Frontier Services Bush Chaplain, Julia Lennon, is on a mission to create healing waters in Australia’s driest town. Seven hundred kilometres south of Alice Springs, Oodnadatta sits in the hot, dry heart of the Australian outback. Here, temperatures regularly rise past the mid thirties and rain is rarely seen. Drinking water is provided by regular truck deliveries which replenish a central water source. The more than 120 local residents, most of whom are First Nations people, walk to this reservoir and fill up a jerry can to last them a day or two at a time.
With most days dominated by the scorching sun, the chance to work outside is limited to the cooler hours. This means that despite there being a desire to improve communal spaces, the conditions are demoralising and everyday priorities take over.
A dream to create Healing Waters since childhood
Frontier Services Bush Chaplain, Julia, who grew up in the area, has always had a vision of bringing Oodnadatta to life. With her recent connection to the organisation, she decided to invite the Outback Links team out and make her long held dream a reality. Working alongside a number of locals, eight volunteers begin work on projects Julia has identified.
A large playground area is cleared and its perimeter fence given a fresh coat of white paint, leaving it ready for kids to enjoy as they get together after school. This is followed by work on the women’s shelter which has fallen into disuse. It forms a temporary base for the Outback Links volunteers and a future location for arts, crafts and neighbourhood gatherings.
A place to come together in Australia’s driest town
On the Eastern outskirts of the town is a plot of land holding the town’s first and only church. Julia highlights the significance of its history.
“This place used to be where children were taken from their parents many years ago.”
“There’s a slab over there which used to be a building and they were taken to Colebrook (Home) in Adelaide. I don’t know what happened to them then.”
Julia describes how the space is now being used as a place for healing.
“We use (the church) mostly for funerals and worship – just for church when it’s cool. And for one wedding, which was mine.”
“It feels really good because the people who were taken, they know me. And I told them that I’m building a Church on the Colebrook site and they said, ‘What! Nah, that’s too good.”
The dream of healing waters becomes real
The sound of progress can literally be heard in the background as Julia speaks. A generator and power tools resound as three of the Outback Links volunteers repair a shed meant for small church gatherings. It’s one of the first steps in realising Julia’s plan to uplift her friends, family and community.
So how does someone like Julia go about creating healing waters in Australia’s driest town? South Australia Water are heading in to the remote town to There is “I’m really wanting to give back – it’s called ‘healing waters’; a garden so they can just come and sit around and reflect and just try to find that healing inside themselves.”
Julia already gets the sense that the work started between a few locals and Outback Links volunteers has inspired the town.
“They just need that little pick-up; just knowing that, ‘yes, we can do this, we can continue to do this.'”