FamilyVoice Australia began under the name Australian Festival of Light in the home of an Adelaide lawyer in November 1972.
Rev Lance Shilton - then Rector of SA's largest Anglican church and later Dean of Sydney - had called a meeting of people from different Christian churches to discuss the formation of a "Festival of Light" committee. One of his parishioners - prominent Adelaide journalist with the Sunday Mail, Helen Carterer - had recently visited London. She gave a glowing report of the impact of the UK Nationwide Festival of Light founded by Malcolm Muggeridge, Mary Whitehouse and others in 1971.
The first Australian Festival of Light committee included clinical psychologist Dr John Court as chairman, with Bruce Townsend of Campaigners for Christ the first secretary. Rev Lance Shilton and Mrs Roslyn Phillips were deputy chairmen, Adelaide estate agent Peter Daniels was publicity officer and Dr Harrold Steward was prayer officer. Lance Shilton and Bruce Townsend helped initiate Festival of Light committees in NSW and other states through their contacts in the Evangelical Alliance. Rev Doug Mill and Alex Gilchrist initially led the NSW branch while Dirk Bakker headed a committee in Victoria.
Mary Whitehouse visited Australia in 1973. She addressed a packed-out Sydney Town Hall on 10 October, and then spoke to a packed-out Adelaide Festival Theatre. She led a march of 10,000 down King William Road in Adelaide on Sunday 14 October, where a total of 12,000 people heard the Australian Festival of Light Proclamation and endorsed it with acclamation.
Rev Fred Nile became the full-time NSW Director of Festival of Light in January 1974 and helped Festival of Light become a household name in Australia with large rallies and regular media appearances.
In November 1974, Festival of Light representatives from all states met in Canberra and agreed to form a national executive under the chairmanship of Dr John Court from SA, with Rev Fred Nile (NSW) as national coordinator and Dr David Phillips (SA) as editor of the national magazine Light. The aims of Festival of Light were endorsed by this meeting, including: "To proclaim the value of Christian standards of behaviour for family and community life."
The Community Standards Organisation - a group with similar aims - joined Festival of Light to form the "Festival of Light and Community Standards Organisation" in South Australia in 1976 and subsequently in other states.
Rev Fred Nile arranged a number of Australian visits by international speakers. One highlight was the October 1976 visit of Malcolm Muggeridge, who spoke at a rally of 35,000 people in Hyde Park Sydney and large meetings in other states. Another highlight was a second visit by Mrs Mary Whitehouse in September 1978. In 1981 Fred Nile was elected to the NSW Legislative Council representing Call to Australia, which was later renamed the Christian Democratic Party.
The South Australian branch has grown steadily since May 1978 when Steve and Kay Stevens were appointed director and women's adviser. The Stevenses had been deeply involved with the UK Festival of Light. They returned to England in June 1985 to be near their family. Since 1986 Mrs Roslyn Phillips has contributed to the research and administration of Festival of Light in an honorary capacity. Mr David d'Lima has served as field officer and later SA state officer since 1994, particularly through deputations to churches and other groups.
New national constitution
On 9 March 2004 a special general meeting of the South Australian Festival of Light and Community Standards Organisation adopted a new national constitution and changed its name to Festival of Light Australia. The national reconstruction was led by national president Dr David Phillips of SA, with David d'Lima as national field officer and Mrs Roslyn Phillips as national research officer. The national office in Adelaide provides administrative support to branches in other states. The NSW Festival of Light Community Standards Organisation remained a separate organisation at that stage.
The renewal of the Queensland branch, led for many years by Mr George Cook until his death in November 1994, began in 2003 with the appointment of Mr Geoffrey Bullock as state officer, an advisory board of 14 Christian leaders and a branch committee chaired by Mr Andrew McColl.
The renewal of the Victorian branch, led for many years by Mr Bernie Tenni, commenced in 2005 with the appointment of an advisory board of 16 Christian leaders. In 2006 Pastor Peter Stevens was appointed Victorian state officer.
In Western Australia, renewal of the branch commenced in 2006 with the appointment of Mr Richard Egan as state officer and an advisory board of 17 Christian leaders including several heads of churches. In 2007 Pastor Lance Macormic took over as WA state officer while Richard Egan was appointed national policy officer.
In New South Wales, Rev Hon Fred Nile formally retired as Acting Director of the NSW Festival of Light Community Standards Organisation on 25 May 2007 after 34 years of distinguished service. The separate NSW organisation then ended; NSW supporters joined Festival of Light Australia.
The continuing mission
Festival of Light Australia continued to develop its mission as a Christian ministry to the nation, promoting true family values in the light of the wisdom of God.
New name: FamilyVoice Australia
On 1 July 2008, Festival of Light Australia changed its name to FamilyVoice Australia.
UK media commentator Malcolm Muggeridge coined the old name in 1971. He saw light as representing the values of Jesus, who told his followers: “You are the light of the world (Matt 5:14).” Muggeridge saw "festival" as a celebration of those values.
It was a positive message – but we later discovered that Festival of Light was far from a unique name. In Australia, increasing numbers of Asian migrants were celebrating the Hindu Festival of Light (Diwali), along with Jews who observed Hanukkah, the Festival of Lights. New Age groups had begun holding “Festival of Light” events in country towns, featuring tarot card readings, crystal sales and various pagan practices.
In New South Wales there was additional confusion, as many people wrongly believed that Festival of Light was a political party because of its link with Rev Hon Fred Nile MLC of the Christian Democratic Party in NSW. Festival of Light Australia had always been independent of any political party.
Thus we needed a distinctive name, preferably not used by any other group, conveying a clear idea of what we do. After much searching, the National Council of Festival of Light Australia agreed on FamilyVoice Australia - FAVA for short.
“FamilyVoice” says we are speaking out for families. The word Voice echoes the prophetic “voice in the wilderness” of John the Baptist who prepared the way for Jesus. FAVA (favour) echoes the grace of God, and our new letterhead motto - "A Christian voice for family, faith and freedom" - provides a short summary of our ministry.
VoxPoint, VoxLink, VoxBrief
Our quarterly national magazine Light has been renamed VoxPoint – “vox” being increasingly used these days as a term (from Latin) meaning “voice”. Our five quarterly state editions of Festival Focus have been renamed VoxLink NSW etc. Our resource papers, published in each edition of VoxPoint, are now called VoxBriefs.
The work we do to defend families, faith and freedom carries a cost. John the Baptist - "a voice crying in the wilderness" - defended marriage by speaking out against Herod's adultery. He paid for these words with his life.
We've changed our name, but the real challenge lies ahead.