I had a near-death-experience (NDE) when I was about age 30. I have just had my 71st birthday on August 17th, 2010.

At the time of the incident I was a full-time journalist-photographer living in Melbourne, Australia. I was brought up and educated in a fairly strict Roman Catholic fashion but, at the time of my NDE, I was an avowed Atheist with no religious affiliations whatsoever. I am of Celtic origin with an Irish/Scottish ancestry.

Prior to the actual NDE, I had been suffering with an extremely painful appendix, one that was periodically recurring and gradually becoming more painful with each episode. The condition had me doubled over in agony for a day or two, then disappeared. Distrusting the medical profession, I deliberately stayed clear of doctors, probably hoping that the ailment would vanish in its own good time.

On this particular occasion, when I detected the symptoms recurring, and being alone, I hurried to a cousin’s house. There was nobody at home. I collapsed outside the rear door of the house, doubled over in agony and moaning; it felt as though something inside my guts was trying to rip its way out with a blunt knife, and I could distinctly feel that the internal terror was not going to abate, but was actually increasing in intensity.

I felt something exploding internally and I lapsed gratefully into unconsciousness.

Emerging suddenly from my unconsciousness, I was amazed to see myself looking down on my body that was lying crumpled and inert on the floor. It was not a dream. The clarity of vision and awareness was equal to my conscious state. I was fully alert and sensitive to my surroundings. Had a third person been present, I feel certain I could have heard any sound or speech emanating from below. I started to feel an uneasy puzzlement. I could not understand why I was somehow detached from my physical body and was unable to feel as though it was a part of me, as it always had been.

Then I started to feel some sort of force or energy or influence that overcame me and started to draw me away from that dead thing on the floor. It was a gradual rushing sensation, one that accelerated madly; it felt as though I was in some sort of a tunnel and my conscious self was being rushed somewhere to an unknown destination. The speed frightened me. I think I closed my eyes and waited for whatever the outcome might be. I felt the speed of the rush lessening after some seconds. Curiously, I opened my eyes. The dead person that had once been me was gone. I could see a powerful light somewhere up above me in the void. It wasn’t just a light as such. It emanated a great love that seemed to encompass my very spirit. The "travelling" sensation slowed and I was in some sort of vacuum or a hollow space, a featureless landscape, and over it was the brilliant loving light that somehow eased my fears and made me feel at ease with my unfamiliar surroundings. I then became vaguely aware of being surrounded by spiritual presences. I could see nothing in a physical sense. It was just an acute awareness that was somehow instilled in my being. I had the distinct feeling that the presences were of people who had known me in the physical world; there was my grandmother and my father, certainly, while the others were ambiguous but oddly familiar. They radiated a great love and sense of caring while we were connected. I heard a voice, not orally expressed, but inside my head, as though it was being communicated in a spiritual sense. It stated: "You haven’t finished everything. You must go back."

I started to protest but, without reaction, I found myself back in that tunnel and speeding crazily back down the tube, all the while vividly aware of what was happening. Quite frankly, by this stage I was convinced I was having a bout of insanity. I could think of no other explanation.

Back in my physical body, I awakened, perfectly aware of what had happened to me and I simply lay there on the floor wondering about the weird imaginings of my brain.

Soon my cousin returned, found me and summoned a doctor. The doctor quickly examined me and announced he would call an ambulance and have me taken immediately to a hospital for surgery.I found myself saying: "Don’t worry about it. I’ve been healed. I’m okay now." He became angry, saying: "Don’t be stupid. I think your appendix might have burst. That can kill you. If you don’t take my advice, I won’t feel any responsibility for you." I somehow assured the poor man that I was okay and he left looking rather troubled and uncertain. From that day forward I had no recurrence of appendicitis.

Almost in obedience from instinct, I quietly left my journalistic endeavours and started travelling. I made my way to the far north of Australia, to the wild country of Arnhem Land, in the Northern Territory, and accepted the invitation by the tribal Aboriginal people of the Roper River area to assist the elders in documenting their sacred ceremonial matters, their mythology, etc. I lived frugally in a tent on the banks of the crocodile-infested river and, at night, with a torch clenched between my teeth, used my portable typewriter to document for the first time their ancient beliefs. I ate sparingly, living pretty much as they did; that meant a lump of damper (crude bush bread) smeared with Golden Syrup every couple of days. Naturally, I often wondered why I was there, and what I was supposed to do with the experience--if anything. I simply felt it was intended for me to do this chore…come what may of it. My fundamental purpose at the outset was particularly vague.

Over a period of time I noticed that the old Aboriginal men and women still retained their traditional skills in art and craft. They lacked, however, marketing outlets. Furthermore, I began to visualise how the elders could set up training programmes for the youngsters. I applied to the Aboriginal Arts Board, down in Canberra, describing my idea, how, with the necessary funding pooled from various government departments, art-craft training centres could be established even in the most remote Aboriginal communities all over the country and the products marketed nationally and internationally. Ultimately, my concept was welcomed and generously funded. I helped set up training programmes in isolated bush camps, on cattle properties where Aborigines resided, teaching not only the traditional activities, but also ceramics, leather craft, fabric design, wood carving, etc. Later, the Aboriginal Arts Board moved me down into Perth, in Western Australia, to establish a Leather craft industry among alcoholics and inveterate criminal types. Following this, I was moved into the remote rural towns with large Aboriginal populations to initiate similar projects.

From the beginning, it was evident that I knew little or nothing about art and craft work. I started reading training manuals. One night, however, I remember going to sleep worrying how I was going to start teaching the rudiments of Leather craft. The next morning I remember waking with the thought indelibly implanted in my mind: "Just pick up the tools." When I did this, I discovered I could almost intuitively understand how the various tools were used. I even invented a tool by filing a metal bolt into an embossing tool, and a new style of leather carving that was unique and wonderfully suitable for executing Aboriginal motifs as a form of decorative adornment.

After several years work I could look back and see a succession of successful Aboriginal art and craft projects scattered all over Australia, some of which ultimately blossomed into lucrative international enterprises and remain so to the present day.

From the journal I maintained at that original camp on the river bank up in Arnhem Land, I have managed to write a full account of the strange adventure, a book called "Journey Into Dreamtime," which I am currently preparing for publication.

For years afterwards I did not mention my NDE to a living soul. I thought it was due to a bout of temporary insanity incurred by the agonies I was experiencing, some anonymous calamity caused by a vivid imagination and a need to escape the reality of my suffering. Much later in life, I accidentally came across a book titled "Life After Death" and it was then I started to relate my experience to certain people who I thought might not ridicule me.

I finally summoned the courage and confessed it to my mother as we paced the corridors of the Royal Perth Hospital, in West Australia, where my wife was dying in the intensive care ward. Mum stopped and looked at me incredulously, then said: "That was just your imagination, son. It wasn’t real."

Since going through the NDE all those years ago, I have been aware of a self-healing capacity. Some friends claim I can heal others at a distance, but I do not know if this is true or not. While working with machinery doing woodwork, for example, should I accidentally cut myself, I simply place a hand over the injury and the blood ceases to flow. By nightfall, the cut is generally healed. I believe I can do similar healings with animals, such as dogs and horses.