Rev. David Jackson has a new assignment giving hope after disasters to people and communities that have been left devastated. After finally deciding to hang up his boots and retire as a church Minister, he was hoping to enjoy some downtime with his wife where they live in the Margaret River wine region outside Perth. But there was a calling he needed to follow.
Formerly patrol padre in Tasmania in 1989, David is returning to Frontier Services as the new Disaster Recovery Chaplain, Mid-West in WA. He’ll be doing what he does best – helping communities struggling to recover from the deadly impact of natural disasters.
While the entire country has been grappling with extreme weather, WA has faced drought, bushfires and in April 2021, the unspeakable destruction of Cyclone Seroja.
Critical infrastructure was damaged including roads, telecommunications and many properties in the central west which hadn’t been built to withstand this rare Category 3 cyclone. Farmers were left to pick up the pieces of what little remained, having lost their homes, cattle and equipment.
Recovering from disaster takes time
We know that recovering from any disaster doesn’t happen overnight. It takes years, especially in rural and remote Australia, where labour and materials are in short supply.
Erika’s sheep farm was devastated by the cyclone. Our Outback Links volunteers have assisted her with some of the extensive repair work. This was invaluable practical help. However, she still lives in a campervan because her home remains unsafe. Much more needs to be done to get her farm up and running again.
Today, many farmers like Erika are waiting for practical and pastoral support to tide them through these difficult times and prepare for future disasters.
David understands their plight from his own experiences. When he moved on from his role as Frontier Services patrol padre, he relocated to Karratha just after Cyclone Orson wreaked havoc across WA.
“It very much set the tone for all the disasters I was to witness during my time in WA,” he recalls. “Eventually I got used to the cyclones, knowing that they brought much-needed rain for the farmers.”
In his subsequent work as an Army Reserve Chaplain, David supported personnel after the 1996 Black Hawk crash near Townsville, QLD. He also comforted people after Sydney’s hailstorms in 1999, and helped survivors of the horrific Bali bombings in 2002 who were flown to Darwin.
Soon after that, the WA Synod of the Uniting Church started looking for a Convenor for their Disaster Relief and Community Recovery Working Group, and David became involved. This began his association with Rev. Dr. Stephen Robinson, Frontier Services National Disaster Recovery Officer.
From a broken heart to giving hope
David’s heart broke for the communities he saw struggling after Cyclone Seroja and the 2021 Wooroloo bushfires, which ravaged suburbs in the Perth Hills. It drew him out of retirement, to help and care for people once again, giving hope after disasters.
In Cyclone Seroja “many homes were destroyed, and pastoral properties turned upside down,” David says.
“People’s businesses were ruined and their livelihood severely impacted. This brought a great deal of pain and anguish.”
As Frontier Services Disaster Recovery Chaplain, David will walk beside those dealing with trauma and suffering. He hopes to encourage them and impart the skills they need to cope. “My job is to make people feel listened to and cared for, as they put their lives back together.”
A big thank you to Rev. Erica Payne who stepped into the role of the Frontier Services Disaster Recovery Chaplain in WA, as David prepared to return to active service from July 1.