Tuesday, 24 January 2017

A Day In The Life Of Geoff Guest And The Petford Training Camp

I have been at Petford Training Camp, the residence of Geoff Guest OAM, for four days. Petford, high on the western edge of the Atherton Tableands, is 200km west of Cairns. At 9:30am I sit at a table on the verandah, resting a tired body, gazing out at Brumby. Brumby, a 40-year old recovering ice addict, originally from New Zealand, chose his moniker. To my astonishment, he is working to re-establish a garden. He is carting besar bricks in the 35degrees, broken wrist swinging in its bright blue cast. And now he is screwing tin into the wooden fencing to help to keep wild horses from bolting when they are lured in.

I’m interrupted by Geoff, who, at 90years of age, is introducing me to Blue, who I judge to be in his 60’s. To the uninitiated, they might be the same age. Blue, like so many who re-visit every week, came to Petford to be mentored by Geoff 10, 20, 30, or perhaps 40-odd years ago. Blue, having finished his cuppa, leaves in a green ute, his camp tied down in the tray. Geoff heads out the front to cheer on Brumby, and drop off some salty molasses for the wild horses. Salty so they take long to drink it. As he gets out the front, two cars rock up, and Geoff’s ‘hey g’day!’ rings out, cheerful and engaging, far across the paddocks. Always different at Petford.

Check out the 60minutes episode done on Geoff a while back. There's also a longer documentary by a British journalist on Youtube, and a more recent one on the way.

Perhaps more astonishing is that Brumby, who says he has hardly read a book in his life, has recently started reading. Geoff, who has helped over 50 people come off strong ice addictions, is particularly happy about the insights into EEG that Brumby’s therapeutic story might bring. Geoff puts his success down to Petford’s holistic and individually-specific health and mentoring program. In this case, twice daily EEG exercises - not 1 as is common practice for recovering substance abusers – proper diet (exclusion of all grains and sugar, specific supplementing of vitamins and minerals, as well as sauerkraut and sprouts), Geoff’s observant diagnosis looking for, amongst other things, genetic indicators in the jaw, teeth and face, Geoff’s nuanced, generous, and indefatigable friendship, transformative storytelling, an array of medicinal, and therapeutic techniques, general farm maintenance, catching and mustering of cleanskin cattle, and last but not least, the catching, breaking in, riding, and befriending of wild horses.

More than any one thing in particular, Geoff’s seemingly inexhaustible generosity and love has been channelled into a conviction that the only thing he can do is to help people heal themselves. This seems to have been the salient factor in his successful mentoring of over 5,000 people, mostly young aboriginal boys.

I stop writing and take a vial of distilled narrowleaf ironbark oil, a northern eucalypt, and dab it onto my wisdom teeth, the oil numbing and the pain ebbing away. Geoff says he is one of maybe two people in the world who he knows distils the oil.

The newcomers arrive and Geoff brings them inside for a cuppa, introducing me on the way through. I think of the woman due to arrive later today, the rundown homestead, the cattle to be worked today, the plans to document Brumby’s story and submit it to EEG journals, the Petford Wellness Association newsletter and anyone else, the plans to prepare a PowerPoint on sprouts to trial in Mareeba, the plans to record the plans we’ve been hatching for a documentary trip riding the horses through communities with sauerkraut, sprouts and workshops in tow, down to a institute in Melbourne where Geoff can pass on his knowledge before he passes away... I breathe, and smile to myself, aware that I am caught up in a short adventure in the long life of one of Australia’s most remarkable persons, and that I will ride whatever wave is thrown at us, whilst helping where I can.

Geoff is giving the spiel to the couple who have arrived: ‘Everyone I’ve gotten off grain, in 3 months they don’t know themselves’… ‘I’m no doctor, but doctors are not looking at nutrition’… ‘Now everyone is different, and some things might work for you and some won’t… and you have to research all this yourself, don’t just trust me…
Indefatigable and generous. A powerful combination. And the scared and concerned and now I’m thinking ignorant voice in me is telling Geoff that ‘it’s worrying me having him working so hard, that he should take it easier’, forgetting who he is and his knowledge and wisdom and life experience, forgetting that he’s at 90 and still breaking in horses and helping people everyday, that his pace has already burnt me out, many times, that he probably knows best how to keep himself alive to keep on doing what he’s been doing his whole life.

I look across at Brumby, now squatting under the poinciana, in his high vis and boots with the young boy next to him, chatting. I think about his words at the kitchen counter prior, knife cutting through a huge watermelon for our fruit salad, about how insanely addicted he was for 2 years with a history of using of 17, and about how different his last four weeks at Petford have been, about how so much energy and money has been poured into therapy for ice addiction, about how effective he’s been finding the EEG and how he can’t believe he’s finding himself reading about horses in a book each day, about how the last thing he would want to touch now is ice, about, and voice breaking slightly now, how important sharing the word of Geoff’s wisdom is, about the impact it could make in the war on ice, where ice is moving into indigenous communities real strong now, about how impactful a trip across Australia sharing this stuff could be and how he wants to help make it happen…

I take another breath in my stinking, sweaty body on the veranda and tune back into the rest of the house.

Geoff’s transitioned the conversation with the newcomers now ‘Now do you have a minute… I’ve got something to show ya… What happens is...’ In a moment he is using a battery-powered laser acupuncture wand on the feet of his visitors… every so gently enquiring about their diet, lifestyle, genetic history. Acupuncture, which he learnt whilst helping out the Chinese army in Nepal, is a holistic healing practice that triggers the body to heal itself.

Within an hour or two of meeting Geoff I knew my life was now massively changed. Within a few days I have been inundated with knowledge and am taking long bathes in the creek to process everything. Within a few years I want to have helped shared in enduring ways, what Geoff has quietly, enduringly, and transformatively shared with so many people out on this station in the Queensland outback. This blog has been created, in part, as a first step in doing this.

Geoff's had a rough year with injuries, and hasn't been able to catch horses and a cattle and sell them like he usually does. At the moment he's down but not out, as he'd put it. There's a GoFundMe to help Geoff and the Petford Wellness Association get back on its feet. Help out the Old Man continue his work and send some dollars his way! https://www.gofundme.com/29xr63w, http://www.connectingup.org/organisation/petford-wellness-association-inc

The action-research done by Laceweb was what led me onto Geoff Guest. Their work details processes of mutual self-help and natural nurturers. If you want to delve more into these extensive and fascinating stories:

A general history of the Petford Youth Camp: http://www.laceweb.org.au/ggl.htm 
Geoff’s background as a Stolen Generation member, and how he learnt acupuncture whilst transporting horses over the Khyber pass in war time: http://www.laceweb.org.au/gsg.htm

Stories of Geoff including microprocessors at work, his implementation of the techniques of neuro-linguistic programming (NLP), of electroencephalography (EEG, a form of brain pattern training which helps users to maintain focus) etc: http://www.laceweb.org.au/ghw.htm

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