I was nine years old, a man with a begging bowl chanced
to cross my path as I walked through my home- town in
At that moment I felt deep anger at the indignity of
his situation. I silently vowed that I would change
the world. That moment has inspired my life. On “finding”
Redfern those feelings flooded back. I had always perceived
myself as different. At Redfern I came to realise that
all of life’s experiences had conspired to fit me for
life in an alien world.
is more than thirty years since Rhonda and I first visited
I was privileged to experience a community of people
who resided in the Presbytery. I recall a busy place
where people laughed and cried and cared and shared.
I met and witnessed Mum Shirl in full flight in the
soup kitchen. It was on that occasion that I met Maureen
Watson for whom I have deep and abiding love and respect.
With her initial suspicions allayed Maureen physically
and spiritually embraced us both. Maureen afforded me
one of the most moving experiences of my life as she
sat by my side and recited the poem “Woman” during her
surprise visit to my home on my birthday.
attended mass at Redfern and listened for the first
time to “Father Ted”. Unconditional love and acceptance
permeated the church. I was deeply moved and challenged
by Ted’s interpretation of the gospels and the purpose
of existence. I felt a sense of “coming home” and a
deep comfort in a place where difference is embraced.
I ventured on safe in the knowledge that I was “right”
because the gospel according to father Ted said so.
time passed people came to Redfern. Some stayed. Some
left. Some tried to change Redfern believing that Redfern
was in some way impoverished. The church was painted,
experiments were conducted from time to time and the
community patiently waited. The “visitors” found their
way and the community bounced back.
passed, Aboriginal people continued to welcome us and
shared with us their pain and their too infrequent joy.
I was humbled by my experience. So often I wondered
at their tolerance and forgiveness. I sought answers
to questions but none were forthcoming.
were many gatherings on Christmas Day at Centennial
“I” needed so much to be part of that experience. Traditionally
we had taken photographs but ceased to do so when it
became clear that they were solely testament to those
whose lives failed before Christmas orbited once more.
passed and our Aboriginal friends found other forums
for “celebration”. The spirit if Redfern persists unchanged.
It derives from the inspiration flowing from the legacy
of suffering borne by Aboriginal people who have been
physically and spiritually present at Redfern.
favour is found in “our” community for privilege, permanence,
status, power or wealth but simply from “difference”.
We are all equal. We are all integral.
you Father Ted for your love, your compassion and your
sacrifice. Thank you Father Ted for teaching me to see
the world that God envisaged. Thank you Father Ted for
giving me the courage to face the daily round and to
challenge. For the opportunities that I have had to
be enriched by my Aboriginal friends, thank you Father
Ted. Thank you Ted. Thank you and God Bless you.
by Hilary Bone