Ned saw himself as a ‘cultural therapist’
He was inspired by his mother’s efforts as a community developer during the Great Depression when she galvanised the town of Gunnedah NSW to cope. His early experiences as a doctor working in the Northern Territory, the UK and the Sub-Continent gave him confidence to engage with many different people and situations.
When he returned to Armidale he made contact with Aboriginal people and farmers and developed workshops of mutual support and action. He shared his learning journey with his wife Joan until she died, and then continued to practice meditation as part of managing himself and recognising the unconscious elements in life.
“My object has always been to plug every new understanding into every pre-existing one”.
In later years the restorative justice/practice approach became for him an example of achieving emotional learning by being cognitively explicit and turning society away from negativism.
What Ned had to say about himself:
Ned wrote about his life work.
"I'm Ned Iceton and I've been 'on about' people and society even before I went to study Medicine at age 16. I always felt I wanted to engage with people as they really were, without any bullshit, and decided that if I were looking after them when they were ill they'd be more real; and so I did Medicine. That was great, but the day came when I realised that my patients' gratitude was misplaced, because they shouldn't have become sick in the first place. They were living a lifestyle that was illness-producing!
In those days I was a flying doctor in the Northern Territory of Australia. I was working with the entire population of the outback, both Aboriginal and white. In the first instance it dawned on me that the lifestyle lived by Aboriginal people was why they had the patterns of illness they had. But then immediately after that I saw that the same was true of everybody, black and white - it was just that our white morbidity-causing lifestyles were different from theirs.
When I did the postgraduate Diploma in Tropical Medicine & Hygiene at Sydney University in 1962, the Professor, Robert Black, had us read about community development, among a lot of things, and I found I was immediately switched on. I realised I had already begun to be a community developer while I was working as a doctor in the Territory, by raising with outback citizens on my radio session some more general issues for them, like education, as well as health and illness. I came to see that lots of people can engage for real when the context is real and important, not just when they're sick. I was on the way to being a community developer.
I later spent thirteen months wandering about India, 3.5 months in Sri Lanka and 8 months in Pakistan looking at public health programs and community development approaches to achieving it, and getting to know lots of Sri Lankans, Indians, and Pakistanis, as well as locally-based United Nations development staff from many countries, and their local national counterparts. On the basis of this background in 1966 I got a job as Lecturer in Community Development at the University of New England, and gradually ceased to be a medico. Early on at UNE I attended some very experiential workshops run by Dr. Maurice Marsh of the Psych Dept., and found them very productive. Soon I was myself running the first of a few Human Relations workshops with Aboriginal people, starting in 1970. And I ran a network newsletter for quite a few years among those participants.
Later when I was prohibited by an administrative decision from doing more work with Aborigines I moved into offering to non-Aborigines a new style of workshop which I devised, called a Social Development Practitioners' workshop, the first of which was run in 1975. These have grown into the Social Developers' Network (SDN) which has held workshops every year since. The agenda of these is the people who attend and the issues they are confronting in their personal and professional lives at that point in time. There is also our special group process, which has to be such as to make it possible for people to be honest and forthcoming to each other about their problems, and for which we've developed a few agreed basic guidelines over the years."