[Note: typos preserved.]

The Australian, 25 Feb 1974, p10

The survivor

"We have come to be accepted. People realised we don't have two heads and horns - we are living, breathing, good God-fearing people." Scientology's Reverend Michael Graham talks to PETER ARGO.

"We might even end up - dare I say it - the establishment," says the Rev Michael Graham, Australian president of the Church of the New Faith (Scientology).

He's smiling broadly: 1973 will be remembered by scientologists as the year they were cloaked in respectability and this year will see the movement spread to new fields.

Already, the Rev Graham has performed the first Australian wedding in the Scientology Church. There are also plans to start a school, staffed by trained teachers who are scientologists, within a year. And he says he wants to do more for social reform in the fields of drugs, mental health and human rights.

But the Australian followers of L. Ron Hubbard have had to fight hard to survive. Though banned in WA, Victoria and SA, scientologists continued to practise, sometimes in semi-underground fashion.

The black year was 1968. Soon after he became leader of the movement in WA in September of that year, scientology was banned in the State after a lengthy debate in Parliament.

Then came two raids by the CIB in which dozens of files were seized in the hope of getting evidence to prosecute. No prosecution resulted and scientology stopped operating only while police were in the building.

He fondly recalls how the media referred to him as the leader of an x-cult.

All that's changed, much as a result of Federal Government recognition last February of scientology under the Matrimonial Causes Act.

Scientology is banned only in SA (and this legislation will be repealed in two months, according to Mr Graham). Now even leaders of other denominations talk to him and his followers.

As a sort of final stamp of approval, the Perth City Council and the WA State Electricity Commission have given permission for signs carrying the worlds "Church Of Scientology" to be attached to lamp posts to direct people to the church in Cleaver Street, West Perth, the Australian headquarters of scientology.


It doesn't look much like a church. In fact, unless you keep your wits about you, it's easy to drive straight past and end up at the magnificent new Greek Orthodox church just around the corner.

Nothing has been done to make the old house look like a church. A name sign has been painted on one wall, but that's about it. The old barbecue is still in the back yard, grapevines and a fig tree grow vigorously and, to add a homely touch, a pair of yellow and black tiger-stripe men's briefs hang on a picket of the main street fence.

Inside, it looks like any untidy office, with a receptionist and bust of Hubbard crammed into the entry passage. Mr Graham's office is in what was once a front bedroom. He shares it with a secretary. Walls, skirting boards and the door are badly in need of a coat of paint. Furniture is cheap and secondhand, so are the filing cabinets. The only extravagance is a telex machine.

"We're frugal," says the Rev Graham. "We spend our money wisely on important things like tape recorders for our students and recruitment advertising. And we place great importance on being able to communicate: reason for the telex."

There are files everywhere, including all the writings of L. Ron Hubbard. A backyard shed is bulging with files. Another shed has a small offset printing press. No sign of a Bible.

Desks and chairs and books are back in the room used for the marriage ceremony. Counsellors and students are busy into books. Many of the students have noses buried in dictionaries - the dictionary is one of the most important books "because one of the problems is that people misunderstand words."


The Rev Graham was educated at Wesley College in Perth and the University of Western Australia. He holds a science degree from the university (he majored in zoology) and wanted to be a marine biologist till he became interested in scientology and is now dedicated to the cause.

"There are about 20,000 scientologist in Australia - 5000 each in Perth, Adelaide, Melbourne and Sydney," he says. "They may not all go to our churches, but they use the scientology philosophy in their daily lives.

"In simplified terms, scientology is all about helping a person to be able to communicate better and put him in a better position to help him solve his own problems.

He defends the use of door-to-door approaches and offers of free IQ tests for recruitment. But what has IQ got to do with religion?

"Spiritually, most people are three-quarters or eight-ninths asleep. When you are not aware of how things could be, you don't want to change.

"The test shows people what they are like and very often it can make them realise they can improve their quality of life."

Mr Graham says scientology is not in competition with other religions, rather it complements other demoninations. He points out that there are some practising Jews and Catholics that are also scientologists.

"The biggest change during 1973 was that we came to be accepted," he said. "People realised we don't have two heads and horns. We are living, breathing, good god-fearing people."

For the future, he expects a drug rehabilitation scheme now operating in 21 American prisons to be introduced into Australia within six months. And more assistance, through subsidies, will be given to the Citizens Commission for Human Rights to fight for mental health reforms and to stop violation of basic human rights.

[photo: 'Church of Scientology' sign, Michael Graham] THE REV GRAHAM ... next, a school.