Punk was a natural progression for me. My parents, both Socialists, were active in protesting against Apartheid and racism, attending the annual May Day parades as an family event. Dinner time involved discussions about politics, freedom and a Socialist utopia. I discovered Punk in 1986 when a friend lent me his Sex Pistols cassette, “The Greatest Rock ’n’ Roll Swindle”. The deeper I looked the further I became enmeshed into Anarcho Punk. I listened to Crass, Conflict, Icons of Filth, Sub Humans, Dead Kennedys, etc.
Being a part of the Punk Scene in Perth was like finding my second family
I fell in love with the characters and felt at home around these like minded folks. Punk seemed to attract people who were damaged, strange and didn’t fit the status quo. Although I didn’t know it at the time, these associations prepared me for my career and current role as Executive Manager of Operations at Lifeline.
I became active in the Anarchist movement. Political activism and direct action were a regular pastimes both on my own and as part of a group. I played in various bands from 1988 to 1990 - "Controlled By Fear", "Give Sprouts A Bath" and "CuCuhlaine Power Head" - but as the years progressed I found myself further immersed in Direct Action and Protest, involving myself in forest blockades, land rights protests, Anti McDonalds Day and campaigning against logging of the Sarawak Rainforest, to name a few causes. From protest I was drawn to more proactive means of individual change.
Neal Bodel in Cucuhlaine Powerhead (Actors Centre - 1990)
An Anarchist revolution didn’t happen as I thought it would when I was 16
But what resonated with me was how to empower people to be more self-reliant and create greener communities through urban agriculture. This sowed the seed for Perth’s first City Farm which I founded with a few friends and supervised for three years, winning the Environment category of "Young Australian Of The Year" in 1996. As a result, I learnt that I had skills in project development and managing people in a positive way. Permaculture is a very Anarchist concept which promotes self-reliance, small scale, money-less trading systems and cresting thriving communities without Government involvement. Being involved in community environmental projects, I would apply for funding to train young unemployed people, providing them with the skills to work in the environmental restoration sector. I found that most of these youths had significant issues and being familiar with this as a result of my friendships in the punk scene, I found their behaviours easy to deal with.
Neal Bodel at Perth City Farm 1995
This projected me into the aspect of the community sector that I work in today. For the past 15 years I have worked with youth that have severe mental illnesses or behavioural syndromes. I have found that using a community development approach with these young people prepares them for the harsh realities of society and helps them believe that there are plenty of good people out there. I have worked with some of the most criminally minded youth in Western Australia, but one thing I have found in all the messed up, damaged young people I have worked with (about 1200 at this point) every one of them, given the opportunity, showed me that they had a good side and that the violent, juvenile, criminal behaviour had a painful, traumatic story behind it.
I now work for Lifeline W.A. as the Executive Manager of Community Education and Engagement. Presenting at conferences with 700+ people and traveling around Australia to give presentations and workshops about Mental Health and suicide prevention. What sits behind me is the foundation of my ideals that were formulated by Anarcho punk. I’m still an Anarchist (shh don’t tell any one), however it’s more of a personal ideal that I live my life by……… a personal revolution more than a societal one.