If you live within cooee of the Cape York Patrol of Australia and you have anything to do with Frontier Services, chances are you’ll end up fishing.
Rev Ron Watson is Frontier Services Patrol Minister in the Cape York Patrol and an avid fisherman. It’s a region where the fish are bountiful, the crocs are big and the men are tough.
Local blokes aren’t typically talkers. They’re more the rugged, silent types. That being said, it’s not that they don’t have feelings, but sharing and articulating them doesn’t necessarily come naturally. You could probably say that about many men, right around Australia.
For Rev Ron Watson ‘going fishing’ is the answer. “Well, I reckon if it is good enough for Jesus, it’s good enough for me.” And so he’s developed a ‘fishing ministry’ in the Cape, with blokes. This ministry is not just about catching fish (as important as that is), but also engaging with these fellows about life and faith.
“There have been some interesting journeys,” says Ron “one of the blokes who I regularly go fishing with, you would never see in church. He swears like a trooper and thinks little of religious people, but I get the feeling that he reckons I’m okay.”
This person has almost become a mate of Ron’s and recently had to undergo major surgery as Ron explained, “As he went in I said to Graham (not his real name) ‘you can say no to this, but would you like me to pray with you before you go in?’ His reply was ‘Yes. Please.’ And so we did – probably for the first time in many a long time.”
Another one of Ron’s buddies is Peter. Again, he’s not a religious guy. “We’d been fishing a number of times together and had begun to talk about faith, meaning and purpose. ‘I noticed you’ve starting to come to church a bit,’ I said to him and he replied ‘Yes, I reckon it’s good for the kids.'”
Ron takes his fishing pretty seriously. Recently Rev Ron and his wife Heather were on a track for about 10 days and ended up camped by a river at Pormpuraaw. “It’s croc territory and I told Heather that I thought I would go fishing early in the morning, and be careful of the crocodiles.”
At first light Ron was out, “I was flicking my lure in when about three metres from the back my knot came undone. I thought to myself ‘It can’t be deep. I’ll just dance out across it and get it. It won’t be any deeper than a foot.’ Well, one quick step and I was in. And under.” While Ron’s skills don’t include walking on water he has a sense of humour about the incident and was retelling the story to a local Aboriginal elder. “He shook his head and told me ‘there’s pretty big crocodiles in that river. You’re a pretty lucky fella’.”
Rev Ron has given up trying to walk on water but he still enjoys his fishing ministry. Recently he and a group of men hired a house boat for a men’s spiritual retreat. “It’s exactly what’s required. While we were fishing I got the opportunity to engage with these men, where they are at. We got to listen, share together and explore life, meaning, faith, reality and anything else that came up.”
For Rev Ron, it’s a way of life. Ask a man to talk and he’ll clam up, but take him fishing and you can really bond, as two people. “I reckon Jesus knew more about fishing than the average bloke. In the bible there a lot of fishing stories, and I reckon that Jesus got it right. How do you reach blokes? You go fishing with them.”
Frontier Services Patrol Ministers work with, and alongside people in remote Australia. They deal with mental health issues on a daily basis. Sometimes their presence alone is enough to help, other times professional referrals are required. Either way, they are there, keeping an eye and lending an ear to the people of remote Australia.