The all-new Scientology headquarters for Australia and the Asia Pacific region is the Church’s largest spiritual center outside of the United States.
Sydney—The inauguration of the massive new Church of Scientology Advanced Organization here in early September was launched amid an outpouring of support from community leaders and prominent public officials as it opened its doors for advanced levels of spiritual counseling and training.
With the opening has also come the launch of the new Continental Liaison Office, which established a new center for humanitarian programs and outreach throughout Australasia and the Asia Pacific region.
Beyond that, it has signified something new and important in the Church’s development, an acceptance reflected in the speakers who came to very publicly welcome the new facility to Sydney. They included one of Australia’s best-known human rights activists, Dr. Gracelyn Smallwood, and the former Solicitor General for Australia, Dr. David Bennett—who represented the Church in a landmark and groundbreaking case on religious identity, decided in 1983, that rewrote Australian law on what constitutes a religion and set precedent around the world on those issues. Joining them for remarks before a crowd of some 3,000 guests were other dignitaries. Among them was Keith Thompson, the associate dean of Notre Dame Law School in Sydney, who has become a leader in interfaith cooperation and service for human rights in Australia and the region, and Dr. Amin Hady, former advisor for religious affairs to Australia’s prime minister.
All had come to say a word not only about the opening, but about the work of the Church and what freedom of religion has come to mean for freedom itself in this land down under.
The opening marked as well the circle of the Church’s journey in Australia, begun decades ago amid struggles against religious bigotry which tested its survival in the face of prejudice and opposition by a small but powerful clique of anti-religious forces—forces who worked to ban the religion within the country. But they could not extinguish it. The Church’s final victory before Australia’s highest court, establishing a definition of religion honored by nations around the world, was the foundation of this new structure that has now become a monument to freedom won.
As the advanced spiritual and management center for the religion in the region, it has emerged as a perfect complement to other new Scientology Churches opened in Australia and East Asia in recent years—from Sydney and Melbourne, to Tokyo, Japan, and Kaohsiung, Taiwan. They have each become testament to the rapid growth of the Scientology religion in some of the most populated areas on Earth.
The new facility, which was remodeled from what was once a government sound-testing laboratory, sits adjacent to Lane Cove National Park, where tapestries of light and movement are woven into this ancient setting—a place where the sound of cicadas rise and fall in symphonies of evensong among the golden wattle, eucalyptus and banksias trees that form the backdrop here.
Within this sylvan setting the new Advanced Organization offers, in its regional focus, spaces for Scientologists to study and participate in the Church’s programs and in its social betterment activities. Its facilities include auditoriums for use by members and by community groups involved in such humanitarian work.
Off the balcony of the new Lane Cove Café, just outside the glass walls of the pristine facility, kookaburras flock along Blue Gum Creek and add their mischievous laugh-like trills to the wildlife ambiance that thrives in this 900-acre park near Sydney’s center.
On September 4th, as Scientology ecclesiastical leader, Mr. David Miscavige, released the symbolic ribbon and the bright gold and green confetti rained onto celebrants below, participants in the event heard pledges from friends of the Church to support its growth—an affirmation of what it took in belief, determination and commitment to freedom, over the years and against the odds, to make this new Church home a reality.
“So now we come to the never-ending vantage point on this day,” Mr. Miscavige said. “It’s the one that follows from a vision of humanity gravitating toward our doors, to the realm of spiritual freedom.”
The resolve of Scientologists to protect and preserve their religious beliefs and find their spiritual expression in the Church’s human rights and humanitarian missions, were part of what led internationally known rights activist Gracelyn Smallwood to accept an invitation to speak at the dedication ceremony.
On the morning before her appearance at the grand opening, the noted activist for her native people, the First Australians, appeared on the national ABC radio network, commenting on issues of recent racial violence in the country, and noted parallels between attitudes of tolerance and freedom championed by the Church, and calls within the country to end racial strife.
“I’m actually speaking in front of 3,000 people today in a couple of hours’ time in Sydney at the opening of a Scientology building,” she told the network’s radio audience of some 18 million. “I’m not a Scientologist, but if Scientologists are giving black Australian activists [an opportunity to speak] on the truth of this country … then, yes, by whatever means necessary,” she said, she was glad to support the Church.
In an interview earlier, Professor Smallwood said she felt her real role, as one of the nation’s First Australians, was to welcome the new Church and continental headquarters to Australia. She said that from her years of serving in the academic and medical communities of Australia and the region, she was fully aware of the importance of the humanitarian and social justice work the Church has done, even in the face of its struggles for recognition, and she lauded the expanding outreach of its humanitarian goals.
As she took the stage at the grand opening, she spoke pointedly to that perspective.
“The traditional custodians of this land have a strong tradition of respect and spirituality,” she said. “I have learned how you honor our tradition with your aims of a world without insanity, without criminals and without war, where the able can prosper and honest beings can have rights. Here today we welcome you and your own tradition of respect and understanding of Man as a spiritual being. And we welcome you from many lands, from across the vast Pacific and our own Australia.”