes – and not be embarrassed about it; relax your body; relax your mind; breathe steadily – listen to your breathing, lead into our own silence by inwardly ‘counting your blessings’, or repeating a verse, a prayer, an affirmation we have found helpful, inspiring; remind ourselves that we are each responsible for the Gathering, for the quality of the stillness and the quiet.


Silence – Speaking

The whole Gathering may pass in silence; but it is possible that out of the silence we may be led to speak, to share a thought, an insight. We may have something to share which will be of value for others to hear.

To keep in mind:- leaving a space, silence, after someone has spoken, so we can all listen and reflect on what has been said; speaking with the Gathering, not at.


Gatherings are a gift – a resource. We can take the stillness with us into other parts of our lives, now and throughout our lives.

Compiled by Katherine Purnell for QLA website. June 2014


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About Resources

About Resources …

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Lending Library

List of resources to lend

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Meeting for Learning Retreat Weeks in Brisbane

Sunday 21 September – Saturday 27 September 2014
Friday 25 September – Thursday 1 October 2015

One of the highlights in the Quaker calendar – each year, Quakers in Australia hold a 6-night residential Retreat as part of the Meeting for Learning. This is a year-long program of spiritual reflection which begins and ends with a week’s residential Retreat.

In 2014 the Retreat will focus on our individual inner journey, and in 2015 the Retreat will focus on the spiritual life of our faith community. Listening to ourselves and each other is a spiritual exercise which often leads to deep insights, transformation and discernment. Much time is devoted to deepening our listening skills, among other practices based on Friends’ long history of spiritual nurture and faith in action.

Another highlight of each Retreat is a mid-week silent day and night. Some participants feel nervous about this beforehand, and then find that extended silence in community is an enriching experience. A facilitator is always available to during the Silent Day.

Between Retreats the process goes on with a chosen Support Group from your local Meeting, willing to empathise and encourage while you choose some areas to work on – maybe personal growth or a task within your worshipping community. Sharing this journey is a rich part of the Retreats. There are many other ways of expressing our being and some of them are explored together and in personal time.

The 2014 and 2015 Retreats will be held at Santa Teresa Spirituality Centre at Ormiston near Brisbane. It’s a beautiful centre, owned by the Catholic Church, on the edge of Moreton Bay with views across to Stradbroke Island. Ormiston is about 40 minutes’ drive from Brisbane CBD or from Eagle Farm airport.

Accommodation and Cost
Each participant will have a bedroom with ensuite bathroom for the 6 nights. All accommodation, meals and a Resource Book are included in the price, which has been about $720 in the last few years. There may be financial assistance by applying through your Regional Meeting or the AYM Thanksgiving Fund. Facilitators give their time and support through the year as well

After lunch on Thursday 25 September, ending after lunch on Wednesday 1 October.

Who for?
The Retreat is limited to 12 participants, plus two or three facilitators. The lead facilitator is Fiona Gardner of Victoria Regional Meeting. Other facilitators in the past three years have been Jenny Spinks of Canberra, Catherine Heywood of Victoria, and Sue Wilson of Queensland.

How to apply – for this or a future year?
The Retreat is open to members, attenders and others in sympathy with the Quaker way.
If you think this Retreat might be for you, please take these two steps:

  1. Talk to a previous retreatant in your local Meeting, to ask all your questions and to hear their experience and descriptions.
  2. Contact a facilitator for more information.

Fiona Gardner f.gardner@latrobe.edu.au or (03) 5446 9951
Jenny Spinks jennyspinks@southernphone.com.au
Catherine Heywood cheywd@hotmail.com
Sue Wilson susangwilson@yahoo.com.au

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