Quaker Service Australia (QSA) began in 1959 as a commitment to support post war relief efforts and was largely a fundraising organisation run by volunteers. Fifty years later, it is a recognised non-governmental international development agency with a legacy of projects, partners and people scattered throughout the world.
The origins of an independent Australian Quaker service agency go back to 1940 when Quakers in Adelaide sent an impassioned plea to the wider community of Australian Quakers, that “we must have an Australian Friends Service Committee”. Although the idea was then taken up fairly widely, it was not until 1959 that the vision became a reality, and it was agreed to establish a committee known as Friends Service Council (Australia) to be abbreviated to FSC (Aust).
From these humble beginnings, the work began, with all of the administration taking place out of a committed Quaker’s home. The work was largely voluntary at that time, and it was not until 1985 that QSA employed its first staff person.
In 1967 QSA sent its first person overseas. Pat Hewitt (now Pat Mavromatis) was a trained nurse sent to work for four years at Friends Rural Centre, Rasulia, India. The experience had a profound effect on Pat’s life, and she continued to work in child and family health for many years. Since then, QSA has worked in Cambodia, Vietnam, Uganda, Laos, East Timor, South Africa, Zimbabwe, Kenya, Hong Kong, the Pacific, Indigenous Australia and many more countries still.
It was during the 1970’s that QSA made a conscious decision to move away from “band-aid” relief work, and move towards sustainable development. It was around this time that QSA received its first grant from the Australian Government Agency for International Development, AusAID (then known as ADAB).
QSA's biggest undertaking was the Cambodian English Language Training (CELT) Program in Phnom Phen, which employed over 30 staff and involved an exchange program between Cambodia and Australia.
To acknowledge and record the work of QSA during it's over 50 year history, Heather Saville has written a book entitled, "Friends in deed", which is available from the QSA office for a modest fee.