Father Ted Kennedy
St Vincent's Redfern 1971 - 2002
A compilation of reflections by Community members presented to Ted Kennedy on his retirement as parish priest of the St Vincent's Catholic Church in the inner Sydney suburb of Redfern.
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Fr Ted Kennedy

Reflections 1
Reflections 2
Reflections 3
Reflections 4
Reflections 5
Who is Worthy?
Letters from Ted

Mum Shirl

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Visitors since 12 April 2004
  Church Mouse

The memories I have of Redfern are very special to me. The memories are very real and of very real people like Father Ted Kennedy, who quietly but determinedly opened up the Redfern Presbytery to Aboriginal people, and then the whole Catholic complex, that is, the Church, Convent and school.

The school was used for the Aboriginal Medical Service; the Convent became what I always saw as a phenomenon in the Church as many Sisters, Brothers, Priests from Religious Orders and diocesan priests, as well as many other people came to speak to and get to know many wonderful Aboriginal people. These people were often of the Stolen Generations, the victims of racism on Aboriginal Reserves, the law and any other way that racism works.

We learnt from people like Ted, Mum Shirl and the gentle and sometimes violent victims of alcohol. These people lived, and very often died, at “the Church”.

As I write these memories I remember the Lands Rights marches each year in NAIDOC Week. A few hundred people would gather at the Aboriginal Legal Service in Redfern and we would walk along to George Street Sydney to the Town Hall. The Aboriginal Leader would shout, “What do we want?” and we answered, “Land Rights!” Then the Leader shouted, “When do we want it?” and we answered, “Now!” This was repeated all the way. Some of the onlookers joined us and of course we were on TV news.

Another special memory is that of spending Good Friday in the infamous Grafton jail with Mum Shirl. She really cheered the prisoners and brought them news of their families and goodies to share. Mum Shirl really stood up to the screws and got her way - the way she wanted her visits to be with the prisoners. I also went to Courts and other jails and Aboriginal Reserves with Mum Shirl.

During my stay at Redfern from 1976 to 1984 I learnt so much from Ted and the many Aboriginal people who lived at or visited “the Church”. So many have gone to join their ancestors, but I remember all with very deep love.

Since 1984 I have lived in Wilcannia and am married to Gus Bates. He was born here but was taken away with two brothers and one sister. Gus and his brother were put in Kinchella Boys Home.

Ted has visited us out here. Gus also visited “the Church” and stayed with Mum Shirl after he left K. B. H. Mum Shirl came to our wedding in 1986 in Wilcannia. This was a great joy for Gus. Many of the Redfern “mob” also came for it (only 1000 km away). After the wedding, we celebrated on the banks of the Paaka (Darling) River which is the home of the Paakandgi (Barkandji) Tribe.

Ted, may your years ahead be filled with the love and memories of the people who have stayed near “the Redfern Church” and those who have spread to other places.

by Germaine Bates


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