Quaker Service Australia (QSA)
Quaker Service Australia aims to express in a practical way the concern of Quakers for the building of a more peaceful, equitable, just and compassionate world. QSA works with communities in need to improve their quality of life with projects that are economically and environmentally appropriate and sustainable.
Origins and History
The idea of an Australian Friends Service Council was first mooted by Alva Brunning in 1940. She recognised the need for a Quaker Aid Agency focused on the countries of Asia West Pacific. However it was not until 1959 that the Service Council (now Quaker Service Australia) was formed.
To begin with, QSA was primarily a fundraising organisation. Within Australia, it supported initiatives of Aboriginal Australians and also passed funds to the American Friends Service Committee and Quaker Peace and Service in the UK, in support of post war relief efforts.
In 1967, QSA sent its first volunteer overseas. Pat Hewitt, a trained nurse, worked for four years in the health clinic at Friends Rural Centre in Rasulia, India.
During the 1970s, QSA shifted its focus away from post-war relief work and towards sustainable development. Much of their work focuses on permaculture – a philosophy of working with, rather than against nature to care for the Earth and its people. A notable example is QSA’s nine-year collaboration (1990-99) with VACVINA, a Vietnamese organisation dedicated to improving nutrition through re-establishing traditional food-gardening practices.
QSA's biggest project to date has been the Cambodian English Language Training (CELT) Program. In 1985, they began working with the Ministry of Education in Phnom Penh to provide English language training to government officials and to improve secondary school teachers' language abilities. The project was managed by QSA until 1993, during which class intakes grew from 15 to almost 150. The project was then handed over to Australia’s International Development programme, who continued to fund it until 1996.
A book, Friends in Deed, by Heather Saville, was published in 2009 to mark the 50th anniversary of QSA.
Funding, Governance and Scale of Operations
For many years, QSA was an entirely voluntary operation, with the administration run out of a private home. QSA did not employ any paid staff until 1985.
Today, QSA is run by a management committee. Their work is funded from a combination of public donations and grants from the Australian Government’s Agency for International Development (AusAID). Support for projects in Australia comes from QSA’s Indigenous Concerns Fund, funded entirely from voluntary donations.
In the year ending Sept 2013, QSA had a revenue of roughly $Aus 600k, of which $240k came as a grant from AusAID. Of this, $572k was spent directly on international aid programmes. $61k was spent on domestic Australian projects. A further $140k went on programme support costs, employee costs, promotional activities and other costs, giving a shortfall in that year of almost $170k.
Home base, physical offices, and countries worked in
Quaker Services Australia is based in Surrey Hills, a suburb of Sydney, New South Wales.
Currently, QSA works in Cambodia (40% of aid budget in 2012), India (25%), Uganda (18%), Zimbabwe (8%), and Timon L’este (2%). In addition, 7% was spent on Indigenous Concerns in Australia.
Methods of Work
QSA views development as a process of improving a community’s conditions in a sustainable and self determining way, addressing causes as well as symptoms and involving all of the community in the planning, design and implementation of a project.
QSA works with international development partners in long term partnerships, working towards the goals of economic self-sufficiency and environmentally sustainable living.
- Seek to relieve suffering and poverty
- Improve access to basic services
- Increase the knowledge, skills and expertise of those involved
- Use local materials and appropriate technology
- Promote sound environmental and ecological practices
- Create a reciprocal relationship between QSA and the community.
Areas of Current Work
Areas of current work
Developing sustainable organic food gardens in Cambodia
- Reforestation, growing medicinal plants and watershed management in India
- Organic farming in Uganda
- Supporting a nutrition garden at an orphanage in East Timor
- Building a dam to provide water for an isolated community in Zimbabwe and support for a school in Bulawayo
- Supporting small scale Aboriginal projects in Australia