Monday, February 23, 2009
My dad's work in the church
My dad was a priest in the Anglican church, after 6 years of war on the frontlines, after raising 5 children and living on an aboriginal community (Lockhart River Mission, I named my son after this place, we loved living there despite its tremendous hardships) for 9 years as superintendent; ensuring everyone has clean running water, proper housing, food, education, job training and self empowerment by starting the first aboriginal co-operative in Australia. All stuff Noel Pearson is now trying to implement. Dad did it 50 years ago.
He built a church in 6 weeks, from bush materials. Six weeks! It was a beautiful church, St James. He was still planting banana plants at the front as the Bishop’s boat sailed around the point to consecrate it.
He was aged then around 35, and was very much a can-do man.
He struggled for aboriginal land rights rights for years in Rockhampton. He set up Bolsovler Street, a haven for homeless and travelling aboriginals coming in from Woorabinda, somewhere to rest and refresh, to shower and to eat. It nearly killed him, they wore him out with constant demands. It was what is was. Later, after numerous fights with council, police, neighbours, dad started Milby Farm, another place out of town where brain damaged aboriginals and the homeless could go and grow their own vegetables, and live in peace without fear from others.
He lived in constant criticism of his work, we all did, from people who should have known better but we all believed that what he was doing was good, and right, and we wouldn’t have had it any other way. But it did take its toll on our own family. He went guarantor for peoples cars, many times losing money. “Oh dad!” we would all shout, but in our hearts we knew we were always destined to be poor, to remain poor, as dad would give all our money away. Money? What money, priests don’t earn that much, gees.
No one could fault his passion and commitment though, and I admire him now as an adult and hope some of my energy and enthusiasm comes from him.
He marched in the legal, and the illegal land rights marches during the Commonwealth Games.
He was awarded Queenslander of the Year in 1987 for his work. Later that night, in the men’s toilets, a black tie’d man came and said to him “You shouldn’t have won”. People have no respect or manners.
I understand commitment and struggle. Lived it. Breathed it. Gave our mouldy bread to the sick and homeless at the back door of the Rectory. “But dad,” I would say, “this is all we have to eat ourselves.”
“We will eat tomorrow, “ he would reply, “but they might not.”
Lived it Breathed it.
I understand commitment and passion.