I grew up in Somerset, England, not far from Glastonbury. After graduating in Microbiology from the University of Leeds I worked for a while in London as a microbiologist for a large multinational food company.
But this work didn’t satisfy my hunger to do something more meaningful with my life. So I started volunteering with Initiatives of Change, an international movement dedicated to building trust across the world’s divides. During this time I started writing and helping with the production of a magazine called For A Change – telling stories of positive change starting with individuals who had decided to make a difference starting in their own lives. I also started to travel across what was then the Iron Curtain and meeting people from Communist Central and Eastern Europe.
I met my wife Karen at a Bible study group that I ran, and we married in 1990. We had both travelled in Poland and had Polish friends, and from 1992-3 we lived in Warsaw, teaching English to support ourselves and experiencing life alongside our friends at this time of rapid transition.
This was my first experience of living in a low-trust society. Not only was there little trust of individual strangers, but institutions like the government, banks, companies, the judiciary and police were also distrusted and corruption was rife. The experience made a lasting impression on me.
We returned to England at the end of 1993 to start a family, and at the same time a group of us within the Initiatives of Change network set up a program called Foundations for Freedom in response to the needs which we saw in the former Communist countries.
This was the era of Reagan in the USA and Margaret Thatcher in the UK and much of what was being shared from the West was about the technicalities of how to run elections, how to set up political parties, how to split up and privatise state assets, how to set up a stock market and all the trappings of a capitalist democracy. There was even an assumption that capitalism and democracy were two sides of the same coin.
What was lacking, from our perspective, was an understanding of the vital role that social capital and particularly trust plays as the invisible “oxygen” which makes a free society possible. And this is what Foundations for Freedom set out to do – to train young leaders in the importance of trust-building and the necessary skills for this work.
The work with Foundation for Freedom led to many adventures – much travel from Lviv in Western Ukraine to Novosibirsk in Siberia running short courses and workshops in partnership with local NGOs, universities, colleges and Youth Parliaments. We had two delegations of Ukrainian Members of Parliament visiting the UK for study tours. After a number of years doing this, including running “train the trainers” courses, we handed over the running of Foundations for Freedom to people in the region, and it is still going strong, based in Ukraine.
Alongside these adventures in Eastern Europe was a growing interest in theology and also in mental health. For a few years I partially supported myself and my young family with shifts in a local psychiatric hospital as a nursing auxiliary. I also did two years part-time theological studies for a Bishop’s Certificate in Christian Education and started to explore whether I had a vocation as an Anglican priest (Newsflash – I didn’t!)
Wondering what on earth I was going to do with the rest of my life, in 2002 I accepted an invitation for me and the family to spend a year in Australia supporting the local Initiatives of Change team, particularly in its Life Matters training programs. Part of the reason I wanted to come here was to learn about the Australian experience of multiculturalism. It was not that long after 9/11 had shaken the world and it seemed to me that as a human family we had to learn to live with an acceptance and appreciation of cultural and religious difference, or else we would kill each other trying to convert everyone else to “my (right) way”. Some of these ideas found expression in a program we launched called “Discover the Other“. I was also fortunate to have the opportunity to travel to Solomon Islands a couple of times to support trust-building and reconciliation initiatives there after a civil war.
When we arrived in Australia my two sons were six and eight years old. We fell in love with this amazing country and after a few years here decided to apply for permanent residency.
Karen and I separated in 2013 and this precipitated a very deep inner journey for me, looking at my shadow patterns around anger, shame and sex, and a growing understanding of the effects of trauma and inter-generational trauma. My healing journey involved Jungian psychology, voice dialogue, breathwork, focussing, shamanic practice, men’s work, and the work that reconnects. I met and started working with Phoenix Arrien in 2015 and together we created a body of work called Innate Wisdom Connection running workshops and retreats around Australia, as well as individual private sessions.
In 2019 I moved to the town of Maclean in northern NSW to be part of creating a small eco-village here called Jagera Eco-community.