first met Father Ted back in 1976 when I first came
my brother introduced me to him. The next time was in
82 when I moved into the church as a homeless person.
In them days there were a lot of homeless people roaming
but to the Aboriginal homeless people of Sydney,
the Redfern church was a safe refuge and a place to
stay. The place became known as "The Church" and the
people who lived there were known as the "Churchies".
place was also a place where you could get a free feed
in the early days but after a few murders a lot of the
people had left. This was a place of hard dinking alcoholics
who used to wander around Redfern, with nothing better
to do. Father Ted Kennedy had given us a safe place
to camp. I remember once, me and a mate called Ivan
got drunk one night, and some how we woke up in the
main church down behind the last pew. It was Sunday
morning and I could hear little children yelling. "Hey
Father Ted! there some men sleeping here". As I looked
up all I could see were all these little faces looking
at me, over the pew. Boy was I embarrassed, but! Father
Ted said nothing, just continued on with the service.
can remember my mates getting married there, Dougie
and Barie, they didn't remember asking Father Ted to
marry them, but bright and early a few days later, after
he had sober up Father Ted married them in the church
Kennedy was the big push behind the Aboriginal people
for self equity. He insisted the church be involved
in Aboriginal issues plus issues involving the larger
community of Redfern. Yes! Father Ted was very well
known and respected person, especially in the Aboriginal
community and in Aboriginal circle of NSW.
can still remember the Christmas parties, every year
they were held, rain, hail or shine, in some park around
Ted and the sisters (nuns) would put this lovely dinner
on, for the homeless and anyone who wanted to come,
with all the trimmings. Payed for out of his own pocket.
This was a man who you could go and talk too, regardless
of how you looked, how drunk you were or what ever the
problem was. (The word was, go and see Father Ted, he
will be able to do something) and sure as god made little
green apples the problems would go away.
remember after leaving the church and going back to
TAFE to do a course, I run into Father Ted a few years
later. "How’s TAFE going Dave" he said. "Having a lot
of trouble with the English, Father Ted!" was my reply.
Then Father Ted replied "Haven't you been having trouble
with English for the last 200 years". At first I didn't
realise what he meant, but I sure know what he means
now! Ted Kennedy has said a lot of things to me over
the years, but the thing I really remember most was
“Hey David! that's another mate of yours we just buried,
wasn’t it. And actually these words helped me achieve
to what I am to-day a National Aboriginal Discovery
Ranger, plus a teacher in TAFE for Aboriginal Culture.
by David Wright