John McClean London March 2010

At the EPF Conference for some years now there has been a regular segment “Meet the Society” and this year it was the turn of the APAS. This is very fitting, given that our members have been attending the Conference for many years, in increasing numbers, and have been active as contributors to clinical groups and as participants in the many working groups that are a feature of these Conferences.

Our presentation was chaired by John McClean and comprised short papers by Maria-Teresa Hooke, Francis Salo and John Boots. David Tuckett was the discussant. Our theme was the isolation of our society, and we wanted to highlight the double aspect of our distance from the established centres of psychoanalysis: our isolation as a settler society, in which psychoanalysis was founded by settlers from European psychoanalytic societies; and the freedom this distance allows, to develop our own distinctive identity.

In the first presentation by Maria-Teresa, entitled “The Tyranny of Distance”, we heard a lively and thoughtful account of the founding of Australian psychoanalysis by European refugee psychoanalysts, and the subsequent developments. She illuminated the inevitable conflicts along the way, between the different traditions at work, and the impact of the newly developing “currency lads and lasses”, the Australian-trained analysts.

Francis Salo provided a contrast, in the form of a specific illustration of one relatively new settler’s experience. Francis brought her knowledge and interests fostered in the British Psychoanalytic Society, and described how Australia offered her the opportunity to develop her own way of working with mothers and infants in groups, in ways that may not have been entirely encouraged in “the mother country”, or indeed that she may have not felt free to develop.

Finally, with John Boots’ presentation, we drew back again for a larger perspective on the culture in which Australian psychoanalysis developed. John emphasised the role of trauma in the culture and in the Society. The theme of “the lost child” captured the psychic reality of settlers traumatically separated from home, and of the indigenous population traumatically invaded and separated from family and culture. Issues which we as a community have only recently been able to fully engage with.

David Tuckett was to be the discussant for these papers, but generously stated that he thought this was superfluous, and instead went on the reflect on his experience as our Visiting Analyst in 2007. He particularly recalled our Open Day Conference “Unsettling the Settlers” which brought together analysts and non-analysts to discuss in greater detail the issues touched on by the speakers. He was impressed by the quality and breadth of our Open Day and our openness to such outreach endeavours. The presentation was attended by a small but distinguished group of some 30 people, some of whom were our own members curious about our history. We had hoped for more, but there are many competing interests at the Conference. However, the presence of the Australian Society is something that looks certain to increase.

John McClean