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.


Doris said...

Oh, Patty, your dad was absolutely right in what he did and how he did it. We all feel we have our rights, but we always knew we would "eat tomorrow" as he said. My daddy gave away all he could, also, and though we questioned him, he gave us a similar answer. I want to be just like him. God rewards the humble, but puts down the proud...
Love you,

Patty said...

Thanks for your feedback Doris, yes, it was tough times for our family, but one of happiness and a g rowing sense of excitment that people could change things!

The bread was often mouldybecause we used to buy it fromthe bakery across the highway, and in those days there were no preseratives, it simply didn't keep in an un-air-conditioned (what twas that?) house in 38c heat.

By Sunday arvo, the mould had gotten into it, but if you trimmed the crusts it was fine for toast on a Sunday night.


Gary said...

Patty, your dad was a true pioneer in civil rights.

Sue said...

I agree with Gary, your father was a true pioneer, and a truely great man.

Terry Krysak said...

A very beautiful and poignant story, bless him for all the work he did and his kindness towards all. We should all consider giving more to our brothers and sisters on the planet.