In November last year, Pastor Julia Lennon joined our team of Bush Chaplains. Based in Oodnadatta, she is working to foster relationships between First and Second Peoples, and create a space for healing.
‘Oodnadatta’ is believed to be an adaptation of the local Arrernte word ‘utnadata’, which means ‘blossom of the mulga’. The country surrounding this inland town has been inhabited by Aboriginal people for more than 30,000 years. It is also where Flynn’s first nursing home was established, and the land from which some of our early Bush Chaplains set off to bring practical, pastoral and spiritual care to people in remote Australia.
Growing up in and around the Oodnadatta community, Julia is our first ever female Aboriginal Bush Chaplain. She said she hopes to bring First and Second Peoples together, and told us about what it means to be a Frontier Services Bush Chaplain.
“For me, it means we are finally being heard,” she said. “It’s about learning to walk alongside people in different communities, reaching out and letting people know that we’re here to care.”
A church in the open air
In town ‘stands’ a church with no walls. The worship community meets in the open air, on land where a slab of concrete is all that remains of the Oodnadatta Children’s Home built in 1924 by missionaries from the United Aborigines Mission.
It felt surreal to be standing there in the openness and reflect on the history of those grounds. While talking about her ministry, Julia shared with us her dream for the open-air church.
“The dream is to build a structure of some sort and a garden,” she said. “My hope is to give people who were taken from their families a space for healing.”
“We’re excited to open the Oodnadatta Remote Area and for Julia to join our team of incredible Bush Chaplains,” said Jannine Jackson, our National Director. “We look forward to building connections with Traditional Owners right in the very heart of Australia.”
“With Julia, I believe we have a strong foundation to work with First Peoples as we continue on our journey of Reconciliation.”
You can bring practical, pastoral and spiritual care to people in remote communities like Oodnadatta by giving a gift in support of Julia and our Bush Chaplains. Simply head to our donations page. Thank you.
This article was adapted from the February 2020 edition of Frontier News.