Cultural keyline: the life work of Dr. Neville Yeomans

Spencer, Les (2005) Cultural keyline: the life work of Dr. Neville Yeomans. PhD thesis, James Cook University.

PDF (Thesis)
Download (11MB) | Preview
View at Publisher Website:


This thesis researches psychiatrist barrister Dr. Neville Yeomans’ lifetime action research into changing the social-life world towards becoming more caring, humane and respecting of all life-forms. Particularly, it researches Yeomans’ adapting of his father’s sustainable agriculture Keyline processes to the human social life-world as ‘Cultural Keyline’.

After a brief review of therapeutic community, community mental health and self-help networks in the UK, USA and Australia, and a brief summary of Keyline and Indigenous precursors influencing Neville, the research focuses, firstly, on describing and analysing the structures/processes used by Yeomans in evolving Australia’s first psychiatric therapeutic community ‘Fraser House’ in Sydney from 1959 to 1968. In particular, what contributions did Neville make to evolving social and community psychiatry and clinical sociology in Australia? Secondly, the thesis describes the community mental health outreach and other psychosocial wellbeing related action research that derived from Fraser House. Thirdly, there is a description of the Laceweb social movement and network, its evolution from Neville’s action research and its current development. Finally, there is some discussion of the significance of Neville Yeoman’s life work. This research used the same qualitative, ‘naturalistic inquiry’ method that Neville used including in-depth interviews, archival research and action research.

Neville Yeomans’ methods of social action and research can be traced to his collaboration with his father P.A. Yeomans (along with brothers Allen and Ken). P.A is recognised as the most significant person globally in the past 200 years in the field of sustainable agriculture (Mulligan and Hill 2001). P.A. evolved Keyline sustainable agricultural practices based around Keypoints in landform that have system implications.

In researching Cultural Keyline, the thesis details how its precursor, Keyline agricultural practice, recognizes, respects, and makes use of natural forms, functions and processes in nature - especially landform, gravity, as well as self-organizing and emergent aspects of natural systems. The research outlines how Keyline practice fosters nature’s tendency for thriving, and documents and analyses Neville’s adapting of Keyline as Cultural Keyline in fostering emergent and thriving potential in social systems. Four non-linear interconnected inter-related aspects of Cultural Keyline are identified:

1. Attending and sensing self organising, emergence and Keypoints conducive to coherence within social contexts 2. Forming cultural locality (people connecting together connecting to place) 3. Strategic, design and emergent context-guided them- based perturbing of the social topography 4. Sensing and attending to the natural social system self-organising in response to the perturbing, and monitoring outcomes.

In developing ‘Cultural Keyline’, Neville adapted his father’s Keyline to the social life world. Neville pioneered therapeutic community in Australia. Neville worked with inmates he had arranged to be transferred to Fraser House from asylums and prisons in New South Wales. As part of their rehabilitation the inmates were effectively placed in charge of every aspect of Fraser House administration. The research documents how, within eighteen months, these inmates and the Unit’s staff developed a style of community psychiatry practice, psychiatric nursing, collective therapy (large group as crowd and audience) and psychiatric training.

The research also traces Neville’s use of his Cultural Keyline model in pioneering family therapy, suicide/crisis telephone services, counselling and family therapy within family law, community mental health (becoming the first NSW Director of Community Mental Health, and starting Australia’s first Community Mental Health Centre), psychosocial self-help groups and networks, multicultural festivals, cultural healing action, mediation and mediation therapy.

The thesis then explores Neville’s development of a number of small therapeutic community houses in North Queensland, as well as evolving what Neville termed an ‘International Normative Model Area’ or ‘INMA’ in northern Australia that continues as a micro-model exploring linked local, regional and global governance as an aspect of epochal transition. An outcome of Neville’s action research has been the emergence of informal Laceweb networks amongst Indigenous and other intercultural healers in the northern Australia and in the East Asia-Oceania-Australasia Region. The thesis details how these networks are evolving and supporting self-help and mutual-help amongst Indigenous/Oppressed trauma survivors. Yeomans’ writings about his macro-framework for global epochal transition over the next 250-500 years, and potential global futures are detailed in the context of Cultural Keyline and linked to unfolding action.

Item ID: 17432
Item Type: Thesis (PhD)
Keywords: Neville Yeomans, Fraser House, North Ryde Psychiatric Centre, psychiatrists, sociologists, therapeutic communities, cultural keyline, keyline processes, natural processes, community houses, community psychiatry, clinical sociology, collective therapy, family therapy, mediation, action research, Laceweb networks
Copyright Information: Copyright © 2005 Les Spencer.
Date Deposited: 22 Jun 2011 22:08
FoR Codes: 11 MEDICAL AND HEALTH SCIENCES > 1117 Public Health and Health Services > 111714 Mental Health @ 50%
16 STUDIES IN HUMAN SOCIETY > 1608 Sociology > 160807 Sociological Methodology and Research Methods @ 25%
17 PSYCHOLOGY AND COGNITIVE SCIENCES > 1701 Psychology > 170113 Social and Community Psychology @ 25%
SEO Codes: 92 HEALTH > 9204 Public Health (excl. Specific Population Health) > 920410 Mental Health @ 100%
Downloads: Total: 4985
Last 12 Months: 14
More Statistics

Actions (Repository Staff Only)

Item Control Page Item Control Page