The Australian Friends of the Camino Inc. was founded in 2011 to promote the pilgrimage routes to Santiago de Compostela in Spain. Since then membership has been growing strongly and in May 2017 we welcomed the 1000th member to join us.
The mission of the Australian Friends of the Camino is to:
- promote an awareness of the Camino de Santiago to Australians;
- to assist and encourage those interested in the pilgrimage to the shrine of Saint James in Santiago de Compostela, Spain;
- to cooperate with similar groups in Spain, France and elsewhere and where possible to join in refurbishing and maintaining facilities to be used for or by pilgrims along the Camino.
Membership of the Australian Friends of the Camino provides the following benefits:
- An interesting and informative quarterly newsletter.
View past copies of the newsletter, the Camino Chronicle. Each issue is full of great articles written by members, and other valuable information forwarded from a variety of sources.
- Upon request, a credencial (pilgrim passport) is provided, free of charge, to members when they are planning their Camino.
(We are the only organisation in Australia approved by the Camino authorities in Spain to issue Australian credencials. These credencials are recognised by the Pilgrim Office in Santiago de Compostela.)
- Because we issue credencials, we have a good knowledge of where Australians are departing from on their Camino, and, for the “roads less travelled’, we are able to help with information and advice relevant to the Australian traveller.
- As an organisation we receive a range of advertising material from service providers along the Camino routes. We sift through this, summarise it, and then issue it to our members in the form of an email newsletter.
- Last, but certainly not least, membership of the Australian Friends of the Camino provides the opportunity to meet other Australian pilgrims, share stories and experiences, and enjoy the wonderful spirit of the Camino.
The Australian Friends of the Camino committee is a group of people with diverse interests and, between them, much Camino experience. As with any organisation there are a number of official roles. The committee is led by the Chairman, supported by a Secretary, a Membership Secretary, Treasurer, a Public Officer, a Newsletter Editor, a Web manager, and a number of committee members.
Janet began her pilgrimage ‘journey’ in 2004 when she heard a radio interview about the Camino de Santiago and immediately felt its pull. That initial interview has led to many pilgrimages unfolding for Janet, culminating in a year-long pilgrimage in 2014/2015.
An avid bush walker for many years in Australia and New Zealand, I walked my first Camino in 2013 from St Jean Pied de Port. It was such an uplifting experience that I have walked many Caminos since then, starting from various locations in Spain and Portugal. In 2019 I also walked the Kumano Kodo in Japan. I took on the role of treasurer for AfoTC in January of 2016 and in 2017 I had my first placement as a Hospitalero on the Camino Primitivo, then later becoming a trainer for Hospitaleros. Previously worked as a Project Manager in Telecommunications and Electrical Transmission.
In 2012 Phil walked with his wife Christa 300km of the Camino Frances. He was drawn back again in 2018 to the Portuguese Camino, when he walked with a group of friends. He enjoys being active in the outdoors, with regular hikes and also social bike riding in the local hills.
I have always enjoyed walking as my main source of general exercise. Starting with short walks in the Flinders Ranges and at Arkaroola in South Australia, I then ventured twice to Nepal and trekked in the Annapurna region in 2006 and to Everest Base Camp in 2010. Just before I retired as a CEO in aged care and retirement living in 2015 I heard Janet Leitch speak inspiringly of her Camino journeys. So, in 2016, together with my older brother I walked the Camino Frances, and enjoyed every aspect and moment of that experience, which I am hoping to repeat in the near future.
Hola! I love being editor of the Camino Chronicle as it keeps me in touch constantly with Camino stories and news. In 2010 I walked the first and last weeks (250k) of the Camino Francės, and in 2015 the middle section from Estella (including the Meseta), as well as the Camino Invierno (Ponferrada to SdC). It was the best adventure I have ever had. In my other life I am a librarian turned archivist, and enjoy tennis and cycling… as well as my children and grandchildren.
Before being introduced to the Camino de Santiago, Kevin had thought that multi-day hiking was an activity of his past. However, reading and talking with others about the Camino convinced him that he was not too old to attempt it! In 2009, Kevin and his wife walked from St Jean Pied de Port to Santiago de Compostela, taking 40 days on the Camino Frances. Like many other pilgrims, he has been drawn back many times.
Since he took up trail walking on his retirement from the University of South Australia in 2005, Alan has walked trails in Australia, New Zealand, UK and in Spain.
He has especially enjoyed and found spirtitually and otherwise fulfilling several solo Caminos in Spain which have enabled him to refresh and use his Spanish learnt at school in England over 60 years ago. Starting with the longest, the Via de La Plata, subsequent Caminos have included the Portuguese, Norte, Primitivo, French, Ingles, and Winter Caminos, and in 2020 the Camino from Madrid. Alan has also walked several times from Santiago de Compostela to Finisterre and Muxia on the Atlantic coast, and has been a voluntary hospitalero(warden) at an albergue on the Camino Primitivo. He encourages all pilgrims to consider doing likewise!
He has found solo Caminos in Spain spiritually and personally fulfilling.
Lyn has been a member of the AFotC since the first public meeting was held in 2011. She walked her first Camino in September 2012, journeying along the last 300kms of the Camino
Frances with her husband, Trevor, and some friends. She loved the simplicity and comradery of this pilgrim experience as she travelled slowly through the landscape. She was drawn
back to walking another Camino in 2018, this time walking the Portuguese Camino from Porto. Lyn has walked long distance trails in Australia, Nepal, New Zealand, and UK. She’s hoping to walk another Camino with her husband one day.
I walked my first Camino in high summer 1999 and again in midwinter 2001 before serving for a year in six different donativo albergues. After returning to live in Australia with my Dutch partner Rob who I met on that first Camino, I have walked regularly; alone, with Rob and even with my 7yo grandson last year. Usually on the CF, but also the Aragonés, the Inglés, the Portuguese Coastal, part of the Le Puy route and the Plata from Sevilla-Mérida.
While further Caminos remain out of reach, Rob and I have been happy to join the Victorian Camino Conference Committee to plan the next AFotC conference in 2022. I am one of two representing the VCCC on the AFotC committee.
My partner, Ian, and I walked the Camino Frances in 2011 from Saint Jean Pied de Port to Santiago de Compostela after being enthralled by the stories from a work colleague following his walk. Having caught the Camino ‘bug’ we walked this Camino again in 2015 with a friend, continuing on to Finisterre.
In 2018 we walked the Via Podiensis from Le Puy-en-Velay to Saint Jean Pied de Port. Since then we have walked the GR70 in France and hiked in the central mountains of Sicily. This year we had planned to do the Camino del Norte in May / June but that adventure is currently on hold due to COVID.
In the meantime it is exciting to be part of the Victorian Camino Conference Committee (VCCC) helping to plan the next AFotC conference in 2022. I am one of two representatives from the VCCC on the AFotC committee.
Recognition of Service to Pilgrims
Since its inception the Australian Friends of the Camino have been proud to acknowledge a number of people who have made a significant contribution in promoting an awareness of the Camino, and assisting and encouraging pilgrims on their journeys. These special people have been awarded a certificate of recognition for their valuable service to the Pilgrim Community.
At the AGM in November 2019 Margaret Gadd was recognised for her invaluable service. Margaret has served on the committee of the Australian Friends of the Camino as secretary, and in this position was responsible for extra task of editing the semi-regular ENews that members have been receiving. This was the only way we had to disseminate this information to members and Margaret’s role was invaluable. Margaret also undertook the role of convenor for the Inaugural Camino Conference, a very successful, entertaining, and informative event, taking much time and effort.
At the AGM in November 2019 Rex Ranger was recognised for his invaluable service. In his role as membership secretary Rex had the task of fine tuning what has become a much bigger membership data base. He has served Australian pilgrims by managing information, and sending out the numerous ENews and messages that you, our members, need to have access to, and maintaining an up to date register enabling mail outs of newsletter to be completed seamlessly.
At the Camino Conference held at Nunyara, South Australia, in October 2019, Alison Bell was recognised for her service. Alison is the editor of the Camino Chronicle. She has given great service in this position, editing the first Camino Chronicle in March 2012. She continues to be the editor of the wonderful newsletter, ensuring that pilgrims get high quality information about ALL Caminos, not just the popular ones.
At the Camino Conference held at Nunyara, South Australia, in October 2019, Alan Pearce was recognised for his service. Alan was recognized for his service to pilgrims in Santiago de Compostela. He has served lengthy periods in two places over the years, one in welcoming and supporting pilgrims as they arrive at the pilgrim office and more recently in supporting and working in the Camino Chaplaincy programme. He has also helped pilgrims by serving as a Hospitalero for the Confraternity of St James.
At the Camino Conference held at Nunyara, South Australia, in October 2019, Susan Morris was recognised for her service. Susan was recognized for her work in establishing and maintaining the Australian Pilgrims on the Camino de Santiago and beyond Facebook page. She is also applauded for her contribution to the publicising of the Camino through her participation in the new Camino movie entitled Camino Skies.
In February 2018, at the Blue Mountains Camino Festival, Julie-Ann Milne was recognised for the significant work she does in training future hospitaleros. Julie has run numerous training courses around the country, training fellow pilgrims to do this valuable work for fellow pilgrims, in turn assisting pilgrims, not only from Australia, but from many lands.
History of AFotC
The Australian Friends of the Camino was formed on St James Day in the Holy Year of 2010, when a group of Camino enthusiasts met at St James Church at Mile End in Adelaide, to talk about their Camino experiences. From this inaugural gathering it was resolved that we would form an Amigos Association. A number of people volunteered to serve on the Committee to facilitate this process.
The Committee liaised with pilgrim associations in other parts of the world, particularly the pilgrim authorities in Spain, developed a constitution, and designed and received approval to issue credencials. The first public meeting was held on April 3rd, 2011 with Dee Nolan, author of the then recently published A Food Lover’s Pilgrimage to Santiago de Compostela, as guest speaker at this event.
From its small beginning, the Australian Friends of the Camino has continued to grow and now has members in all States. We support Groups that meet around Australia by publicising their meeting dates and venues in the Camino Chronicle newsletter. We continue to issue credenicals free of charge to members, along with a quarterly newsletter and other general information relevant to pilgrims.
Pilgrim Groups Around Australia
There are many pilgrim groups around Australia where you can get your Camino ‘fix’ and catch up with other pilgrims past, present and future.
Adelaide, South Australia
The SA group meets regularly. Meetings are being held at the Box Factory in Adelaide, on either Saturday or Sunday afternoons.
A Facebook group has been established by Susan Morris from WA.
Bendigo and Central Victoria
The Camino has become a popular topic in Bendigo and district with over 80 members in our group covering the Macedon, Castlemaine and Bendigo regions.
Blue Mountains, New South Wales
They hold regular training walks on the last Saturday of the Month (except in December and when COVID Restrictions restrict that). They also hold a Camino Meetup and afternoon tea after each training walk.
This is a group for people who have walked the Camino, are thinking about walking the Camino or just want to hear more about the experiences of those that have walked or are planning to walk. Bike riders (or horseriders) are also welcome. Let's keep the Camino spirit alive.
'Camino Conversations' is a space where people can come together to share their love of long distance walking; meet other like minded souls; share stories and experience ... and maybe be inspired to start planning that next walk!
Canberra, Australian Capital Territory
Normally holds a walk on the first weekend of the month, and a meeting on the 3rd weekend from February to November at the Spanish Australian Club of Canberra.
Offers a monthly social gathering on the last Sunday of each month to fellow pilgrims who have walked the Camino or for others who wish to walk the Camino in the near future.
Newcastle, New South Wales
The Central Coast Camino Group meets on the third Saturday of each month at 9am and starts with a bush walk for about two hours, followed at 11am by coffee etc.
We are a group of ‘Camino tragics’ who meet monthly at a Melbourne restaurant for drinks and dinner, on the last Friday of the month.
Newcastle, New South Wales
Unfortunately the Newcastle Camino Group has closed due to lack of interest.
Sydney, New South Wales
An informal support group for Camino pilgrims. Our group meets monthly and aims to provide a vehicle for support and planning of pilgrimages.
The Sunshine Coast group meets quarterly at Mudjimba.
Geelong, Bellarine and Surf Coast region, Victoria
The Barwon Camino Groupgathers once a month for a walk somewhere in the Geelong, Bellarine Peninsula, Surf Coast region.
Perth, Western Australia
Meets on an informal basis at Botanicals Café in Kings Park.
English Language Amigos Groups
There are a number of related English language amigo groups around the world.
The Confraternity of St James (CSJ)
This is the UK, and first English speaking, based Amigos Group, founded in 1983.
The Confraternity St James of South Africa (CSJofSA)
Founded in 2006 this South African Amigos Group is based in Cape Town.
The Camino Society Ireland
The Irish group is one of the older Amigos Groups, founded in 1992.
American Pilgrims on the Camino
The American groups has numerous chapters that meet throughout the country (in excess of 36).
Canadian Company of Pilgrims
The Canadian Company, founded in 1994, has a number of chapters across the country.
Our Rules of Association was adopted at the General Meeting on 28th February 2011.