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Rev. Father Dunlea and AA

A.A. first came into being in Akron, Ohio, U.S.A. in June 1935. The founders were Bill W. and Doctor Bob both alcoholics. They brought about there own recoveries by developing a way of life set out in twelve steps, which they adopted. Bill W. died on 24th January 1971, Doctor Bob in 1950, both retaining their soberiety to the last. Father Thomas Dunlea having read of these men further obtained a copy of their ideals, in 1945. So true to form, the Father mustered about a dozen drunks together at National Park, in tents near to where he first tried to establish Boys Town, a good mile walk from Sutherland and the nearest Pub. It was a sort of a camping holiday to keep them away from the Pub and keep them off the Grog, and the Park was out of the Councils jurisdiction.  He was able to keep them in order feed and water them, they had plenty of time to relax, have walks in the bush and sleep, while he was away doing his other duties. This proved to be quite satisfactory for a start, and on his return each day he would have a bottle of good wine which he shared out and it was not hogged, this kept down the desire to drink plonk and metho. As far as the Alcos were concerned it was a terrific long holiday camp in a pleasant setting away from the slums of Sydney. And it looked like working O.K. but one day while the Father was away someone brought some Metho along and gave it too them, it was either a very poor joke,or a deliberately an act of wickedness for they all got blithered and caused trouble which involved the police having to go up and quell the trouble, however the police took no action provided the men moved out and they returned to the city. The Fathers first attempt;a miserable failure. But Father Dunlea was a Pigheaded Irishman, as well as being a dedicated man. So notwithstanding his failure he got together with Doctor Minogue who was a Psychiatrist and Medical Superindant of Rydalmere Hospital, and Archie McKinnon a Psychiatric nurse at Darlinghurst Reception House in April 1945 for a meeting at the Boys Town office in Elizabeth street. Now here were three men with the same ideals, under one roof, where they could work out a founding of an Alcholics Anonymous for Australia. And a'fter a full discussion of all the pros and cons of A.A. they decided to unite and build here in Sydney an A.A. To start with, Father Dunlea provided the room in Bligh street in the centre of Sydney and their first meetings were held there quite successfully but as time went along some of the members were anything but

type of behavior, he did not like Alcoholics anyway, and insisted that they had their get together elsewhere. So they moved their meeting place from Bligh House they were running things now with quite a good following of members all who were trying in various degrees to get away from the demon drink and this was not an easy task. Right from the word go Father Dunlea had the idea of establishing the A.A. in Sutherland, so he secured quite a large cottage in Loftus avenue Loftus on the edge of the National Park. His idea was to have a home for alcholics where he could treat and cure them and dismiss them cured. A beautiful dream I'm afraid. But,0h No, Sutherland Council again rejected his application to open the home, the Councilors immediately assuming that there would be dozens of drunken bums arriving on their door step. They hadn't forgotten the melee in the camp at the Park that the police had to be called to. However at the following council meeting Father Dunlea and Dr Minogue spoke loud and long and persuaded the councilors to let them have a try. And it was on Xmas day 1945 with a brass band and decorations "Christmas house" was dedicated and opened as a home for the treatment of alcholics.

For a long time it ran along successfully but finance always the big problem, Father Dunlea put all of his personal money into the project but he was ruthlessly exploited. Pat who was the Manager of the home really tried hard to make a success of it. Pat himself being a reformed Alcholic was dead keen to help the others help themselves, it was a vallient try and at great cost to Father that A.A. had got off the ground and credit must be.given to Father Tom, Dr Minogue, Frank Sturge Harty, Rex, Bill, Jack, Russ, Fred, Clive, Betty, Pat, Jim, Dave, and Ossie and last but far from least Archie McKinnon. Those were the Foundation members of on which the Australian A.A. was founded. With all the work involved let us hope that A.A. will stay and continue, those who remember Father Tom Dunlea will never forget his efforts to the doing of good in the community and good to others. Drunkeness is nothing new for Omar Khyayam says on his last page,

And when thyself with shining foot shall pass

Among the guests Star-Scattered on the grass

And in thy joyous errand reach the spot

Where I made one--turn down an empty glass.

Contributed George Heavens.