Beyond The Walls By Brad Chilcott (via Mark Conner’s blog)

6a00e54ecc070b883301b7c78443ea970b-115wiBeyond the Walls by Brad Chilcott

Who would’ve thought that one photo could cause so much trouble?

It wasn’t the first time I’d been criticized for my friendship and solidarity with the Muslim community, in fact I’d had some threats of violence when I spoke up about Halal certification but this one took it another level. Had I renounced the gospel? Sure, being friends with Muslims, but praying in a mosque? Did I even believe in Jesus anymore? The beard didn’t help any.

Had I taken the instructions “love your neighbour as yourself” and “love your enemy” too literally? Too far?

1 John 3. This is how we know what love is: Jesus Christ laid down his life for us. And we ought to lay down our lives for our brothers and sisters.

We know what loves looks like by only one measure. Jesus Christ. We only know what loves looks like because we know Jesus and what it looked like for him.

And if I had a Bible for every time I’ve heard a Christian use their love for everyone as an excuse to be bigoted, hateful, insular, selfish, fear-mongering, greedy and self- interested I’d be the library at the Vatican.

You’ve heard it like I have. This flippant Christianese about loving people for whom we hold our deepest prejudices and ugliest hatreds.

Let me say this –

If it sounds like hate, feels like hate and makes people feel hated then it’s certainly not love

There’s not some special form of love that only Christians get to know about that looks and feels a lot more like hate for those that it is directed towards, but in some super spiritual secret way is still love.

If it looks like prejudice, feels like prejudice and keeps us as far away from people as prejudice does, then it’s prejudice.

There’s not a special form of Christian love that looks like prejudice, feels like prejudice and distances and dehumanises people like prejudice but in actual fact is some secret kind of love that only Christians know of.

There’s no special kind of love where you get to be horrible to people, or pretend they don’t exist, a kind of love where you stay in your insular and ignorant world, judge people you’ve never met, protect yourself from difference and religiously maintain your privileged way of life and self-righteously sheltered paradigm.

There’s a reason that doesn’t sound a lot like love.

Because it isn’t love. It’s prejudice wrapped up in faith.

It’s ignorance wrapped up in religion.

It’s bigotry masquerading as Christianity.

It’s selfishness appropriating the name of the selfless one to excuse greed and insularity.

It’s our rampant desire for a comfortable, self-interested life using the one who gave up the trappings of heaven to set us free as an excuse not to give a damn about anyone except ourselves, our situation and our perspective.

That’s not love it’s blasphemy.

But seeing as that little rant doesn’t relate to anyone here in this room I want to move on and talk about some things that are a bit more insidious, a bit less overt and obvious but are nevertheless important to reflect upon if we are to apply this wild measure of love to our work in the community and world.

“This is how we know what love is: Jesus laid down his life for us.” There’s a CS Lewis quote that I find helpful to explain it in practice

“Love is not affectionate feeling, but a steady wish for the loved person’s ultimate good as far as it can be obtained.” ―C.S. Lewis

Another way of putting that could be “good intentions are not the same thing as love”.

Why? Because if we don’t do the hard work of turning good intentions into real outcomes for people then it’s likely that the “good” in “good intentions” is more about how good we feel about what we’re doing.

There’s a danger that we’re in fact congratulating ourselves for the intention to do good deeds, the videos we made to celebrate them and the likes on our Instagram account of ourselves with poor children rather than doing whatever it takes for the good of the people we say we love.

The phrase in CS Lewis’ quote “As far as it can be obtained” is key for us, I think. Love seeks the ultimate good of the loved person “as far as it can be obtained”.

Here are some very practical things that love does when love has the intention to work for the “ultimate good … as far as it can be obtained”.

1. Love intentionally escapes the echo chamber. In love we realise that it is easy to be surrounded by people, ideas, books and stories that affirm what we believe, the way we think, our theology, missiology and ecclesiology and we end up in a situation where we think anyone who isn’t doing it like us, or with us, must be naive, uneducated or willfully incompetent.

The echo chamber is when we find a bunch of like-minded churches, with similar culture to our own, and so do what they’re doing – it must be the right thing because they had a sick video and their people love it.

Love is not an excuse to be uneducated, or narrowly educated. Love is a steady wish for the loved one’s good as far as it can be obtained. As far as it can be obtained means being aware of the danger of the echo chamber where all our ideas, practices and projects are constantly being affirmed by those who we have become mirrors of.

2. Love is teachable and actively seeks out learning and critique. Love makes sure we’re at the cutting edge of community engagement, aid and development and have made every endeavor to learn from the best practitioners in the world about how to maximize our engagement with the people we say we love.

Love is not an excuse to do things badly. Love is not an excuse to be ten years behind. What I mean by this is that love won’t just send money, people and hours to any foreign aid and development project, or local community development work, driven by an emotional response we call love.

Love will, in seeking the loved one’s ultimate good as far as it can be obtained, actively seek to understand what it world’s best practice today and invest in that best practice.

If you don’t know what results-based accountability, asset-based community development or collective impact mean, it’s time to learn.

When we’re still behaving like the white Saviours who can solve all the world’s problems for them the photos look great but It’s not love.

3. Love maximizes outcomes no matter what the cost – because it’s about the recipient and what they get out of our love acting towards them and not about us and our desire to feel like we’re good people.

In a small church community like mine, hundreds of people hours and thousands of dollars are invested in helping the people we love. In larger churches it’d be thousands of hours and tens or hundreds of thousands.

Across this room, across Australia, it’s incredible to think how much human and financial resource flows from our love for others.

Love, seeking the loved one’s ultimate good as far as it can be obtained, pays the price of ensuring this investment does the most good it possibly can. That sometimes leads to conflict when we learn that our favorite projects aren’t aligned with good development principles, or that our community engagement isn’t helping but is feeding a dependency mindset.

Love sometimes means educating people that there are better organisations, projects, activities to invest their time and money into, and others that need to be abandoned, or radically re-imagined.

Love is not an excuse to avoid the conflict that comes from assessment, accountability and education. In fact, love makes those things essential because love doesn’t ask, “How does this activity benefit me and my church?” or “How does this keep people in my church happy and comfortable?” love says, “How can I best obtain the ultimate good for these people we say we love?”

This is how we know what love is – Jesus Christ laid down his life for us. What would you give up for love of people?

Changing the way it’s always been done? Escaping the echo chamber and being challenged by new ideas and paradigms? Being willing to take your people on a journey towards world’s best practice despite the uncomfortable changes on the way?

Maybe it’s risking your reputation, like Jesus being seen with sex workers, tax collectors and sinners as we do whatever it takes to make our community engagement about them and not about us and our church-culture measures of success.

This is how we know what love is. Jesus Christ laid down his life for us. Thanks.

Brad Chilcott

[Source: World Vision’s National Church Leader’s Summit – February 2015]



Life and Death – Our Choice?

Been thinking about ‘death’ since ANZAC Day and the discussion that took place around some of my posts and links on Facebook. Not only that, Scott McKintyre (Sports commentator) was sacked from SBS for making ‘insensitive comments’ around ANZAC Day and death on Twitter. Then, just days after ANZAC Day, two Aussies and their mates were put to death in Indonesia for drug smuggling, Nepal fell over in a massive earth quake and in the US riots have made the news almost every day.

But it’s something of the tricky stuff around death, the ethics of death, that has me scratching my head.

So let me get this right;

[In general] Australia is not happy that Indonesia killed 2 of our citizens for committing a crime that was (and still is) punishable by death. 

Some questions on this; The USA still has the death penalty in a few states (see facts sheet here), so would we still feel as outraged if the it was the U.S. killing Aussies? Maybe.

I note we have withdrawn our Ambassador to Indonesia, at least temporarily, to make a statement. Would we do the same to the U.S.?

So, are we saying as nation that the death penalty irks us, or just when it is our people…or just our people who have shown clear signs of rehabilitation? These guys certainly have done this. In a predominantly muslim country these guys, particularly the Rev Andrew Chan, have shown clearly that they are committed to Christ and living reformed lives. He DID organise the heroine smuggling ring, and was guilty as charged. Could this be religious persecution? Or in fact was this ‘fair’, they did the crime in a country in which they knew they would face death if caught. The questions still remains, is death ever the right punishment for a crime. Since 1973 140 people have been released from death row in the US as a result of further evidence coming up proving their conviction to be wrong.

So for whatever reason, the popular opinion from us Aussies (at least our politicians?) is that these folks should not have been punished with death. Left in prison maybe, but not killed. *There was some criticism toward Triple J for releasing the findings of a pole suggesting 52% of Australian supported the death penalty but the SMH said this;

A poll finding a slim majority of Australians support the death penalty for Australian drug traffickers – seized upon by the Indonesian government to justify the killing of Andrew Chan and Myuran Sukumaran – is crude and misleading, according to critics.

So maybe it’s close, but certainly the public/political voice from Australia is that we dont support the death penalty placed upon our citizens in other countries.

What about the one who enters a house and kills someone? Prison? Unless it is your house, right? Then its personal – death penalty? This kind of question unfortunately can never be personal. It ends with everyone making different rules based on their personal experiences and feelings. So lets keep it at arm’s length? The twin towers, the Bali bombings – death penalty for any guilty parties? If we say yes, then why not for the Bali 9? Their smuggled drugs were surley to take a life/s down the road some where, so and eye for an eye?

How is the death of the Bali 9 different from a death in war?

Take Gallipoli – for whatever reason, justified or otherwise, we land on the Turks beach with the Kiwi’s and the Poms and start killing them…on their beach. We have 8000 of our folk dead before moving the living to another battle field to continue the war effort. Are the killings in Turkey in that battle okay? It was not self defence, no one was smashing down my door to kill my wife and kids, we were smashing down their door! There are rules and ethics around killing in war. Just watch the movie Breaker Morant to see how confusing it must get. Augustine created the “Just War Theory” which Bush used in Iraq version 1 to justify his invasion…”God told me to“. And so went the justification for our early Christian Crusades. So that’s ok? But Jihad (a holy war because Allah told them to) is not ok? (unless you are a Jihadist!). Some people shudder to think of the damaged caused when [we] the U.S. dropped nuclear bombs in Japan in our WWII effort (like Australia/NZ and the Brits in WWI, we had a coalition going with the U.S. in WWII). So it was a kind of retaliation for the Japanese invasion of our collective space (Pearl Harbour, Darwin, Sydney etc). Is this different on a personal scale from a house invasion? Did they deserve that response on all those civilians, or even the military? And if so – who says so, where are the boundaries here? Particularly in the example of Turkey in WWI and Japan in WWII.

Come to the house invasion, the hypothetical that people always use. “What happens when a guy busts into your house and wants to kill your family?” Well truth be told it really DOES happen.  Would you kill to save? Take a life to save a life?

If Jesus really intended us to live in non-violent ways, as he indeed lived out his days and taught in his teachings (turn the other cheek, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you) then do we just invite the killer at the end of the bed to kneel down and pray with us? My wife Christine suggested in no soft way that she was hoping for more from me than jumping up and loving the intruder, she suggested that she feels quite unsafe with this theology sleeping next to her! I made the comment to her and the kids that “I would die for you, but I’m struggling with the idea of killing for you.”

What about just maiming? Could I try to harm not kill? But is that not an act of violence for a person who believes in non-violence? Or is it justified in that circumstance? But that takes me back to Gallipoli. If we can agree that Jesus taught (no I’m not bringing Old Testament angry God into this conversation!) to love your enemies and the only thing that caught his rage was a table in a temple…yes and a herd of pigs suffered under his ministry but … he WAS a Jew! 🙂


Death penalty bad, yes? Or only under certain circumstances…who makes up these circumstances?

Gallipoli good or bad? Or we just can’t talk about this right? Too sacred.

Terrorist sending planes into buildings…death penalty?

A holy war – good or bad? Depending on if it is a Jihad or a Christian Crusade I guess, or I guess that then depends on if you are a Christian or a Muslim!

Me defending my family from attack with my life or by me taking a life?

Harming the aggressor in the process of defending instead of killing – Okay?

I kind of can’t help coming back to Jesus every time…I do try to base all my ethics and values out of his life and teachings. WWJD is such a cliché – but seriously WWJD? Look at the teaching. Look at the cross, look at the sword in the hand of Peter and that rebuke – “We don’t do it that way!”

The sacrificial lamb – Jesus, the ultimate scape goat was all about an end to a system of violence and sacrifice, of war against one another, against our enemies and against ourselves. The whole ‘new Kingdom’ was about Lambs and Lions laying down together, it was about swords of war being beat into tools of life or farming – plough shears. These words are not prophesies for the future Kingdom when Jesus returns, lets not miss the fact that on his first visit, he pronounced the beginning of this new way of life. He didn’t paint this picture of peace and say…

“so, if you like this idea of a new Kingdom of peace with me as the new Prince of ‘Peace Kingdom’, then just wait around for 2 or 3 Millenia and I’ll come back and set it up.”

No, it began in him and continues in us! We are his agents of peace, not war, love, not hate, reconciliation, not separation.

We need to bring life, not death…in our words, and our deeds.

Life, not death.

*Disclaimer – As I have said in the past. I’m no writer, in fact I’m not even sure what I fully believe when I write half the time. I humbly put out this text in the hope that others might read, think a little or a lot. Maybe engage in conversation, not always with me responding, but with anyone in this open forum. Maybe I will change my opinions and ideas, maybe I could change yours.


– This is an edited version of a post made 3 weeks ago.

How Does Our Government’s Treatment Of Asylum Seekers Stand up in Court?

Here are some challenges to Dept Of Immigration and Border Protection in court from Human Rights Commission…food for thought!

TITLE: Delegate of the President reports on Charlie v Commonwealth of Australia (Department of Immigration and Border Protection) [2014] AusHRC 90 | Australian Human Rights Commission

PORTFOLIO: Attorney-General’s


SNIPPET: A delegate of the President of the Australian Human Rights Commission has found that the failure of the former Ministers for Immigration to exercise their powers to make a residence determination in respect of Mr Daniel Charlie during the period from November 2009 to September 2011 when he was detained at Villawood Immigration Detention Centre (VIDC) was inconsistent with his right to liberty in article 9(1) of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) and arbitrarily interfered with his family in breach of articles 17(1) and 23(1) of the ICCPR. Mr Charlie was released from VIDC on 20 September 2011 when he was granted a Removal Pending Bridging Visa. The Commonwealth denied that his detention was arbitrary and states it was appropriate as it was both (a) based on legitimate concerns about Mr Charlie’s character and the risk his release could pose to the Australian community, and (b) for the purpose of removing him from Australia.

TITLE: President reports on AH v Commonwealth of Australia (Department of Immigration and Border Protection) [2014] AusHRC 88 | Australian Human Rights Commission

PORTFOLIO: Attorney-General’s


SNIPPET: The President of the Australian Human Rights Commission, Professor Gillian Triggs, has found that the Commonwealth’s failure to detain Mr AH in the least restrictive manner possible is inconsistent with the prohibition on arbitrary detention in article 9(1) of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR). The President was not satisfied that the ongoing detention of Mr AH in an immigration detention centre was proportionate to the aims of the Commonwealth’s immigration policy. The President also recommended that the Commonwealth pay financial compensation to Mr AH in the amount of $200,000.

TITLE: President reports on AQ v Commonwealth of Australia (Department of Immigration and Border Protection) [2014] AusHRC 84 | Australian Human Rights Commission

PORTFOLIO: Attorney-General’s


SNIPPET: The President of the Australian Human Rights Commission, Professor Gillian Triggs, has found that the Commonwealth’s failure to release Mr AQ from closed immigration detention for a period of 27 months was inconsistent with the prohibition on arbitrary detention in article 9(1) of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR).. The Department of Immigration and Border Protection (at that time known as the Department of Immigration and Citizenship) had assessed Mr AQ to be a refugee on 23November 2011.. A copy of this report: AQ v Commonwealth of Australia (Department of Immigration and Border Protection) is online.

TITLE: President reports on FA, FB, FC and FD v Commonwealth (Department of Immigration and Border Protection) [2014] AusHRC 83 | Australian Human Rights Commission

PORTFOLIO: Attorney-General’s


SNIPPET: Four men denied refugee status were held in closed immigration detention facilities for prolonged periods despite meeting the criteria for community detention. Mr FA, a Vietnamese man was first considered for community detention after 2 years in immigration detention. A copy of this report Fadhel v Commonwealth of Australia (Department of Immigration and Border Protection) is available online.

TITLE: President reports on Fadhel v Commonwealth of Australia (Department of Immigration and Border Protection) [2014] AusHRC 82 | Australian Human Rights Commission

PORTFOLIO: Attorney-General’s


SNIPPET: The President of the Australian Human Rights Commission, Professor Gillian Triggs, has found that Mr Fadhel’s detention in an immigration detention centre is arbitrary within the meaning of article 9 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR). The President also found that Mr Fadhel’s continued detention has caused him a level of mental impairment such that it amounts to cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment within the meaning of article 7 of the ICCPR.. The President found that Mr Fadhel’s mental health has significantly deteriorated whilst he has been detained in closed immigration detention. Mr Fadhel has repeatedly engaged in self-harm. Mental health professionals assessing Mr Fadhel have repeatedly recommended his release into the community, stating that this was essential for his treatment. The Department has also been advised by a psychologist who has assessed Mr Fadhel on a number of occasions that if Mr Fadhel’s detention were to con tinue, he

TITLE: President reports on HA, HB, HC, HD and HE v Commonwealth of Australia (Department of Immigration and Border Protection) [2014] AusHRC 87 | Australian Human Rights Commission

PORTFOLIO: Attorney-General’s


SNIPPET: The President of the Australian Human Rights Commission, Professor Gillian Triggs, conducted an inquiry into complaints by five men who are or were in closed immigration detention. Messrs HA, HB, HC, HD and HE arrived on Christmas Island as irregular maritime arrivals between late 2009 and early 2010. Each of them sought asylum in Australia and was transferred from Christmas Island to Villawood Immigration Detention Centre (VIDC). A copy of this report HA, HB, HC, HD and HE v Commonwealth of Australia (DIBP) is available online.

TITLE: President reports on Jafari v Commonwealth of Australia (Department of Immigration and Border Protection) [2014] AusHRC 85 | Australian Human Rights Commission

PORTFOLIO: Attorney-General’s


SNIPPET: The President of the Australian Human Rights Commission, Professor Gillian Triggs, has found that the Commonwealth’s failure to detain Mr Samad Ali Jafari in the least restrictive manner possible was inconsistent with the prohibition on arbitrary detention in article 9(1) of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR). The President was not satisfied that the detention of Mr Jafari in an immigration detention centre was proportionate to the aims of the Commonwealth’s immigration policy. A copy of this report: Jafari v Commonwealth of Australia (Department of Immigration and Border Protection) is available online.

TITLE: President reports on MG v Commonwealth of Australia (Department of Immigration and Border Protection) [2014] AusHRC 86 | Australian Human Rights Commission

PORTFOLIO: Attorney-General’s


SNIPPET: The President of the Australian Human Rights Commission, Professor Gillian Triggs, has found that the Commonwealth’s failure to place Mr MG in a less restrictive form of detention than in an immigration detention facility was inconsistent with the prohibition on arbitrary detention in article 9(1) of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR).. The Commonwealth maintained that Mr MG’s detention was justified to prevent risk to the Australian community. President Triggs found that to the extent Mr MG posed any such risk, it could have been mitigated. It did not justify holding Mr MG in a closed detention facility for a period of 42 months.. A copy of this report: MG v Commonwealth of Australia (Department of Immigration and Border Protection) is online.

This list goes on…


Another great word from David Timms

“Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of God.”
~ Matthew 5:9



Violence confuses us. We fear it and we embrace it. It horrifies us and it entertains us.  On the one hand, the thought of a violent home invasion scares the daylights out of us. On the other hand, we spend lots of money on entertainment systems and video games that turn violence into fun. We hate the idea of a physical beating but we’ll watch as others kick, punch, and beat each other in a ring—strangely thinking that the ring somehow justifies or sanitizes the brutality.

The bloodlust of our culture has never been higher. Listen to the violent language. Watch the violent images. Experience the aggression on the roads and the fierceness in the stadiums.

And in such an environment, peacemakers—or even peacetalkers—are persona non grata. Nobody likes them. They’re soft. They’re weak. They’re out of touch. Theodore Roosevelt’s old foreign policy of “speak softly but carry a big stick” has become a common personal mantra. We’re willing to talk for a while (perhaps) but always ready to fight when provoked.

Everyone knows that peacemaking is for fools and idealists.

Everyone except Jesus.

When Jesus honors peacemakers (for they shall be called sons of God) He calls all of His followers to turn peacemaking into a life pursuit.

The challenge, of course, is simply this: Can we be peacemakers while we share the passion for violence that pervades our culture? This advent season calls us to grapple seriously with this question.

The Son of God came into a violent world, without violence. He confronted the established order not with swords and weapons but with words. He came not with bloodlust but a willingness for limited bloodshed—just His own.

Contrary to some distorted views, the “cleansing of the Temple” does not justify everything from berating abortionists to shooting Islamists.

The ancient prophet Isaiah described the promised Christ as “Mighty God, Eternal Father, Prince of Peace.” (Isaiah 9:6) Perhaps as we celebrate His coming we’ll consider our Christmas gifts (and our values) with a fresh thoughtfulness … something befitting sons of God.



You can find back issues of “In HOPE” (2005-2009) at .

David Timms serves in the Graduate Ministry Department at Hope International University in Fullerton, California. “In HOPE”, however, is not an official publication of the University and the views expressed are not necessarily those of the Administrators or Board. “In HOPE” has been a regular e-publication since January, 2001.

No Debt

fter four years in immigration detention, Masoud was granted a temporary visa. Then he was hit with a $264,000 bill for his “accommodation” in Baxter Detention Centre. There are hundreds more like him – experiencing unimaginable trauma only to then be slugged with an enormous bill for the privilege. Thanks to the efforts of caring Australians, like yourself, the bill to abolish detention debt passed just moments ago in the Senate. In an historic move, Liberal Senator Troeth, who met with a GetUp delegation of those affected by this policy, abandoned her party’s position and crossed the floor to support the bill. She was joined, at the last minute, by Senator Fielding – whose support we will need on other refugee reform bills in the coming months. So often we criticise politicians for not standing up and speaking out. Now it is our responsibility to thank them for doing the right thing. With other key refugee and asylum seeker reform bills up for debate shortly, it’s important that we take a moment to thank Senator Troeth and Senator Fielding who took the courageous move of voting on moral rather than party lines.

Click here to send these Senators a message of thanks:

Having seen the faces, heard the stories and seen the emotions of those affected by this bill, our politicians found it in their hearts to end this injustice. In no small part, the efforts of GetUp members, along with the support of so many refugee and asylum seeker campaigners across the nation, made a huge difference to the passing of this amendment. This change will see improvements in the lives of hundreds of Australians who simply want to get on with their lives. No longer will asylum seekers begin a new life in Australia under the heavy burden of hundreds of thousands of dollars of detention debt.

Thank you, Simon Sheikh National Director – GetUp! Action for Australia

PS – Masoud Shams, fleeing Iran, was given a debt by the Commonwealth of $264,000. Thanks to your efforts this injustice has come to an end. Use our simple tool to thank our politicians for ending this injustice by clicking here.

Koorong Fair Trade?

Good News! Koorong open the door to dialogue

From the mob…
Good news:
Koorong has agreed to meet with the Justice and International Mission Unit and discuss how to move forward constructively on ensuring ethical standards are maintained in the production of goods sold at Koorong.
This follows the National Council of Churches in Australia (as well as Victorian Heads of Churches) endorsing a fair trade in Christian goods.
There is still no word from Word bookstores.
Background info and more
To take action go here (Word)
Action Message from Age “In fact if you have a holyhardwear card or an action flyer with you could you please visit your local Word bookstore (everywhere in Oz) with it this Monday (or at least this week) and ask them to join in by contacting the campaign. This could be a great week for work justice. Slave labour for Christian product is sin.”
James 5:4 “Look! The wages you failed to pay the workmen who mowed your fields are crying out against you. The cries of the harvesters have reached the ears of the Lord Almighty.”
Source –

Listening to the West Kimberley People

With his arm elbow deep in muddy water Eddie looks up and winks and mentions that if this mud crab gets a hold of his fingers we had better watch out as we will all know about it! We were out on the Mangrove flats that the people of Ngamagkoon belong to. Eddie is part of the Sampi family, made well known by the Eagles player Ashley Sampi, a Bardi from the mob at Ngamagkoon.

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The 5 of us  began our journey in Broome 4 days previous. We were on what we called a “listening journey”, as part of a programme I run called OnEARTH for Global Mission Partners. We were there to listen to country, to story, to legend, to the people of the Dampier Peninsula –

  • Jawi
  • Bardi
  • Nyulnyul
  • Jabirrjabirr
  • Nimanburru
  • Ngumbarl

Before the arrival of Europeans, the natural environment on the Dampier Peninsula provided plenty of bush tucker for the indigenous people.  Creeks, tidal areas and the ocean are full of fish, dugong, mud crab and oysters and the vine thickets provide fruits and berries to make a varied and nourishing local diet.

Dampier Peninsula people still have a strong affinity with the sea and bushland, as we discovered along our journey.

After driving from Broome we arrived in Looma (120km S/E of Derby) with a population of around 400. We stayed with Natasha and Jamie Short, a wonderful couple who pastor the People’s Church as well as look after the community youth centre. They are fantastic people. Jamie is a White fella from Perth and Natasha, an Aboriginal from the Halls Creek area. They have been serving at Looma for about 7 years now and have 2 great kids.

2009 07 28_1108After lunch and a swim down on the stunning Fitzroy River we drove up to Derby to visit the Whites. Paul and Laurel White pastor the Derby Baptist Church among other activities.  They have bought the Aboriginal Training Centre just out of town and have big plans for growth and extension. Whilst there we did some manual labor… we raked up truck loads of dry leaves (fire hazard) and were asked to remove the stumps of 2 recently cut down Boab trees- hmmm??!!

Laurel White looked after us while we were there. She is a great lady, she has a wonderful gift of hospitality and generosity! Paul, her husband and pastor at the church is a pilot and was away in Perth during our stay.  Outside the life and ministry of the predominantly white church Paul and Laurel have some amazing relationships and ministries in Aboriginal communities.

Kimberly Aid – This business has began as a result of RFDS having bigger planes and not being able to access smaller community airstrips around the Kimberley. Paul and Laurel have got a bunch of medical people and pilots to donate their time to assist in evac when RFDS can’t make it in.

Kingdom Aviation – Paul and Laurel run a 3 plane ministry that flies all over the Kimberley sharing their faith, serving the poor and running programs in schools, parent support group, and other training.

Dentistry – Laurel is a dentist nurse and in her work in Derby has made many an indigenous persons dentistry journey easier as a result of special favours and ‘working the system’ that does not always serve people from remote communities very well at all. Her willingness to make all sorts of tough things just ‘happen’ for people who otherwise couldn’t get there was wonderful! She tells a great story too!

After 2 nights in Derby we drove ‘the back way’ on some very out of the way tracks to get to Cape Leveque up on the top of the Dampier Peninsula. Upon check in at Kooljaman we drove over the hill toward our beach campsite, as we rounded the hill the most amazing view was taken in to gasps from all on board – this place was paradise! Kooljaman is jointly owned by Djarindjin and One Arm Point Aboriginal Communities and sits 220km north of Broome. We visited one of these communities on the road on the drive up the Peninsula –

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Some 200 km from Broome, there are two communities very close together with about 60 Aboriginal (Bardi) people in Lombadina (first settled in the late 1890’s by Thomas Puertiollano who sold the land to the Catholic Church) and over 200 in the more traditional Djarindjin. We called in to Djarindjin specifically to catch up with Barry Ennis, the Principal from the Lombidina/Djarindjin School. We had heard through Sabrina 2009 07 30_0986Haan/ABC radio National that the EON Foundation from Perth had been helping the school set up a organic community Kitchen Garden. Barry showed us around the garden but was also good enough to spend time sharing with us the history of the the area. This community is not without some of the usual issues we read about in the media in remote Aboriginal regions, but there was something about the place that we all loved. We sensed a slowness and peace about it, a friendliness that  drew us in.

P6060072 copyOn our first night at Cape Leveque (and every subsequent one!) we made our way down to the Western Beach and watched the sunset – undoubtably some of the most amazing sunsets I have ever seen!

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On Friday we went to One Arm Point community (Ardiyooloon). This community is the home of the Bardi and Jawi people who were the traditional inhabitants of the area. These people are still active in hunting around the local area and in most cases still using traditional hunting methods as they hunt for sea turtle or goorlil (we saw the evidence of a fresh catch along the beach!), dugong (odorr), and many many of the amazing fish (aarli) up there. They also collect the trochus shells and make jewellery, oysters, mud crabs and more. These people are proud of their hatchery on the point where they nurture all sorts of creatures in giant tanks.

Here at One Arm Point we stopped and and chatted with a wonderful couple called Brian and Violet Carter. Their son is the Chairman of One Arm Point Aboriginal Community. This lovely old couple can tell some stories! Brian moved to Derby as a pilot in 1956, later married Violet and have lived in One Arm Point community for many many years, to look at Brian you know he is not Aboriginal but to listen to him speak and hear his heart beat, you know he is on the inside! They both sat with us and shared some great insights into the local culture, politics, and … well fishing and tides 🙂  Brian and Violet are both followers of Christ


and asked us excitedly if we had seen their ‘church’. It was a roof and some poles with a piece of shade cloth they were quite happy with – we fell in love with these guys and their beautiful faith and love for life and one another.

P6070117 copySaturday morning saw us pulling into Eddie’s place at Ngamagkoon, just south of Kooljaman. We had asked if Eddie could spend a few hours with us telling us about his people and their culture. He was willing and would even show us the basics of living in a coastal Bardi community. We drove out into the Mangrove Flats and went on foot (with spears) into the thick mud searching (and finding!) some VERY large crabs hiding under trees. After crabbing we headed back to the Melaleuca scrub (not venturing too far in as there were sacred ceremony sites in behind) looking for bush honey and pollen. With our ears against the trunks listening for bees we wandered through the scrub until Eddie found the right spot, cut it open and allowed us to sample the most

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beautiful tasting honey and pollen (tastes like sherbet). Interesting, one white person we met, not knowing or respecting much of Aboriginal culture told us with some disdain that “Aboriginal people set fire to everything!

2009 08 01_0804But Eddie taught us that his people light the bush to thin it, also to make it better for collecting their fire wood, as well as for hunting the stuff in the long grass, such a different window we were now looking through! From there we went out onto one of the most stunning coastal scenes I have seen. The Ngamagkoon people’s land has a creek running out into the ocean where they do much of their spearing and fishing from.

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This site was one of untouched bush and mangrove reaching to long white beaches and crystal clear aqua coloured lagoons. After extracting our car from the soft sand we headed back to Eddie’s place to bid him farewell and be told that we were welcome back to his country and community any time.

This time with Eddie was more than we could have hoped for and all voted it as the highlight of our trip that was drawing to a close faster than we wanted. We headed back to camp for one more afternoon sleep (a tradition we embraced…or did we start that one?), a fire with some reflections of our time away, and a dinner of local Barramundi, Kangaroo and … cow! Eddie mentioned that morning that there were a few ‘stray’ cattle around 🙂

Sunday morning, time to make our way back to Broome for a 1pm flight to Perth. On our return down the challenging stretch of unsealed road we took time to visit Beagle Bay Community. It was looking very nice and manicured after a week of political meetings discussing a report written by an old school mate Steve Kinnane. I read Steve’s book Shadow Lines while we travelled this week. The book follows the lives of his Grandmother (a Mirrawong woman stolen from Argyle Station in the early 1900’s) and his grandfather (an Englishman) through to today. What a brilliant read! (See below)

The Beagle Bay community is located 120 kilometres from Broome. In the centre of the community there’s a beautiful church, built of stone from 1914-1918 by German Pallottine monks, who settled here around 1901.

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On entering the Sacred Heart Church you can see a stunning pearl shell altar. Coloured windows create a special mood in the building. But, we forgot it was Sunday and church had already started and we had a plane to catch, so we missed the insides 😦

The community’s name was derived from the vessel “Beagle”, which moored at the bay when the priests were looking for a suitable mission place in 1889, ironic really as this was the ship Charles Darwin sailed on. It was much of his work that was used to base most of the atrocities done to our Aboriginal people!


If you are wanting to connect and learn more with the rich lives of the first Aussies, grab a copy of The First Australians (SBS), or Read Steve’s book Shadow Lines (2003, Fremantle Arts Press). One review says that … “Shadow Lines revolves around two people born a world apart, a half caste Aboriginal woman by the name of Jessie Argyle, and an Englishman named Edward Smith. Edward was born in 1891 and emigrated to Australia in 1909 as an eighteen year-old. Jessie was born in the Argyle region in the far north of Western Australia in 1900, and was taken from her family in 1906 under the newly created Aborigines Act of 1905. This book makes the often dry history of Western Australia since white colonisation come alive, and is probably a far better way to learn about the sordid history of this state than by way of the official history textbooks.

What Kinnane has done here is weave together a rich tapestry of historical tales”…read the rest here.

Not everything we saw ‘impressed’ us. Not every road taken in order to work among the people of the Kimberley would be a road I would have taken. This makes neither my road right or the road we observed wrong, just different tracks people take and our reactions to them. We went to look listen and learn from all we encountered, I trust this is what has happened.

Well I have to say that sometimes I love my job – last week was one of those times 🙂

Thanks to The Wembley Downs Church of Christ (where I hung out for the first 18 years of my life! As our new friend Eddie might say “they grew me up”) for making this trip a reality and for those who travelled the journey Dennis R, Steve M, Matt B and Ken V – What a great a bunch of guys to hang out with for a week, Thanks!

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