We recently welcomed our newest Bush Chaplain, Rev. Deacon Peter Harvey in the East Gippsland Remote Area of Victoria. Having worked across rural and remote corners of the country over many years, Peter feels most at home when he is traversing through the rugged terrain of remote Australia to connect with people in the region. We share some highlights of our conversation with him and find out more about his motto in life – looking forward rather than looking back.
What does this very special role mean to you?
I am here to support people whose lives were impacted by the Black Summer bushfires in East Gippsland. Since starting this role in September, I am standing alongside them in their continued recovery. It is a very remote area – sparsely populated and predominantly bushland, on the edge of the Snowy Mountains. The impact of the fires has been so far-reaching. Beyond even the loss of property, many people have lost focus and hope. Many families have still not been able to move back into their homes because of fire safety and security hazards. Their lives have been further challenged by the agonising impact of COVID-19. Mental health is suffering. And I have been able to make myself available to people wherever they are. I want to help them find the next chapter in their life and add to their recovery journey in a holistic way.
What are the predominant challenges in your patch?
The biggest challenge has been to establish the connection with people and gain their trust. People in this region have been leading very isolated lives. In the more isolated areas, there has been lack of services available to help them in their recovery. But we look forward rather than looking back. Personally, I am still learning about the area, the geography and the stories. It is a pretty mountainous region, and it takes a lot of time to access people in remote areas, and there are still plenty of reminders around this area of the devastation that came through here. But you can see the signs of life in the bush again, and we find hope in this process of renewal and rebirth.
What are your plans for the New Year?
I am looking forward to becoming more a part of people’s lives here in the communities of East Gippsland as a Frontier Services Bush Chaplain. I am looking at different ways to partner with people and help them find the answers they are looking for. The New Year heralds a new beginning. We learn from what’s happened before, and take a new step towards the future.
We’ve been able to place three new Bush Chaplains this financial year because of our supporters, and our goal is to increase our current team from 17 to 22 so more people have someone to turn to in their darkest times.
As we go to print, we have a new Bush Chaplain, Veronica Bradley, who has been placed in the brand new Prom Country Remote Area in Victoria. You can expect to hear more about her and her work in the next edition of Frontier News.
If you would like to donate so we can provide more Bush Chaplains in remote Australia, please use the form below: