Govt grants help Sathya Sai school

Govt grants help Sathya Sai school
Peter Caton | 6th April 2010

SEVEN new classrooms, a learning centre, music room and renovations have been completed at the Sathya Sai Primary School in Murwillumbah with the help of Federal Government economic stimulus funds.

Nearly $1.5 million in building and renovation work was officially opened at the school on Friday by Federal MP for Richmond and Minister for Ageing Justine Elliot.

The project used $850,000 from the Federal Government’s Primary Schools for the 21st Century grants and a $600,000 from the Association of Independent Schools.

A spokeswoman said the school, which currently has about 100 students, is “now equipped to expand to seven single streams”.

Ms Elliot met with students and staff at the school to view the new and upgraded facilities describing the new facilities as exciting for the children and parents.

A week earlier she opened extensions at St Joseph’s Primary School in South Murwillumbah.

“It has been fantastic to see local principals, parents and tradespeople working together to deliver these important projects,” she said.

“Now that they are completed, teachers and students in our local schools will be teaching and learning in the 21st century facilities.”

Ms Elliot said the “Building the Education Revolution” program had delivered more than $110 million to the electorate of Richmond.

Tween Daily News Reference

Harmonise your spiritual peace at the Harmony Centre in Bundanoon

Harmonise your spiritual peace at the Harmony Centre in Bundanoon
JACKIE MEYERS
29 Mar, 2010 09:21 AM

A NEW spirit has come to the Southern Highlands with the opening of the Harmony Centre Bundanoon.

Located on the former Quest for Life property, the Harmony Centre is a spiritually based wellness charity open to anyone seeking a space to heal their body, calm their mind and nurture their soul.

The centre, which opened last September, is the third life enrichment facility established by spiritual teacher Shakti Durga and her partner Hugh Keller.

Other centres have been established at Cooranbong on the NSW Central Coast and in Camperdown, Sydney.

Ms Durga was a barrister for 16 years before “giving it all up” to focus full time on teaching and developing the not-for-profit centres.

“As a barrister I naturally came into contact with people dealing with conflict, turmoil and often profound suffering,” she said.

“But it was my own experience of a painful divorce and personal crisis that first propelled me to believe there must be a better way. That’s how my spiritual journey started.”

It was a journey that led her to train under some of the world’s leading spiritual teachers including master Chao Kok Sui in the Philippines, Sri Jaya Shakti in Bali and Sathya Sai Baba in India.

Ms Durga said she learnt about healing the human body and spirit through master Chao and was helped to better understand and experience self-realisation through Sri Jaya.

She said Satya Sai Baba was her inspiration for the Harmony Centres, which she began establishing in Australia in 2004.

“Sai Baba ran centres of spiritual study in India as well as schools, hospitals and programs for feeding the poor,” she said.

“He inspired me to think about how we could bring about positive change through love by bringing together like-minded people. I was inspired by his humanitarian work and while they are still in their infancy I hope the Harmony Centres will achieve something similar. I’m keen to contribute to a healthy community and I believe the Harmony Centres are a different way of having an impact. The centres have become a hub where people can express their beliefs, meet like-minded people and take part in stimulating discussions about the meaning of life and why we are here.”

Ms Durga said her centres catered for any person who would like to improve their health and well-being and get more meaning out of life, regardless of religious affiliation or belief.

She said seminars, which developed life skills in a supportive environment, as well as cleansing and uplifting meditation and chanting practices, were a key part of the spiritual program.

“The programs help people discover how to have more joy and happiness, well being and peace in their lives,” she said.

“A key to this is a form of meditation called Ignite Your Spirit, which releases blockages to peace and harmony.”

Visit The Harmony Centre Foundation Website

Highland News Reference

Two Sai Stars

Sathya Sai Baba

Sathya Sai Baba


Two Sai Stars

There is a divinity that shapes our ends, rough hew them as we will –
Shakespeare

I agree with the Bard on this and moreover feel that there is a time when the shaping divine force strikes the note that starts something of importance.

I had met Dr Ron Farmer and his wife Swanny some ten years earlier but the time was not right for our special spiritual brotherhood to begin. Now, in June 1998 the time was right. We were the only three guests for dinner at a friend’s place in Queensland and so had the opportunity for a long talk together. At the end of the talk I felt that I must see them again and hopefully see them often. They must have felt somewhat the same because it was not long before they paid me a visit at my house in Oyster Cove.

Ron and Swanny invited me to spend the following weekend with them at their home about half an hour’s car drive away at a place called Willow Vale. It was to be the first of many delightful weekends spent in the fresh invigorating air and spiritual peace of their residence. We approached it through rolling green hills and found their long one-storey beautiful house on the top of one such grassy hill. There seemed to be no other house nearby, just the open countryside with, in one direction, a view of a mountain range that was part of The Great Dividing Range. It reminded me of my country upbringing in Tasmania where neighbours’ houses were out of sight behind trees on distant farms, with, in one direction, the glorious blue wall of the Western Tiers. Yet I very soon found that the aloneness spelt by my first view of the Farmer residence was certainly not loneliness, in fact, two unseen houses were not very far away. One was on the other side of a high white lattice wall with tall palm trees supporting it while the other hidden house was down the hill hiding behind an edge of the hill and hedges helped by clumps of trees. The house beyond the lattice wall was occupied by two ladies and two other four-legged beings, generally known as a dog and a cat.

We did not see much of the two ladies but quite a lot of the four-legged entities, especially the one known as a dog. He was a glossy, completely black labrador named Yang. It was an appropriate name as he seemed the personification of all things gently male. I felt that he showed good taste too, in choosing Ron as his master and friend. I think he went home only for meals and spent the rest of the day with Ron. Their day together would begin early, with Ron finding him waiting on the mat by his front door. Then their mutual demonstration of affection would begin, with pats, strokes and tail wags interspersed with conversation in which both would join, Yang talking in his own version of human language which he fondly hoped his beloved master would understand. Ron told me that if he and Swanny got in the car to drive away, Yang would turn his back on them and look the other way as if he could not bear to see this terrible event. For most of the day where you saw Ron you would also see Yang. I too, loved this near-human animal from the moment I gave my first pat to his shining black side.

I once happened to go to the house beyond the lattice when the lady Diana was feeding her treasured Yang. To me she made the remark “Yang is a soul-dog you know.” I agreed whole-heartedly but thought to myself, “But surely all domesticated dogs have souls,” and so, too, do many cats including the one I first saw sitting aloofly on the grass of Ron’s lawn.

My heart gave a jump when I caught sight of her, she was that ‘Thing of beauty that is a joy forever,’ as poet Keats remarked. I spoke to her from a distance, she turned her head and gave me one disdainful glance from her shining blue eyes then turned her head away. Suddenly I remembered the cat-enticing technique that my wife Iris, a great cat-lover, had taught me long ago. I tried it on Yin and within about five minutes of this cat-magic, she walked slowly across the grass towards me and sat at my feet. I was able to stroke her beautifully marked head and her plush back of an indescribable off-white colour. Before my weekend at Willow Vale came to an end, Yin was rolling over on her back inviting me to scratch her tummy. She was no longer aloof with Ron and Swanny and at a later time would sometimes follow Ron around like Yang and another labrador dog that joined the family.

Unlike the glossy black Yang this one was rusty in colour and so had earned the name Rusty. He lived in the other hidden house at the foot of Ron’s grassy hill. His owner was another Sai devotee called Kevin Dillon. Kevin Dillon, however, was frequently away on his property further north in Queensland and so Rusty began to attach himself for much of the time with Ron. The latter told me that Rusty was uniquely useful in one way. He had a keen eye for the venomous reptiles that were often found in the long grass among some trees at the lower end of Ron’s property. When Ron began to mow his grass, Rusty would come through a gap in the hedge and keep a close watch on the mowing operation. He would sight a snake hiding in the grass just before Ron, pushing his mower came to the spot where he was in danger of being bitten by the snake. Rusty would seize it in his teeth at a spot where it could not bite him and shake it to and fro until it was dead. I have seen the kookaburras fly to the branch of a tree with a snake in the beak and shake it vigorously in the same manner, killing it before they made a meal of it. Rusty’s only purpose in killing a snake however, seemed to be the protection of his friend, Ron.

Some weeks later when I came for another heavenly weekend at Willow Vale, something tragic had happened to our beloved friend, Rusty. Somebody driving a car on the Dillon property, fortunately not too fast, had failed to see Rusty and with a front wheel had hit the dog’s hindquarters. The result was that Rusty walked with a bad limp and sometimes would collapse and sink to the ground. Ron took me down to the foot of the hill to see the injured dog. We called his name and he came limping through a gap in the hedge wagging his tail and seeming to smile welcome with his eyes. I suddenly felt a great sympathy for this suffering friend and had the idea of putting my hand on the injured back near towards the tail, Ron did the same, both of us hoping that we had enough healing in our hands to help his injury get better. The dog seemed to enjoy it and stood quite still. After this period of healing, his limp seemed to be better and his hindquarters did not suddenly collapse on the ground as he tried to limp along. For the rest of the weekend, Rusty came out towards us for his healing session whenever we came near to the Dillon house and there was a definite improvement in his injury, by the time my weekend was up. Ron told me later that he continued the healing practice on his own and eventually Rusty had no limp at all. After that he spent much more of his time with Ron and Swanny, even accompanying them on walks. Yang, who had previously seemed to enjoy Rusty’s company, showed signs of jealousy. Ron played the part of the spiritual father to him and gave him a ‘human values’ lecture against the negative emotion of jealousy. Yang seemed as if he understood or perhaps it was just the tone in Ron’s voice, in any case, he would hang his head in shame.

After my return to the Blue Mountains in New South Wales, I received by phone, regular bulletins about the adventures of the four-legged Farmer family, Yang and Yin and Rusty. Things seemed to be going harmoniously among them and I feel that through the love and understanding of Ron and Swanny Farmer, some, if not all of the three, will be elevated to a human incarnation at the next birth or soon after. I am tempted to go on writing about these beloved entities but feel I have said enough to show the part they play in the lives of my two star friends, so I will now tell something of the background of each of them and show how they became involved in John Fitzgerald‘s work for God.

First then, some interesting biographical facts about Dr Ron Farmer. He was born in the state of Queensland and remained at school there until the age of sixteen. Then he travelled to Melbourne and joined the Royal Air Force. This was about in the year 1954 and his main ambition in joining the Air Force was to learn all he could about radio electronics. After about three years of this he found it no longer of interest so left the Air Force and worked for a number of different companies that served the Air Force. One of these was the Aeronautical Research Laboratory at Fisherman’s Bend in Melbourne. Here he found himself serving with the War Games Department where part of his duties was to interview helicopter pilots. This work took him to Sydney where he was asked to study psychology to help in his interviewing of helicopter pilots. This study of psychology at the New South Wales University was the break in his life that might be termed ‘lucky’ but I prefer to call it ‘the finger of God’ placing him where he was meant to be. He loved psychology so much that after two years, sponsored by the War Games Department, he felt a strong urge to continue and did so at the University of Queensland, where for a time he was given some financial help but eventually won a scholarship which carried him through to his Ph.D in Psychology.

Not long afterwards he was back at the University of NSW as a lecturer to graduates in Psychology on the subject which he calls Behavioural Therapy. This had previously been considered a very complicated branch of Clinical Psychology but Dr Farmer had the gift of making it seem quite simple and interesting. The result was that he found himself giving talks on the radio and being interviewed by the press on this fascinating subject. His name thus became well-known to the public and he found people coming to him for help in their mental and psychological problems. In this way he found himself building up a clinic and dealing with patients from the members of the public, in addition to his university work. He thus found himself going through a period of very high pressure work which led eventually to a nervous breakdown. Employing some of the therapy that he had used for his patients for his own treatment, he turned the nervous breakdown into what he called a ‘nervous breakthrough’. When he had fully recovered, he wrote a good lecture on this method of treating a nervous breakdown, which I have heard on an audio cassette. It is probably available to anyone who needs it.

A very important part of Ron’s breakthrough was his spiritual awakening. Although he went on lecturing at the university for a time, he found this work and the other limitations in the academic life a handicap to his now fascinating development of the spiritual dimension which was showing its face more and more in the world around him. So that, after six years altogether of university lecturing, he resigned and started his own clinic in Sydney. Yet he did not feel this work altogether satisfying and after about a year as a professional Clinical Psychologist, he felt the compulsive urge to go exploring. Perhaps it was, in reality, the urge to become somehow more involved in what has been called the New Age. And so he went to live in a commune at a place called Nimbin, in the north of New South Wales.

While reading many books born of the New Age, he built himself a house in Nimbin and opened a clinic in which to treat patients professionally by his clinical psychology. Moreover, with the aid of two friends, he opened what must have been the first New Age Bookshop in New South Wales. His shop, like his clinic, was situated in Lismore. In order to stock it, he ordered books from all over the world and so he had the pleasure of reading his growing stock of books, which included the work of leading spiritual writers from all countries. He spent about eight years soaking up this world wide literature of the developing New Age. Inevitably, he ploughed his way through to books on Sathya Sai Baba. This was in the year 1984, a most important milestone in his life. The finger of God seems to have been active here too, because soon after the arrival of the books, he found himself at a friend’s place watching a video about Sai Baba. During the film there was a close-up of Sai Baba looking straight into the camera and so he seemed to Ron to be looking deep into his own eyes. “At that point I nearly fell off my chair,” said Ron. Asking him why he reacted in this way, he replied, “When he looked straight into my eyes, I felt sure he knew all about me and all about everybody. In fact he knew everything. I knew that this was the man I had to follow, there was no-one else like him.” Now he read avidly all the Sai Baba books in his possession and felt that Nimbin, Lismore and neighbourhood were not the right place for him. He had to be where there were more Sai people and Sai activities and so it was that he returned to Sydney and re-opened his clinic there. And of course, he attended any Sai meetings and other activities available in his area.

It was while he was visiting a Sai Baba meeting in Homebush, a suburb of Sydney, that he met Dr Devi, the wife of the well-known Dr Sara Pavan, the Anaesthetist. Dr Devi one evening announced to the meeting at Homebush that she was going next day to a Nursing Home where the patients were all seriously handicapped mentally. Anyone who wished to come with her, she said, were very welcome. One person went and that was Dr Ron Farmer. He was quite unaware of the fact that one of the most important things in the whole of his life was to happen to him at this Nursing Home. Towards the end of his visit on that first day, the Matron of the Nursing Home said she would like to introduce him to the Clinical Psychologist who was working regularly at the Nursing Home. Ron had no desire to meet this Psychologist. All of that profession that he had met in recent years had no interest whatsoever in any aspect of God or the spiritual life of man. So he gave some reason to the Matron and excused himself from the meeting; but he was very interested in the Nursing Home itself and before long he was there again. This time the Matron said, “I have told my Psychologist about you and she is very anxious to meet you.” This time Ron made no excuse but submissively went upstairs with the Matron. She conducted him into the clinic and introduced him to the dark-eyed, smiling Swanny. He had immediately, he told me, a deep feeling that something important, something inexplicable was going to happen. He had never had this feeling before at the point of first meeting someone. The inexplicable feeling had, he said, an overture of deep peace, he wanted to see her again. Asked what she felt at the first meeting, Swanny said, “His face looked so very sad and I felt a strong urge to make him happy.” So they began seeing each other frequently, usually at lunch-times. One of the most important things they had in common was the fact that they both used spiritual principles wherever possible in treating their patients, but it was not long before their feeling for each other deepened into something more important than their academic interests. This was love, the kind that, while including romantic love, goes far beyond. It is the true love of union and includes sharing and caring.

After they were married, Swanny began having dreams about Sathya Sai Baba which brought her onto the Sai path with Ron. They had been married about three years, both happily working in their profession of Clinical Psychology when the bell rang heralding a new chapter to their lives. The bell, in this case, was the telephone bell in their home; it rang about ten o’clock one evening. Ron went to answer it. On the other end of the line, a young man’s voice said “You don’t know me but my name is John Fitzgerald, I have a lot of money and I want to help street kids but I don’t know where to start.” There was silence for a few moments then the voice went on, “A friend of mine, in fact, my Architect, took his son to one of your meetings. It was a meeting on Human Values and he told me that you and your wife were the best two people in Australia to help me with my project.” John Fitzgerald went on to request them to visit him at his office on the Gold Coast as soon as they could, if they were interested in helping him. Ron replied that he and Swanny were going up to the Gold Coast in the following week and they would be happy to call and talk to him. When he returned to Swanny, Ron said, “I have been talking to a young man in Queensland who is either mad, or he is a very wise man.” He told her the gist of the phone conversation and they both decided to call and see him on the following week when they were going up to the Gold Coast on some other business. And so, in due course, they were sitting in John Fitzgerald’s office listening to his philanthropic dream. One thing that impressed them both was hearing John say, “My gift of making millions is something God has given me, so I must use it in doing God’s work.” The interview lasted for three hours and at the end of it they were his partners in the Karma Yogic work he was planning to launch. Swanny had such faith in this new found friend that at his request she agreed to give up her work and spend all her time helping John. Dr Ron Farmer agreed whole-heartedly with this move, he too, felt full faith in John Fitzgerald. Thus, the divine association had its beginnings.

Now I would like to give some background information about Swanny Farmer, who is, I must say, one of those rare people whose pure inner beauty shines through, thus endowing her with a special outer beauty. I feel it was someone like her to whom Shakespeare addressed the words, “Do noble deeds, not dream them all day long and so make life, death and the vast forever, one grand sweet song.”

Swanny was born in Indonesia in the year 1952. Her father, a businessman in Djakarta, found his fortunes greatly improving after this third daughter was born and so he was able to send her two older sisters to complete their education at Hanover University in Germany. When Swanny was seventeen years old, that is in 1969, she was also sent there to join them and complete her tertiary education. She specialised in psychology because it seemed that this was the kind of training she needed to help people in their lives. She obtained a Master of Arts degree at Hanover and worked for a time in Germany. She was invited to become a German Citizen, but decided instead, to go to England and obtain another degree in psychology. Thus, she attended the University of Manchester and after about two years there, obtained a degree of Master of Science in Psychology. With these two degrees she was certainly qualified to work in her professional field in many parts of the world. Her heart called her back to her home in Indonesia where she worked in the psychological field for about two years. However, Swanny felt that she was not making full use of her potential in Indonesia and as one of her sisters was practicing as a Medical Doctor in Australia, she decided to move to that country where, indeed, she had no difficulty finding professional work and eventually finished up working up at the Nursing Home for mentally disadvantaged children in Liverpool near Sydney, where eventually she met Ron Farmer.

As already told, Swanny Farmer changed her job again at that fateful three hour interview with John Fitzgerald when he invited her to be what he called his navigator, in finding the right children to launch his Toogoolawa scheme of providing schools, as well as some accommodation hostels for the unfortunate children who, often through bad parenting, were homeless, school-less and on the point of becoming street-kids. Ron, who whole-heartedly supports the project and gives it much voluntary help, carries on other work for Sathya Sai Baba too. One of these is conducting a small publishing business in conjunction with his wife Swanny and a Sai friend by the name of Ross Woodward. They have already published a very good book designed to help people anywhere in the world to conduct study circles on the literature of the New Age, particularly the teachings of Sai Baba. The quality of the book holds out good promise of other treasures to come.

Dr Farmer of course, continues his main professional work regularly seeing patients at his clinic which is in the same building as John’s company offices on the banks of the Nerang River. In this therapeutic work he frequently makes use of the Sai and other spiritual teachings. He told me about several of these as we walked together on the grassy lands round his home at Willow Vale. At my request he put several on an audio tape for me. Here briefly, is the gist of one such treatment.

A Minister of the Uniting Church asked Dr Farmer if he would treat the Minister’s twelve year old daughter. Dr Ron Farmer agreed and in due course the twelve year old girl was sitting in his clinic. Her main problem was that in the school classroom, when as a pupil she was asked to stand up, perhaps to read something, to recite something or answer a question, just the fact of standing there in the classroom of sitting pupils would bring on such a powerful agonising form of stage fright that she would break out in a cold sweat and be unable to speak a word and so would have to take her seat. As neither teachers nor pupils have any understanding or sympathy in such situations, the twelve year old girl would suffer a great deal.

Eventually after asking her several questions, in an endeavour to find a door that he might open for her, Ron asked intuitively, “Do you have any recurring nightmares?” The answer was that she did, a terrible dream that recurred every week or every fortnight. In the dream she was walking along the edge of a cliff when she fell over the precipice and in terror went down towards the bottom. She always awakened before she hit bottom but it was an experience of great terror. Ron felt that if he could cure this nightmare terror it would also cure her classroom terror.

Ron remembered one of Sathya Sai Baba’s teaching to the effect that it does not matter in the least what form and name of God you worship but you must remember He is with you always and you must trust in His love and His help. This girl was the daughter of a Minister of a Christian Church and would probably look to Jesus as her divine guide and saviour. So Ron asked her, “Do you believe in Jesus?” “Oh, yes I do,” she answered. Then Ron asked, “Do you love Jesus?” “Yes,” she replied enthusiastically, “I love Him with all my heart, He is my life.” Then Ron explained to her the principle taught by Sathya Sai Baba, that is, if we hold onto the name and form of God, bringing it into everything we do, life will become harmonious and any problems will be solved. Moreover, Sathya Sai Baba says, unlike what is taught in modern psychiatry, that the unconscious is benevolent. So Ron proceeded to relax his patient and asked her to close her eyes. Then he took her in imagination, through the details of her recurring nightmare. She was walking along the cliff edge picturing the scene and then her foot slipped and she began to fall, but now she was holding onto the hand of Jesus as she fell. He kept repeating to her, “You’re holding onto the hand of Jesus, you’re falling, but you’re holding onto the hand of Jesus,” this he repeated for about ten minutes. Watching her face as he made her picture that she was holding onto the hand of Jesus, the expression of fear changed quickly into a beautiful expression of peace and happiness. So eventually, he asked her to open her eyes and asked her, “What was that like?” She replied that she forgot she was falling and felt happy in the protection of Jesus. Asked what she felt in her body, she replied that she felt relaxed, deeply relaxed. Then Ron asked her to imagine she was in the classroom situation and that the teacher had asked her to stand up and read something, but while she was standing up she pictured the scene where she was falling, holding onto the hand of Jesus, so she felt relaxed and not at all worried with this situation because she was holding the hand of Jesus and felt the joy of his protection. After this guided imagination, he said to her to open her eyes again. Then he said, “Do you feel now that you will be alright in the classroom when you have to stand to your feet and speak?” She smiled happily and replied, “Yes, I feel sure I will because I will have Jesus close to me holding my hand.” “Well,” Ron replied, “If ever you have the slightest return of that problem, contact me and I will bring you some more help.” She agreed that she would do so, but she never contacted Ron and he felt that his spiritual therapy had worked. He has found that this use of the name and form of the God one adores has a very powerful effect. It releases the stupendous power of divine love which always conquers fear.

Reference:: “The Lights of Home” by Howard Murphet

Sathya Sai Organisation Of Australia In Fiji

Sathya Sai Organisation Of Australia In Fiji

Free checks draw crowd
By Mereseini Marau
Saturday, August 22, 2009

A TEAM of 32 doctors and nurses provided free medical service to people of Navua and surrounding areas at the Lomary Catholic Primary School on Thursday.

The team includes six general practitioners, four nurses, three dentists, one dental processor, two eye specialists, three pharmacists and two gynaecologists. They are members of Sathya Sai Organisation of Australia — a non-governmental organisation.

Team leader Dr Gunu Naker said they saw more than 3000 people at Tavua, Ba, Sigatoka and Navua.

“Many people come for eye check, blood pressure, heart check and skin rash,” Dr Naker said.

“Some problems we had were people didn’t bring their medication and glasses, so we are unable to offer much advice whether they should continue with that medication or start with the ones we give,” he said.

The main aim of the group was to provide free medical service to people in rural areas, who would otherwise could not go to hospital because they can’t pay for transportation.

“We met the Ministry of Health and they informed us which areas needed medical attention and we visited them.”

Ranadi Rokosalu had a free check at Lomary.

“I am happy because some of us from the interior find it hard to go to Suva for expert advice.”

The team was in Nadi yesterday.

Fiji Times Online Reference
Official Sathya Sai Baba Website

Sai camp provides free care
22-Aug-2009 11:25 AM

MORE than five hundred people of Nadi took advantage of a free medical camp set up by medical professionals associated with the Satya Sai Organization in Australia.

Team leader Doctor Gunu Naker who is a general practitioner based in Australia is in the country with a team of more than twenty highly trained specialists and general practitioner doctors.

Doctor Naker told Fiji Daily Post that the medical camp trip to Fiji which started last year is getting popular every year.

“Last year we were able to see over three thousand patients,” Doctor Naker said.

He said all medical services including specialist diagnosis given to patients were absolutely free.

“The Satya Sai Organization is not a religious but a spiritual organization and service to mankind is an absolute priority,” Doctor Naker said.

He said the medical wing of the SSO in Australia has a team of thirty medical professionals and there is a sister team based in New Zealand as well. “Our Kiwi counterparts have been coming over here for the past four years now and they mostly concentrate in Vanua Levu but they have spent two days in Viti Levu during their last visit as well,” Doctor Naker said.

He said the free medical camp this year had taken place following a medical conference which was held at Dr. Umanand Prasad Medical School based at the University of Fiji. “We were very fortunate to have had the company of the Honourable Minister for Health Dr. Neel Sharma in the conference as well.”

He said the medical conference was well attended by the medical fraternity and is gaining momentum each year.

“The conference and free medical camp will now be an ongoing thing because it was very important to have a good medical facility so that everyone benefits in the end.”

“Students from the school have been joining us as well ever since we started last year and it is nice to have them amongst us as they get to learn a lot from their experiences,” Doctor Naker said.

He also thanked the management and staff of Andrews Primary School for providing the venue for yesterday’s medical camp.

By SHALENDRA PRASAD

Fiji Daily Post Reference
Official Sathya Sai Baba Website

Portrait Of A Karma Yogin – John Fitzgerald

Sathya Sai Baba

Sathya Sai Baba


Portrait Of A Karma Yogin – John Fitzgerald

Some men are born with the gift of making money, a pile of money; is this a blessing or a curse? It can be either. If the great wealth is used solely for the gratification of one’s own selfish desires it will prove to be a terrible curse, leading not to joy but to unhappiness, often tragic unhappiness. This was the theme of Charles Dickens’ Novel, “A Christmas Carol”. But if, on the other hand, the wealth is used to bring happiness and a fuller life with spiritual progress to other people, then the wealth becomes a true blessing, bringing joy and contentment to its owner, for then he is a true Karma Yogin and in serving man he is serving God. Some men discover this great truth during their lives, as did Scrooge, the hero of “A Christmas Carol” but some seem to be born with this wisdom.

One of these was John Fitzgerald. John, who now resides in Queensland, Australia, is, he learned with some joy, a descendant of the Fitzgerald who made a translation, the most popular one, of the rubaiyat of the old Persian poet and mystic Omar Khayyam. Perhaps some of his wisdom and his good karma comes down to him from his famous ancestor, but he met with a great tragedy when he was a boy of only eight years. His father whom he loved very much, was killed in a car accident on the roads of Victoria, where John was born and reared. John’s two elder brothers wept copious tears at the news of their loss, but John himself, was I think, feeling something too deep for tears. One can imagine the feelings of the young mother suddenly left with a family of five children, three boys and two girls. She was also left with several Menswear shops in the city of Melbourne to either sell or manage. She decided to manage them but she wanted to keep the family of five round her, at the same time. This she managed for two years but then realising that the task was beyond her, she sent the three boys to a well-known Roman Catholic boarding school in Melbourne and kept the two girls at home. To John, who was now ten years of age, this separation from his mother was a sad trial, yet it was probably a good thing for developing strength of character. In this world of boys and men only, he had to face and deal with many kinds of unexpected situations and he learned some unpleasant facts of life at an early age. He found, for example that one of the masters was seducing some of the other boys. This certainly gave him a great shock, but like most boys when such unpleasant and unexpected findings cross their path, they brush it aside. This John did, and found his outlet and compensation by spending more time in the school sports. His two elder brothers, one two years older and the other four years older than himself, were, he says, a good help and guidance to him in some difficult situations.

When John was sixteen years old he had reached the end of his secondary education at the Roman Catholic College and had qualified for University but felt that tertiary education was not for him. He felt inwardly the call to travel and find his destiny beyond the city of Melbourne. Specifically, Queensland seemed to be the state that was beckoning him but he had no money to get there and did not want to ask his mother for any financial help, so during the long holiday that followed the end of his schooldays he told his mother that he planned to hitch-hike to Queensland. No doubt she felt a great shock at this news as I remember my own mother did when I made such announcements to her. So John’s mother, like my own, bowed her head to the storm and wisely gave her loving consent to the adventure. Just an adventure, she thought it was at the time, having no idea what it would really lead to.

The God of fair beginnings, called Janus, by the ancient Romans and Ganesha by the Indians, was smiling on him. Without difficulty he hitch-hiked all the way from Melbourne in the south, to Coolangatta just over the border from New South Wales into Queensland.

The Sunshine Coast lay before the young adventurer with its shining clean buildings and its beaches of golden sands and lines of curling surf. It seemed to give John a laughing, happy welcome. He felt over-joyed and confident this was his country.

The job in the Real Estate office seemed to have been waiting for him and it was the kind of work for which he had a real talent. Fortune favoured him in another way too. During the next few years he met two different business gurus or mentors who taught him much about the nature of this special world, the Gold Coast Real Estate business. He learned that there were many great opportunities here for one who had the confidence, the right perception and the judgment to sieze and make the most of the opportunities that offered. After a few, a very few years, he was in a position to open his own real estate business and by the time he was twenty five years old he was a millionaire. That is, in less than ten years after he had set out on that penniless hitch-hike from Melbourne he was in the ‘big money’ and there were greater things to come. I think of him, myself, as a second Dick Whittington, an historic achiever in more ways than one.

It was a good many years later, in fact not until 1998 that I had the pleasure of meeting John Fitzgerald. I met him through another remarkable man, Dr Ron Farmer, the Clinical Psychologist and a true devotee of Sathya Sai Baba. Soon after our meeting, John invited me to lunch at his house on the Nerang river bank. During my many years of travel, I have seldom met with such a charming, welcoming, house. As we walked through the beautiful, landscaped gardens, the house seemed to have a perfectly proportioned exterior that seemed to lift the spirit. Inside, the colours and proportions gave me a definite feeling of rest. As we sat at the dining table, with outside views of the river and the sunny sky blessing us from above practically the whole of the dining area was covered by a clear skylight I could not help asking, “Who was your heavenly architect, John?” “No architect,” he replied, “I designed the house myself.”
He gave this matter-of-fact, though remarkable answer without the slightest show of pride in his voice. When we had explored the whole of the house after lunch, I could not help remarking to John who I knew was more than interested in Sai Baba, “If Sathya Sai Baba ever comes to Queensland on a visit, I will nominate this house as the right place for him to stay.” John’s face then lit up with a smile of joy. It was during this visit that I had the pleasure of meeting his attractive young wife and his two very young children, a boy and a girl.

A short walk along the bank of the Nerang River from his house are the offices of his business, and under the same roof Dr Ron Farmer’s clinic. It was not from John himself, but from Ron Farmer that I heard all about his heart-warming philanthropic work, but before telling the details of that I would like to say something about John’s first visit to Sathya Sai Baba.

This took place in the following year, that is, October 1999 when I was again staying in Queensland at my summer residence at Oyster Cove, north of the Gold Coast. John called to seem me about a week before he left for India, and I observed that he was really in high spirits at the thought of spending about a week at the ashram of the great Avatar. He must have been giving a good deal of thought to the project, because on the day before he left, he said to Ron Farmer, “I have decided to invite Sathya Sai Baba to come to Australia, telling Him how very much Australia needs Him. I will ask Him to stay at my house when He’s in Queensland, letting Him know that Howard Murpet said it would be a very suitable house for Him, and any close followers He would like to take there. I will, of course, offer to pay His fare and also the fares of up to a hundred of any followers He likes to bring.” He paused and looked at Ron’s face to note any reactions there. In his kindly way, Ron Farmer said, “You must understand, John, that it is very unlikely you will get to talk with Sai Baba on this, your first, and rather short meeting”. “Well,” said John, “I will write it all in a letter, and get that to Him somehow, while I am there.” When Ron told me of this idea, I said, “Of course, Sathya Sai Baba knows Australia needs Him as does every other county in the world. It is a very generous-hearted gesture of John’s and I’m sure Sathya Sai Baba will appreciate it but I doubt if it will make any difference to His world travel plans. He travels the world every day in His subtle body but the only country He has ever gone to in the physical is Uganda and I would say the thing that took Him there was that He knew that four years later, the dictator Edi Ahmin would expel every Indian from his country. It was a very dangerous time for them and one Indian friend of mine living there at the time was very fortunate to escape with his life. The offer of paying the fares of a hundred of His followers will not change any plans that Sathya Sai Baba has for travel. Sathya Sai Baba once, a good many years ago told me that He would not travel abroad until His own house was in order, by that He means India, of course. Well, do you thing that’s in order? It was compassion for the thousands of Indians living in Uganda that took Him there, to give them a warning. Moreover, offering Sathya Sai Baba a free ticket for Himself and a house to stay in, will not count in Sathya Sai Baba’s scale of things. I remember once in the early days, Walter and Elsie Cowan even sent him a ticket, a return ticket to America and expected Him to come, but instead, He used the ticket to send my friend, Dr V K Gokak on a visit to the Sai people in the United States. Even so, I might be wrong in all this, I hope I am and we must not discourage John in his generous, happy but over-optimistic gesture.”

Well, of course, John did not manage to get any conversation with Sathya Sai Baba but he had a very happy visit. Every day he got a good position for Darshan and he told me that Sathya Sai Baba looked into his eyes with such a deep and penetrating look that he must have seen the depth of John’s mind and soul. Whatever may have happened to the letter and the invitation there can be no doubt that Sathya Sai Baba knew everything about it. My own feeling is that Sathya Sai Baba would have heard John giving details of his plan to Ron the day before he left. I know He has heard things I have said to Iris, especially if the matter concerned our relationship with Him. Furthermore, although we like Him to take our letters, He does not have to read them to know what they contain.

Well, now to come to John Fitzgerald’s philanthropic work, his work for God through his work for mankind. “So as much as you have done it unto the least of these, you have done it unto me,” said Jesus. There are, of course, many ways in which man can help his fellow men, but John must have felt the greatest compassion for the suffering children of this age. They seem to have been born into unfortunate circumstances beyond their control. Generally, I would think, it is the parenting that has failed them completely and so they leave home and naturally join their peers on the street. This almost certainly leads to drug addiction, to a life of crime and then the road back to a normal, useful and happy life has become well nigh impossible.

John wanted to find out how he, with his gift of making millions, could best help in this terrible situation, so he sought advice as to who might help him and he was directed to Ron and Swanny Farmer, who were then living in Sydney. Well, surely it must have been God himself who was guiding John because I think he could not have found a better pair of helpers. I will not say very much about them here because I intend to devote a whole chapter to them later in this book. Suffice it say then, that as well as being Sai devotees they were both highly qualified Clinical Psychologists.

It was during a discussion with Ron and Swanny that John said to Swanny, “Will you be my navigator?” He knew that she was working for a salary in a Nursing Home and he was offering her a full-time job to navigate his project by first of all helping him find the right children and also, to find the best way to help them. Spontaneously, he had felt great faith in her judgment and integrity. Husband, Ron, who understood his wife well and loved her deeply, remained silent, leaving the decision to her, entirely. Incidentally, Ron himself was fully occupied with his professional clinic. The sudden question, with all its implications must have been something of a shock to Swanny but she did not have to think about it long. Her heart was in the kind of work that John was suggesting and her intuition told her that she could trust him entirely, so the answer was “Yes.” Ron was quite as pleased as the other two at her decision because he meant to help them also in every way he could and so it became a partnership of three. I understand from Ron that Swanny spent the whole year finding out about the right children to help and the manner in which they could best be helped. She decided that the children should be recruited not from the streets, but after they had been thrown out of foster homes before they had taken the fatal step of going on the street. The task of reforming street kids was almost impossible, “So we will beat the street by getting in before it,” John decided. Then he added, “If you can find any kids who have been thrown out of at least two foster homes, give them priority.” So this was the plan on which they began the work.

Although John really wanted them both to move to Queensland to set up a foster home where he could have more control and play a bigger part in the work, he finally agreed to them setting up a foster home in Sydney, where they were living and where Ron’s professional work was well established. So they began the work in Sydney with a foster home, taking in a number of very difficult boys who had been thrown out of more than one foster home. Swanny found a very good Matron or Mother of the home and with the loving supervision of Ron and Swanny Farmer, along with John himself who flew down frequently from Queensland, their home continued to run successfully for a number of years. When the lease on the building came to an end and they needed to find new premises, John again tried to persuade them to go to Queensland where he said he would be able to spend more time on the work. At first, Ron and Swanny who were well settled in Sydney, thought they could help him to establish a foster home somewhere near the Gold Coast in Queensland by flying up there frequently to help in the work, but John, who very much wanted them to come to Queensland, said something like this, “If you come and live up here, we can do wonderful work together, work you have not yet dreamed of. I see into the future that we will be able to do magnificent work together.” Ron told me that he spoke to them of their future work together in such a visionary, enthusiastic way that they were both quite thrilled with the idea of moving north and helping this enthusiastic young man with his work for God. They felt that they were a part of it and so they decided to move north into the philanthropic dream of John Fitzgerald, the Karma Yogin.

After a search, they found what Ron calls, “A big, old fashioned, rambling Australian home,” with eight rooms, and there they set up their second foster home in a seaside suburb of Brisbane. That foster home is still running, but after it had been going a few years they realised that the children they were getting had not only been expelled from foster homes but also from schools and they realised that there was also a need to provide schools for expelled children before they went on the street. So they set up their first school on a property belonging to John at a place called Ormeau. There was a lot of preparatory work involved, of course, in finding the right, most suitable teachers. Swanny Farmer is the Director of the school and Dr Ron Farmer is the Adviser and also the tutor of any pupil who needs special tutoring, while John foots the bill for this and the foster home. John also plays an important part in the training of the boys (it is a boys’ school). He takes them for walks on the weekends and teaches those who wish, to ride his polo ponies. Furthermore, any boys who want to learn to play polo receive instructions from John himself. All instruction and training are given along the lines of Sathya Sai Baba’s EHV or Education in Human Values and so Ron says, “It is as much educare as education, bringing out and developing good character traits that are already lying deep within the pupils.”

There was a time when John optimistically felt that he might interest other millionaires in such work. At a business meeting of a group of wealthy men, when John tried to spread an interest in such philanthropic work, the shrewd businessmen questioned him about the cost and the results. Then one of the businessmen, voicing the feelings of all of them, I expect, said to John, “How can you do it, how can you spend all that money for such small results? It’s a drop in the ocean, it’s not commensurate how can you do it?” So John replied, “Well, I can only answer it this way. If you were walking along the street and in front of you a little old lady fell down, how could you help, picking her up and seeing that she was alright to walk on alone. How could you not do it? That’s my only answer. How can I not help these unfortunate kids?” This seemed to be typical of the reactions of the wealthy he tried to interest in the work. He felt that his own school under the direction of the committee of three was doing very well. John had named the school “Toogoolawa”, an Aboriginal word meaning something like “A place in the heart” it certainly has a firm place in the hearts of the trio who guide it.

John Fitzgerald and Ron Farmer have, in a way, become like spiritual brothers and one day some time ago John said to Ron something like this: “I’ve come to the point where I have to make a big decision. You see, Ron, I’ve made enough money for myself and family, plenty for that, and just to go on making money for its own sake is pointless. I have no desire to make more money which becomes superfluous when your own personal and family needs are well covered. Money becomes just figures on paper and I have no interest in pursuing it for its own sake. So I don’t really know what to do with my life at the moment. I must spend some time in thinking about it and making a decision as to what I should do for the rest of my life.” So then John went away to be on his own in the Australian bush. This was his way of contemplating and deciding. Three weeks later he came back and invited Ron and Swanny to his office. He said, in a positive manner, “I have decided what to do. I will not go on making money for myself and I will not run away from the world. Everything I make will be for the Toogoolawa school project and my company will have to make even more money to enlarge and extend the project. As there appears to be little or no help from other businessmen, I realise now that I have to do it myself.” Telling me about it, Ron said, “That was a quickening and a firming of his intention to make money entirely for the school project.” And so the expansion began.

John already had branches of his company in Sydney and in Melbourne and also over in Perth. He decided to begin by establishing a Toogoolawa school in Sydney and another one in Melbourne. His friends, Ron and Swanny agreed happily to fly to these two cities and begin the difficult work of finding the right premises for schools and recruiting the right kinds of teachers. This was a much more difficult matter than it might appear on the surface. Often, when they felt sure they had found the right place, the right location, the right building which was available to be rented as a school, they found an obstacle among the people in the neighbourhood of the proposed Toogoolawa school. These people felt, evidently, that it would be a definite menace to the neighbourhood to have such recalcitrant and potentially criminal children in the vicinity. And so the whole thing would fall through. In fact, it was easier to recruit the teachers than to acquire the building for them to operate in. And so it was that Dr and Mrs
Farmer needed to make repeated air journeys to Sydney and Melbourne; and I began to see why much money was required to launch the extension of this philanthropic work and how much more it would cost to operate it when founded.

This preparatory work was a plus for me personally because each time Ron and Swanny came to Sydney I had the joy of seeing them and talking to them about the progress of the project and many other things. But John and his two helpers will not give up, I know. Eventually success will be achieved and I feel that I am not optimistic in expecting great things, magnificent things as John puts it, to be attained out of this work. John has an inventive mind with a great deal of creative imagination for this practical kind of welfare development. He has already, I know, thought of new ways of making the money required and I predict that all difficulties will be overcome and the Toogoolawa school project will expand in ways to help and redeem the lost children of Australia.

Instead of philosophising about Nishkama karma, that is, doing selfless work without any desire for the fruits of the work in a personal way, he puts it into action. That is why he stirs the love in my heart and I namaste to him as a true Karma Yogin.

Reference:: “The Lights of Home” by Howard Murphet

The Pink Twins – Accolade Productions

The Pink Twins | Accolade Productions
Written by Amy Hyslop
Tuesday, 28 July 2009 15:26

Pink, as they say, is the universal colour of love. And there was a whole lot of pink and whole lot of love on display at the opening night of Accolade Productions’ new piece of musical theatre The Pink Twins. Never have I seen such a fascinating opening night crowd as the “twinnies” of Brisbane came out in force (and in pink) to celebrate the lives and charitable works of two remarkable local women.

Written and directed by Sue Rider, The Pink Twins is a celebration, not only of ‘twinning’, but also of faith, difference and compassion. Through song and movement it explores the lives and good works of Brisbane legends Dorothy* and Moyia O’Brien, identical twins who, among their many achievements, founded the Sunshine Welfare and Remedial Association (SWARA).

Fittingly enough the O’Brien sisters are played by twin performers Anni and Maude Davey. They both give marvelous, magical performances. I don’t know what the O’Brien sisters are like in real life, and director Rider has stressed that The Pink Twins is a fictionalized account of their lives, but I cannot see how they would be failed to be delighted by the Davey sisters’ joyous, sensitive evocations.

They are beautifully supported by twin singers Heather and Marjorie Michael who give glorious voice to music by nationally recognized composer John Rogers. Rogers said that he relished the opportunity to explore the ways in which twins voices are the same yet different – a major theme of the piece as a whole. The arrangements are playful and, as Rider has been quoted as saying, slightly bent – like the twins themselves.

Dancer turned actor Dan Crestani moves effortlessly through a number of roles, most notably Dorothy and Moyia’s intense, spiritual mother. The role is a crucial one. It was their mother who instilled in the twins, or “twinnies” as she called them, the idea that anything is possible if you only embrace the notion of faith.

It was also their mother who controversially introduced them to Indian spiritual guru Sathya Sai Baba. The subject of the twins’ connection to this alternative faith is sensitively touched on by Rider and avoids reference to ugly public claims by a former SWARA manager suggesting that SWARA was a dangerous cult.

Rider makes it clear that their involvement with Sathya Sai Baba’s group had nothing to do with cult mentality and evertyhing to do with its close adherence to their own ideas about the transformative powers of love and happiness.

The fine performances are supported by a wonderfully shambolic choir made up of SWARA clients. Rider had originally planned to use footage of SWARA clients. I’m pleased that she chose to involve them in the live performance. Their presence lends the piece soulful authenticity and highlights the importance of Dorothy and Moyia’s work.

The Pink Twins is a real triumph for everyone involved – particularly writer/director Sue Rider for whom the project has been a real labour of love. Any treatment of the O’Brien sisters’ lives could have easily fallen into the realm of “rose coloured” sentiment but Rider refuses to sanitize her subjects or their lives.

Instead what she gives us is a fast-paced, witty, lyrical and magical portrait of real women, not saints or worse, quaint oddballs.

I came away from The Pink Twins feeling spiritually invigorated and very much “loved-up.” A sentiment which no doubt would be approved by its subjects.

* Dorothy O’Brien passed away in 2004.

QPAC and Queensland Music Festival present
An Accolade Production
The Pink Twins
by Sue Rider

Venue: Cremorne Theatre, QPAC
Dates: Wed 22 July – Sat 1 August
Times: Wed to Sat 7.30pm, Tue 6.30pm.
Matinees: Wed 30 July 11am, Sat 25 July & Sat 1 August 1.30pm
Tickets: Full $29 – $39 Conc $19 – $29

Australian Stage Reference

Song Of The Twin Seekers

Song Of The Twin Seekers
Rosemary Sorensen | June 19, 2009
Article from: The Australian

BEING looked at is so much part of the experience of identical twins, according to Moyia O’Brien, that putting the story of her and her sister on to the stage is perfectly natural.

Moyia and Dorothy are the subject of a new musical theatre production, written and directed by Sue Rider. A “good local story”, Rider says, The Pink Twins is also a production that lets us look at the phenomenon of twinning, not just as the topic of the play but also literally. Two sets of twins will perform in the show starting in Brisbane next month: identical twin actors Anni and Maude Davey, and twin singer-musicians, Heather and Marjorie Michael.

It’s a situation that has composer John Rodgers salivating. He has long been fascinated by the way twins’ voices mimic and diverge from each other, and Rider’s Pink Twins has given him a rare opportunity to work that into his music.

“The notes start together, then veer out in a pattern,” is how Rider describes it. “It’s very bent, and that’s just what twins are like, a bit bent.”

Her twins, the O’Brien sisters, were eccentric in a genteel way, their nickname deriving from their obsession with the colour pink. But there is so much more to the slightly sweet and sanitised version which the women themselves put about and carefully exploited until Dorothy’s death in 2004.

It was precisely hearing the news of Dorothy’s death that galvanised Rider into action on her play. Aware of their story, and of the women themselves when they used to come occasionally to see plays at La Boite Theatre, where she was artistic director in the 1990s, Rider realised the jumping-off point for the play she had vaguely thought about writing for many years would now have to be the question: what happens to the twin left behind when the other dies?

“It’s about their life and work,” Rider says, “and the idea of interdependence, this same-but-different thing. Their story was like a continuing line of surprises, from their birth on, and they continue to do things to surprise.”

The O’Briens were born in Toowoomba and they have an older sister who still lives there. Their father died when they were three, as a consequence of being gassed in the trenches in World War I, according to the twins. The first surprise was their arrival, as the doctor had not detected two heartbeats, so only one baby was expected.

Their mother plays an enormous role, in the story as told by the twins and in Rider’s musical. As we move through their childhood years, when they would pinch flowers from gardens, horses from paddocks and even little boys from off the street to bring home and present to their loving mother – to make her as happy as they believed she deserved to be – we sense an intensity in their mother that is almost “bent” itself, to use the word in the way Rider uses it to describe twins. When a path is followed with such conviction and strength of purpose, it can seem, to a dawdling onlooker, to curve away from the simple and ordinary.

It was, in fact, the twins’ mother who brought them, quite late in their lives, to their guru, the controversial Indian spiritual leader, Sathya Sai Baba. That connection led to an ugly incident this year at the Sunshine Welfare and Remedial Association, which the twins set up in 1975. SWARA, the acronym by which the organisation has been known from the outset, is a place where intellectually disabled people, those deemed unfit by government agencies for rehabilitation into the workforce, are given “understanding, care and love”, with daily schedules of activities designed “for personal growth”.

According to the twins’ story as told to Rider, SWARA was set up a few years before their mother, still living in Toowoomba, asked them to accompany her to a film about Sathya Sai Baba. All three were smitten with the guru’s powerful presence and rhetoric. He embodied their beliefs about love as an invincible fount of happiness.

Swara is also the name of an Indian musical scale. Sai Baba’s group is one of those whose devotees wear sunshine colours, across the range from orange to red or pink. The sisters felt these coincidences were signs of the confluence of their work with that of their guru. But a previous manager of SWARA went public with claims that such signs were proof the Pink Twins were running a dangerous cult centre.

The storm, which included protests and finger-pointing aimed at uncovering the twins’ connection with their Indian guru, passed (Ref), Rider says, and SWARA is back to running as it has for more than 30 years.

Moyia was recognised last year by the Queensland State Government with a lifetime achievement award for her work in disability services (Ref). Being the focus of a television expose-style current affairs program appeared not to faze her: she told an interviewer at the time the suggestions were rubbish. “SWARA is not a cult, it’s a service organisation.”

Rider’s play picks up, and delicately handles this intensely personal but fascinating side to the twins’ experience, suggesting this was a kind of secret part of their lives. They chose not to share it because they must have known it could be misunderstood. In her 60s, Dorothy, the twin who had always been the blue one, ever since her parents dressed her thus to distinguish her from her pink sister Moyia, decided to swing across to the pink side. The decision may have been influenced by their increasing interest in the spirituality of Sathya Sai Baba.

Moyia, now 85, puts the story more simply. Wearing pink was simply something they liked to do. Towards the end of Dorothy’s life they became a kind of local oddity, admired but smiled at, the couple of elderly twins who dressed in pink, furnished their house in pink and drove about in a pink car.

“The pink thing marked them out,” Rider says. “They became aware of the advantage of it, when, as funds for their centre became scarce, they needed the promotion, and they were quite canny really, at playing the game, but in a different way from everyone else.”

When her final illness made it clear she was dying, Dorothy was taken to India by Moyia, to spend her last days near their guru. She was cremated and her ashes scattered in the Ganges. It would take a very different work of art to interrogate how this sits alongside the family’s strong Catholicism, and their “spiritual journey” which they also described in an autobiography, written in 1999, called The Touch of the Lord.

Rider says Moyia, who knows the theatre production is a fictional development of their lives, is “overwhelmed with excitement” about this project. Both women were pioneers in occupational therapy, moving to Sydney when they were young women to train in the first courses of a branch of medicine they could see would become important.

When they moved back to Brisbane Dorothy went to work at the Commonwealth Rehabilitation Centre, Moyia at a hospital and then at the Queensland Spastic Centre. Their determination to set up SWARA, how they managed first to secure, then gradually improve, the facilities, and how their city-edge premises became the subject of huge frustration and eventual compromise for a string of state governments, is all part of Rider’s storytelling in The Pink Twins.

But she uses the facts as the mere bones. Around the real lives, she has spun a weave of ideas and themes: about interdependence, about faith and transformation and, most excitingly, about “appreciating difference”.

Early on, Rider says, she had the thought, half-formed, that her music theatre piece would have to involve the people who attend SWARA.

“The people the twins worked with as occupational therapists were, like them, seen as different from the rest of the community, but at SWARA they were exploring what is the same about them or, on the other hand, getting them to appreciate their own different-ness.

As twins, Moyia and Dorothy were always stared at. They couldn’t not be the centre of attention, and a lot of the people they worked with are in the same position. So they learned to accept that, and to understand that’s who they are.”

Rider’s first thought was to use footage from SWARA, particularly of the group singing, which is a big part of their daily schedule, but eventually she realised they needed to become part of the show.

“There’s a really moving song they sing,” Rider says, “which is about how I love myself the way I am, there’s nothing I need to change. I realised it would be dishonest, in a play that is about embracing the work they do at SWARA, not to have the people from the centre there. It would be sanitising it.”

Getting The Pink Twins to stage has been an immense labour of love for Rider, who has had to be producer and director. The play is being presented by Queensland Performing Arts Centre as part of the Queensland Music Festival, which provided good foundation support, but Rider was still following up on various small grant applications right up to the last minute.

In keeping with the “spirit of transformation” theme which threads through the work, she headed into the rehearsal room this week with an open mind as to how her two sets of twins would transform the script she has worked so hard, over several years, to get to its final draft.

“A long time ago, when I started out as a director,” Rider says, “I thought I had to plan everything, to tell everyone exactly what to do. Thank God I’ve relaxed over the years. The collaborative meeting of minds in the rehearsal room is so exciting.”

The Pink Twins, presented by QPAC and the Queensland Music Festival, is at the Cremorne Theatre, QPAC, Brisbane, July 22 to August 1.

The Australian Reference