South West Native Mission Annual Conference (1965)

South West Native Mission Annual Conference (1965)

The Annual Conference was held at LeFanu house from the evening of December 6th. until after lunch on Dec 9th. 1965.

Unfortunately the Archbishop was prevented from attending by pressing emergencies, and this was a great disappointment to the members of the Mission.  However, we did have visits from the Commissioner for Native Affairs, Mr. Frank Gare; the Rector of Kalamunda, the Reverend D.R. Bazely (who played a very prominent part in the formation of the Mission); the Rectors of some of the parishes where our Missioners are stationed, the venerable L. Bothamley (Northam); the Venerable M. Bromilow (Pinjarra); the reverend D. Newman (Merredin); and the Reverend G. Howells (Gnowangerup); and, most frequently, the Reverend J. Eley, (A.M.C. Organising Secretary); and Mr. Frank Moore, the Mission’s treasurer.

On Tuesday morning the ladies of the mission visited Metropolitan Kindergartens for practical demonstrations, and in the evening visited the Infant Health Clinic for discussions on this important aspect of their work.

The Mission’s Purpose: Most of the discussion at the Conference centred round “The Ultimate Purpose of the Mission” and how best this could be implemented.  The Director outlined the purpose of the Mission as originally planned.  Briefly stated, this was:- to be in daily contact with the mixed-blood fringe-dwelling natives to encourage, guide, instruct and help them towards acceptance into the Church and social communities from which they were at that time largely excluded.  As far as the Churches were concerned, the Mission’s purpose was to open up pastoral and evangelical opportunities for the priests and ministers of the local towns, and show by example the Christian way of living.  On the material side, the original plan was for continued improvement in housing, hygiene, education and employment.  It was generally agreed that this was still the main purpose of the Mission, and that the personal approach of individual Missioners was the best way of achieving it.  The experiences quoted by the teams showed the great variety of people, reserve standards and opportunities, which made any attempt at a uniform attempt practically impossible.

Evangelism:   It was encouraging to hear of Mr. Wrightson’s ‘Saturday night Group’ on the Northam reserve.  Here a quite informal evening with choruses, strip films, Bible stories – and whatever seems opportune is obviously making an impact.  Equally encouraging is the Sunday School held each week at the Mt. Barker reserve attended by most of the children; and the fact that Mr. Abraham is able to take a dozen or more youngsters and adults to Church each Sunday at Merredin, besides holding youth groups on the reserve during the week, witnesses to the Christian influence being felt there.  At Pinjarra several children attend the Sunday School in the Church, and some adults attend the ordinary services.  At Goomalling any religious approach is discouraged among an entirely Roman Catholic native population, and at Gnowangerup the Baptists visit the natives daily and hold a weekly service.

Mobile Team:  The question whether a mobile team visiting several reserves during the course of a year would influence more people was discussed at some length.  It was generally agreed that frequent visits, if only for one day, would be much more effective than a visit of two or three weeks with a gap of a couple of months in between.  All the teams are already making weekly or fortnightly visits to reserves other than the one on which they are stationed, which does witness to the mobile nature of the Mission.  A team not having a main centre would not be able to conduct a kindergarten, generally considered by Missioners, townspeople and the Native Welfare Department Officers alike as one of the most important activities.

Hostels:  It was unanimously and wholeheartedly agreed that the hostel system for training both boys and girls after leaving schools was invaluable.  Indeed, it was felt by several that it was more important than the work on the reserves, because it was essential to get the youngsters leaving school away from the reserve atmosphere before they succumb to it.

Town-dwellers:  M. Eley reminded us of the importance of fostering the families who moved from the reserve to the town.   He suggested that we should encourage white families to ‘adopt’ a coloured family and show friendliness and example, to make them feel acceptable and accepted.  This has always been the Mission’s theory i n this regard, but it has not been easy to put into practice.

Education:  Concern was expressed by all the Missioners that the authorities dealt so slowly and leniently with the matter of truancy among the native children.  All the teams had difficulty in getting anyone to take the matter in hand in such cases.  No one seemed to want to act.  The Director was asked to take the matter up with the Education and Native Welfare Departments.

Adult Education:  Mr Keith Hoffman, Director of Technical Education among adult natives, gave us an enlightening talk on the department’s activities in this aspect of the work.  It was obvious that a tremendous amount of assistance can be obtained by us in this matter.  The Education Department is prepared to start classes in almost anything so long as there are a few natives prepared to be interested.  These classes can be held during the course of a year, or for a shorter period of ten to fourteen weeks if required.

Retreat:  It was generally felt that the members of the Mission should have a retreat together, if only for a day and a night, on a purely devotional level, so they could review their spiritual strength.

The Mission in the Parish: The visit of some of the rectors gave us the opportunity of discussing how best the Mission could help the parish and vice versa. It was obvious that there was the closest co-operation between the Missioners and the Rectors, and that the Rectors were prepared to do more if necessary, and if parochial commitments permitted.  They preferred, however, that the Mission remain as a Provincially controlled organisation, rather than that the control and supervision of the Missioner in their parish be a parochial responsibility. An overall Director was essential to maintain continuity, a degree of uniformity and a liaison with the local ministers and Welfare Committees.

Hospital Expenses:  The need to impress upon the natives their responsibilities in regard to hospital expenses was stressed by all teams.  A small cash payment for a visit to doctor or hospital was suggested.  Each team agreed to strive for membership of hospital benefits for the natives and to act as agents for the stamps and hold the cards.



This document is from the personal papers of Mary Elliott – the language is that of the author

Stephen Hall
Stephen Hall
Lives in Perth, Western Australia.

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