“300 Australian Young Adults Hold Six-Day Conference,” Ensign, Mar. 1974, 77
Australia’s recent area-wide Young Adult conference in Sydney wasn’t just another youth conference. It started when the chairman and vice-chairman decided to marry each other and spend their honeymoon at the conference. It ended when 300 Young Adults arrived at a baptism—dressed in evening gowns and tuxedos.
Beginning with the registration December 27, the six-day conference took on a service and leadership training emphasis instead of the usual social and sports-oriented conference. For more than 120 of the Young Adults, donating blood to the Australian Red Cross was part of registration. Some formed a quick committee to gather up litter along Sydney’s main highway, while others grabbed brushes and headed for a children’s home, where they repainted the beds.
Leadership seminars were held under the direction of the three Sydney area stake presidents, President Ian G. Mackie, President Stanley O. Gray, and President John D. Parker, who also served as the area leader in charge of the conference. The two days of leadership training began with a 5:30 a.m. testimony meeting at Echo Point Park and culminated with a fireside talk given by Wendell B. Mendenhall, Regional Representative of the Council of the Twelve for the seven regions in Australia.
Because of the new emphasis on leadership, even some of the social activities of the conference leaned toward training leaders. What better way to teach the principles of government than to participate in them? The Young Adults were split into groups, and each group worked under different leadership rules. The proceedings varied from several participants working under democratic rules to one group working under a dictator.
Brother Paul Curtis, the Young Adult President who was selected as chairman of the conference, married his vice-chairman, Sister Joanne Barthgaite, in the New Zealand Temple the week before the conference began. They spent part of their honeymoon at the conference, where Brother Alan Wakeley and Sister Glenda Milne served as acting chairman and vice-chairman.
One of the highlights of the conference occurred New Year’s Eve, when participants arrived at the gala ball to find that S. I. Laiw, a Malaysian medical student from Tasmania, had decided to be baptized. It must have been one of the most unusual baptisms in Australia when the 300 Young Adults left the ball, dressed in formal gowns and tuxedos, to attend the baptism and bear their testimonies to their new brother in the gospel.
Other activities included a “Noah’s Party,” ferry rides launched from the Jeffrey Street Wharf, a pop festival, a party on the beach, and the performance of a comedy roadshow staged by conference participants. The Young Adults also attended Tchaikovsky’s “Sleeping Beauty” in the new Sydney Opera house, a performance given by the Australian Ballet Company.