Practising pagans land in hot water
July 22nd, 1998, Courier Mail
By David Murray
The depth of paganism in Australia was "grossly underestimated",
the coordinator of a controversial pagan conference
Professor Quenten Walker said there were at least 8000
to 10,000 pagans across the country.
"The last census showed it was the fastest growing
religion in Australia," he said.
"It is about time people relaised paganism is a religion,
is positive, is life-affirming and deserves the same
respect as other religions."
He made the comments in wake of church and council
criticism of a pagan conference planned for the outskirts
Pagan 98 is to be held at the Young Men's Christian
Association camp at Joyner next month. More than 1500
people, including witches, druids and occultists, are
Professor Walker, a Pagan 98 co-ordinator, said opposition
to the conference was based on "TV shows, b-grade movies
and mediaeval superstitions".
"We do not sacrifice animals, we do not have gratuitous
sex, we do not worship the devil or any entity of evil,"
he said. "Conferences like this are held in other states
all the time - I didn't think not being a Christian
would be news."
Professor Walker, a cancer specialist at the Royal
Brisbane Hospital, said pagans worshipped "the divine
that is in nature" and had a religious obligation to
look after the land.
Pagans believed in gods and goddesses and had an ethic
to "do what you want as long as you don't hurt anybody",
Organisers chose the YMCA grounds because it was an
"available bush site" close to the city.
The conference would include evening rituals, meditation
and talks from international pagan leaders, Professor
But Pine Rivers Mayor Yvonne Chapman and churches in
the shire have condemned the conference.
Cr Chapman, a former Bjelke-Petersen government minister,
said the conference would "not be made welcome" in the
"I'm here to try to protect everybody within my area
and I don't feel this sort of thing should be going
on," she said. "Their brochure has a picture of people
standing around a tree in robes. It says it will be
better because it is a full moon."
Assembly of God Pastor Doug Clarke said the gathering
was "leading people down the wrong path".
Church members also are believed to have lobbied the
YMCA to cancel the conference booking.
YMCA chief executive officer Ross Melville said he
could not comment on the booking until after a Wednesday
Queensland Coucil of Civil Liberties president Ian
Deardon said the YMCA would "clearly be in breach of
the Anti-Discrimination Act if they refused the conference
booking." Queensland is the only state in Australia
where practicing witchcraft is illegal.