Meet Noel Williams, our new Bush Chaplain in Barwon NSW.
The Bush Chaplain role was a match made in heaven for Noel. It brought together all his loves: his previous role as chaplain in the Air Force, his farming background, his experience as a radio technician and his love of connecting with people – and helping them connect with God.
“A Bush Chaplain is just who I am and what I do.”
Noel was a chaplain in the Air Force for 40 years. When he was age-retired earlier this year, he wasn’t ready to hang up his boots. “Frontier Services have a motto, ‘Standing with people in the bush’. And when I reflect on my 40 years in the Air Force, I think that I’ve been standing with people in support for my whole working life,” he says.
No agenda, just absolute care and support
“Before I started, I heard that people in the bush don’t like opening up, that they don’t want to talk about their feelings. But I find people do want to talk – both men and women. They will talk if they feel you haven’t come with a hidden agenda.
“And that’s why this chaplain role is so important: there’s no agenda, just absolute care and support.”
The welding helmet and the toolkits become symbolic of what I do as a Bush Chaplain.
Noel finds unique ways to connect with and support the people in his care. In his vehicle, he carries a welding helmet and his autoelectrical toolbox, so he can chip in and help wherever and whenever people are in need.
“This job is about building strength in people, sometimes physically like with welding, but sometimes it’s just having a chat. It’s just having someone who can listen. It’s about inner strength: emotional, mental, spiritual.
“The welding helmet and the toolkits become symbolic of what I do as a chaplain.”
A Bush Chaplain who knows struggle
Noel knows what it’s like to struggle on the land, dealing with floods and bushfires and the tough competitive market facing primary producers; he and his wife run a working sheep farm.
Although only a few months into the job, Noel is already getting to know his community. He recently met with an Aboriginal Elder and had a wonderful chat about the struggles facing Aboriginal People and Leaders.
“They have similar issues to other families on the land. They’re losing their children to electronic devices, and their kids are moving away from their cultural homeland. Other farming communities have the same problem with the kids moving off the farm and going to the city.”
“That emptiness within, that loneliness – it has an impact on self-worth and self-respect. For me, bringing new perspectives to people in terms of life and well-being is really at the heart of what I offer.”