Postal Address: P.O.Box 236, Hamilton NSW 2300. Ph: +61 2 4942 2010
There are three activities that are absolutely vital in the creation of a community. The first is eating together around the same table. The second is praying together. And the third is celebrating together. By celebrating I mean to laugh, to fool around, to have fun, to give thanks together for life. When we are laughing together with belly laughs we are all the same. Jean Vanier, Living Gently in a Violent World, p. 37
Hunter Friends of L’Arche is a community of about 30 people with and without intellectual disabilities who meet regularly in the Newcastle area to do just that. We enjoy eating, praying and celebrating together at community gatherings, social activities, workshops and other events.
We have been working hard to establish a community living the L’Arche vision, but we will still need to gain additional financial support to enable our long term aim of having one or more homes to become a reality.
Then some people with intellectual disabilities within the Newcastle/Hunter area could live with assistants as a L’Arche family.
At present we are living as a supportive community where all can belong and be valued. Following a generous offer from the Hunter Uniting Church Presbytery we have entered into a partnership agreement and established an office in their building in Garden Suburb so that we can have a more visible presence in the community. We have appointed a part time Project Coordinator, Ros Wetzler, to assist us in progressing our future vision. This position is supported financially with some of our funds that have been raised and donated in recent years. We hope that we will be able to gain some additional financial support to sustain and expand this role as our plans develop.
For the past year we have been companioning our core members (members with intellectual disability) and gathering their remembered stories. We are planning in 2013 to celebrate each of their lives and fulfil a dream they might have.
Through our current activities of community meals and social gatherings we are making contact with and learning from L’Arche groups in Sydney, and friends from the Heart of Glebe Community in Glebe. We look forward to meeting other families who have become aware of our community. All are welcome to join in any of our activities and we would be happy to provide any further details or discuss any offers of assistance.
The Hunter Friends of L’Arche Board has prepared a business plan and other associated documentation to assist in promoting the establishment of our first home in the Newcastle-Hunter area. Our long term vision is to establish one or more L’Arche homes in the area.
The purpose and priorities of Hunter Friends of L’Arche are summarised below;
• make known the gifts of people with intellectual disabilities
• to form meaningful relationships with our core members and to remember, celebrate and dream together • grow our community
• establish our first home
Our priorities for the next year
• implement ways of engaging our core members in meaningful relationships with other people in the local community and growing our community
• embrace a true sense of belonging and participation by all of our members and introduce new and innovative ways of developing independence for each member
• continue conversations with L’Arche Sydney and government authorities to progress possible ways of positioning ourselves for the establishment of our first future home and to examine possible options for participation in the National Disability Scheme .
• Our History
In 1990 a small group was formed to explore the possibility of a L’Arche group in Newcastle. Some members of this group attended a Retreat at Campbelltown, Sydney, with Jean Vanier, where Jean told them that no new L’Arche communities could be established as there were insufficient assistants available. This group established an alternative housing scheme for the disabled called Hunter Carers for the Intellectually Disabled.
In 1994 through associations at Hunter Carers an interest in L’Arche was rekindled, and visits began to the Sydney L’Arche Community.
In 1998, meetings of interested people commenced to pray, learn and explore the possibility of a L’Arche community in Newcastle.
In March 2004, a visit by the Regional Coordinator, John Coleman, to meet the group and address a public meeting was invaluable. On 15th April after a discussion on how we could build community in the spirit of L’Arche it was decided to seek “Friends of L’Arche” status” and establish three interrelated sub committees to attend to sharing spiritual life in the spirit of L’Arche; community building through activities and involvement with those with disabilities; and a management group.
Through bimonthly community nights with a shared meal and spiritual reflection, and social events such as picnics and ten pin bowling we began to build our community. Thirteen of our group attended the Australian, New Zealand and the Pacific Region retreat at Merroo entitled “Our Broken World: A Pathway to Peace” from April 23rd to 26th, 2004, led by Jean Vanier and Eileen Glass.
On 19th June 2004, the L’Arche Australia Regional Council and National Board endorsed our desire to be recognised with Friends of L’Arche status.
In 2005 community building and strengthening continued with bi monthly community nights and picnics and other social gatherings. Hunter Friends of L’Arche held its first retreat at the Stroud Monastery and Michael, Lorraine, Jonathan and Wendy attended the L’Arche Australia Companion’s retreat at Galong.
Incorporation was achieved in early 2006 and we have received Charitable Gift Recipient endorsement as a Benevolent Society from the Australian Taxation Office.
In a partnership agreement with the Hunter Uniting Church Presbytery an office was established in their building in Garden Suburb.
In September 2012 a part time Project Co-ordinator was appointed.
Four core members and their companions attended a Companions Retreat in Brisbane, in September 2012, an adventure for all without parents.