TCF ACT and Queanbeyan – a short history since its re-establishment in 1991
June 1991 – Public Meeting
On 18 June 1991 National Association for Loss and Grief ACT held a public meeting for bereaved parents. The Compassionate Friends had started in Canberra in 1983 by a small group of bereaved parents. NALAG now felt that they could help to re-establish the group in a more structured way.
60 people were present at the public meeting which was chaired by the president of NALAG. There were two guest speakers, a journalist who was also a bereaved parent and a visiting psychiatrist. There were questions from the audience who then carried the motion that TCF should continue in ACT.
Bereaved parents who felt able to offer support to others were invited to attend a workshop followed by a 6 session helping skills course. Parents seeking support were to be notified of the date of a meeting to be held within the next month.
July 1991 – start of NALAG 6 session helping skills course
12 bereaved parents attended this course run by three trained counselors.
July 18 – first evening sharing meeting
Held at a member’s home by 2 grief counsellors.
August 15 – first business meeting
Chaired by president of NALAG. Decisions were made about what jobs were needed and volunteers called to fill these positions. It was decided to have monthly evening support meetings O’Rourke’s counselling rooms in Dickson and daytime meetings on the third Thursday at a member’s home.
September 1992 – first newsletter
It was hand written and photocopied and sent out to about 20 people. It has been re-appearing monthly, then bi-monthly and now quarterly ever since. There are copies of all old newsletters in our files.
October 1992 – first meeting at the Cancer Society’s rooms
We met at O’Rourke’s rooms for a year, but then they closed. We were lucky then to be able to use a room at the Cancer Society in Curtin and this arrangement lasted until the Cancer Society moved to Belconnen and the premises were sold at the end of 1999. We then had a year of meeting in the hall of the St James Uniting Church in Curtin – but there was no room for our cupboard and bookshelf with all our books and papers which were housed at the NALAG’s Grief Resource Centre in Spence.
February 1996 – Dedication of TCF Memorial Seat in Weston Park
Our memorial seat in Weston Park was a project long in the planning, so it was wonderful to gather on Sunday 18 February 1996 for its dedication. It was a beautiful sight to first see the seat laden with flowers and ribbons and then to see the ribbons tied to surrounding gum trees, fluttering in the breeze, with flowers at the foot of the trees. Anyone who was there will also remember the beautiful voice of Jill Upstill as she sang for us. We have returned to the seat often for ceremonies as a group and individually on special days.
January 2001 – the Grant Cameron Community Centre
A long awaited room of our own with use of communal meeting rooms. A new phase in the life of TCF as money had to be raised to pay rent.
A celebration marking the first 10 years.
2001 to 2011 – 10 years further on
Continuing to meet at Grant Cameron Community Centre has enabled us to consolidate our resources and focus our activities. The Southern Cross Club with its ongoing financial support has assisted us in having sufficient funds to pay for our rent at the Centre.
Our quarterly newsletter is sent to all members electronically, and with the collation of thoughts from members and articles from other sources it is a comforting and valuable resource.
Our library has grown from 2 baskets of books and pamphlets to over 350 titles on 3 bookshelves in our room at the Centre under the careful stewardship of our librarian.
Monthly sharing meetings remain the fundamental source of support. However, the popularity of meeting one-to-one and more social settings (morning teas, lunches, dinners, Knit and Natter, weekends in the country) has increased in recent years – all opportunities to meet in a friendly and safe environment.
Since 1991, 6 people have taken on the role of Coordinator of TCF and countless members have taken on the various committee and non-committee roles which are necessary for the group to effectively function.
In to the future as in the past it is good to remember that TCF is a worldwide family of bereaved parents offering friendship and understanding to each other.
2012 to 2022
During this time, we held regular fund raising events and continued to receive Southern Cross Club and other grants. Money received was used in part to provide various events for members, including:
– Self-care days with guest presenters including art and meditation therapists.
– Weekend retreats at Hartzer Park.
– Christmas gatherings at the Grant Cameron Community Centre and at our memorial seat in Weston Park.
– A reception for The Compassionate Friends founder, the Reverend Simon Stephen.
Our newsletter moved from paper to electronic format and is sent to all members by email. Our full library of books is listed in the newsletter for loan to members.
A decision was made in 2021 to terminate our lease at the Grant Cameron Community Centre in Holder. Future sharing meetings will be held at Emergency Service meeting rooms in various locations around Canberra.