Palms’ Jubilee Year Launched in Mittagong

As part of Palms’ Jubilee launch, returnees were invited to share their memories of their time with Palms, including  what they believed was the most significant change from their experience. A few such insights are shared below:

“When I left at the end of 88, I left knowing that my small footprints had helped a number of people… Years later, one of the teachers who worked with me at the high school got a grant from AusAID to come and do a bachelor of education. In 2008, she got her PhD from Australian Catholic University.”

Sabina Van Rooy, teacher, Rabaul, 1985-88

“One of the things Roy [Boylan, PALMS’ founder,] used to say to us was that going away was really just preparing yourself for coming back… And that it was really important that the whole experience is not just when you’re away, but when you come back.”

Kristin Allen, teacher, Mt Hagen, 1977-1980

“I remember when I came back to Australia… I got these letters from my students in Zambia and they told me their exam results; and they were the best exam results they’d ever had at that school and I was just shocked. So, they turned me into a teacher…. and I’m still a teacher to this day.”

John Nicholls, teacher, Zambia 1987-88

“What Palms did for me at the age of 19 was show me that I wasn’t a spectator in the church. I could participate in the life of the church.”

John Griffiths, agriculturalist, Mendi 1976, Madang 1983,  Rabaul/Kundiawa 1988

“I suppose the life-changing experience was really a confirming of a gut feeling that my experience as a child and a young person wasn’t the only experience possible for me – especially as a white middle-class male. I’ve continued to work quite a lot with indigenous and African communities throughout Brisbane, both as a justice advocate, but more particularly as someone who does social documentary and publishing. So the stories of people who come from other cultures can get out there; can go online; can be shown in exhibitions… Because some of the stories of the suffering and injustice that continues because of our social structures, because of our purchasing, because of so much stuff we take for granted, needs to be addressed, needs to be out there in the public sphere.

The beauty of going to Kiunga for me was that it gave me a whole new tool to do the sort of stuff I believe in.”

Tony Robertson,  youth worker, Kiunga, 1989-1991

“As soon as I arrived, to be quite honest, I wanted to go home. Maybe because I was so young; maybe because it was the first time I’d ever left my house, my home, my family. The most life changing thing for me is that I’ve become very independent.”

Hila Sukkar, teacher, Solomon Islands 2006

“I went to New Guinea with the idea that I was going to save the world; and it turns out  I actually did.  Because Papua New Guineans helped me in terms of showing me what a really selfish hypocrite I was.  As a result of my experiences in PNG, and with the help of the Papua New Guinean people, I decided to save the world from myself.”

Eddie Leszczynski, builder, Wewak 1996-2003