Friday, 31 July 2015

On the road again  - the "Darling River Run"
North Bourke Bridge over the Darling River 

This is a bridge near where we will be staying at Bourke.  We will travel out to here to take a ride on a paddle boat and may pass under this bridge.  We will then travel up the road to Enngonia, visiting the town school then to the pub for lunch.  Others of us are going on to the Queensland border, where they will be meeting with one of the oldest NSW publicans at the local pub. Why am I writing this before the trip, you ask?  I'm thinking that I might find writing during the tour a bit difficult, as some of the areas we'll be travelling to have limited phone service and the days are likely to be very busy.  We have a full-on itinerary as we are looking to cover many great issues - Cultural, Social, Economical, and Spiritual life. 
Bourke Weir plays a major role in supplying the town's water  
As we travel each day, using roads as close to the Darling River as possible, the welcome rain the last month and the follow-up rain last week may see some of the dirt roads closed. But it's better to see rain and water in the river system and we can always come back for a look at these places later.  I will try to post or at least upload photos to Facebook, as I can do that with a couple of other devices. We will also see some great birds and animals along our way.

Pelicans I saw on an earlier trip.

The Darling River around 4 weeks ago (taken from a friend's Facebook page).

The Tour is hoped to open conversations with those we meet along the way - this is not just with church groups but with industry people we will interact with daily, and at the formal Forums set up along the way. A lot of thought and planning has gone into this Tour; it's not just a sightseeing trip but a way for the Uniting Church (UCA) to reach out to the folk who live and work on our mighty river system.  We have people from many parts of the church travelling with us but in true UCA style, we are One and we are seeking to build connections with those we meet.

News will come out in days to come on the Blog and also The Rural Chaplains Facebook page, and others I am sure. Please, if you're a prayer, pray for our safe travels.  We have 2 mini-buses and a couple of 4x4s transporting over 30 people on the trip, plus unknown numbers of people travelling to attend the Forums.  But most of all I pray we open the hearts and minds of the Church, communities, government and non-government Services as we seek to understand each other and the best way to monitor and look after people along the mighty river systems.

Friday, 24 July 2015

Changes On All Fronts And More To Come
Another front rolls in as dark clouds build - a promise of things to come!
The last month has seen lots of things happening around the traps - tanks and paddocks have had some nice drinks!  Snow on hills, ice on cars and roads, making travel risky. I also was lucky to be at the changeover services for the Broken Hill Flying Patrol and Pst David Shrimpton.  The patrol moved from Frontier Services to under the umbrella of UME and Macquarie Darling Presbytery. The work with remote stations and outback centers will continue thanks to this move. The night was such a balmy time I took a video (my first, maybe my last!) and so called on Lou, my good friend, for some of his great shots!
Changeover Service held for Pst David & Jenny Shrimpton (*)

 Changing the hanger to a worship space
I stopped at this rest area in Hermidale, on the way out to Broken Hill for Sharon Cutts' Induction Service. I stopped here to pray for the people of this lovely little village, still suffering from the sadness of the events over the past couple of weeks.  Things change overnight; sadness is also part of the travels of a Rural Chaplain.  Just like we put our rubbish into a bin, I find stopping for prayer at a rest area allows an "unloading" on God so I can move on to the next place.

Induction Service of Rev Sharon Cutts
Holy words of Blessing
A very big welcome to Sharon, to wonderful Western NSW, Land of the Living Desert.  With the rains has come a change to the land and you can see signs of where the water has run. Signs I've seen of it passing through the land includes green pick on the side of the road; large pools of water along the long paddock/stock route and in the crop; dust turning to mud; bringing life for the scrub goats and their 2-3 kids who feed along the road from Cobar to Broken Hill.
Scars left by rainwater in the waterless Stephens Creek
A close-up of the scars - like a beach but boggy!
Goats and their kids at play

Change is coming to all of us every day.  Sadly it is not all good news but not all bad - life is a combination. The rain has raised the sense of a good change, though there's still a long way before we can say life is all good. But thank God for the growth of the crops around the state, for the higher prices of cattle and sheep, and the beauty in the bush is so cool! An old bushy told me "it will take a flood to fix things but there's money in mud and misery in dust".

God of all things, may the church change and out of the dust, form and grow your kingdom.
In front of camera, not behind - thanks Lou! (*)
(* - Photos care of Lou Smalbil.)

Friday, 17 July 2015

Time to say "Goodbye " - Sue's Final Blog.

The position of Rural Chaplain Support has run from March 2012 to the end of June 2015 but finally the funds to provide for the position have reached an end and so the position will not continue and I must say "good bye" to the blog.

Sue (left ) with Lusi, from our congregation, in front
of lovely farewell gifts from Julie and Phill. *
The goals of the position, initially called Associate Rural Chaplain, were to provide administrative support for the Rural Chaplain, assist with promotion and dissemination of information about the work of the Chaplain, assist with submission of grants and reports and other projects or tasks as directed.Over the time these goals have been the main focus of my work but recently the specific project, Creative Solutions, has also taken a share of my time as you will have seen reflected in the blog.

Overwhelmingly the job has been fulfilling as I have seen God instigating and driving projects. It’s been great to be a part of that!

Initially computer work was a challenge for me and I had to learn new computer skills but Julie was a very patient and effective teacher. The blog writing, has been an education for me and very rewarding, as I learned new and creative ways of using the computer to record the work of the Chaplains in the west of NSW through the blog and in local papers.

It’s been a privilege to work with people as dedicated to the job as Julie and Phill. It has inspired me in what I do and to see how I can use my gifts too. It’s been encouraging to feel that by doing what I do, it gives Julie and Phill more time to get onto other projects. 

Farewell words from Julie present in church, with Phill
 skyping in from Narrabri to say "goodbye"
Using my writing and teaching abilities in a new way –from English teacher to writer, editor and latterly as an English as a Second Language teacher–has been rewarding.

The challenge of engaging the city churches in mission in rural areas is very exciting. Pymble church and now other churches like Gordon and the Sydney church schools too, have been inspiring in their willingness to use their gifts and resources for others.  

Although the position is really only finishing up due to lack of funding, I feel the time is right for me to explore other areas of work and so I am happy to move on the next new adventure God has in store for me.

It’s been great working in, encouraging and sharing the vibrancy of the rural church and community and I'm pretty sure that God isn't finished with me in that field yet.


Sue Chapman.

* See the emus?
Did someone say "Emus?"

Friday, 10 July 2015

One thing leads to another- Part 2 - Back Packer's Rights - Being Part of a Church concerned for Social Justice

After our experiences getting to know backpackers in town and running Conversation Groups as part of a wider Uniting Church concerned for social justice, and also hoping to be good hosts to visitors in our country, Hillston -Gunbar Church Council recently asked the Rural Chaplains to find out more about the conditions and rights of backpackers visiting Australia. A report was prepared by Sue for Church council to be tabled in July - August.

The results were enlightening. Sue found that "backpackers are entitled to the same minimum standards as any other employee, including basic rights and protections due to all workers in Australia, correct pay rates for their classification, superannuation, overtime and penalty rates. It is important they are employed correctly, as Fair Work Australia DO prosecute and people who do not follow the rules give the agricultural industry, and Australia, a bad name."

Often backpackers in Australia are taken advantage of by employers because they are young and inexperienced and in a strange country where they do not know their rights. Often they really need the money or the rural work to extend their stay so they accept less then ideal pay or conditions.

Often too, a caring contractor,employer and community can make the stay of a backpacker an experience they will always remember fondly.

If we have the attitude of treating back packers here as we would like our own children treated overseas - we can't go wrong.

Why wouldn't you want to treat these lovely young people well and give them the time of their life?
Sites to look for :-
For employers 
For information on legal working conditions in Australia - call 13 13 94 –Fair Work Info line or contact -
For more information on the NES, please see the Fair Work Ombudsman Fact Sheet – Introduction to the NES.
 For employees
Have the correct visa for the work you want to do and the time you want to stay in Australia. Call 13 18 81 – or contact – Dept. of Immigration and Border Protection
Know your rights at work in Australia - For more information - call 13 13 94 –Fair Work Info line or contact - - Foreign workers – Know your workplace rights!
If you need language help- Call 13 14 50 - Translating and Interpreting Service (TIS) Say the name of your language and you will get a person who speaks your language to help you.
Information collated from – Australian Govt. – Fairwork Ombudsman website, SMH article – “Fruit pickers should know work rights: ombudsman” and  Dairy Australia -
 This last site is well worth a look; with tips for employers on how to best provide for workers in their industry. It shows impressive concern and consideration  for overseas employees. 
Well done to The People in Dairy!

Friday, 3 July 2015

One thing leads to another - Welcoming the Stranger - Part 1

One thing leads to another -This has been the story of our experience in getting to know people from different cultures who also live in Hillston and during the process of organising and running this exciting project.

Sue and Steve are taken to dinner by our Korean "sons"
When we started English lessons for back packers and non-native speakers in town we did not know we would end up providing two session of lesson as well as tutoring, helping with daily problems like negotiating with banks, the tax department and sorting out problems of buying on-line. 
We did not know it would be an ecumenical activity shared with members of the catholic congregation. 
We did not know that English lessons would lead to opportunities for people to join playgroup, participate in CWA activities and at Lachlan Lodge and find employment, as well as forge meaningful friendships for all involved.

At first we shyly met backpackers in church and they shared in our bible study.Then we went to the World Day of Prayer with the theme of welcoming the stranger to your land. This was followed by a UME workshop on multi - culturalism led by Katalina Tahaafe-Williams. Awakened by that experience, that year we became concerned about the rates of back packer's pay during harvest and the Hillston Uniting and Catholic Churches decided to hold a Back Packer  BBQ to make them feel welcome in town and valued for what they do here. This was a huge success with 110 young people from 12 countries attending.We had to keep going home to get more food!

Cathy (second from left) and the girls from Taiwan -First BP BBQ 2012
Our feeling shy at talking with new comers and visitors led to TAFE workshop provided by a teacher of non-native speakers of English in Griffith and held in Hillston for community members who wanted to improve their skills and speak more confidently and helpfully to non-native speakers. This led to us thinking about a Conversation Group and tutoring in town which led to applying for a grant from Unitingcare Ageing West to fund tutoring the tutors.
 In the process we started two (one for the night shift and one for the day) Conversation Groups for Korean back packers who were working at the cotton gin and some of whom we had met a church.
On the day this was taken Andrew sang for Hilda aged 102.

Andrew, one of that group, became quite a celebrity in church, using his skills as a musician by playing for us each week and singing with his beautifully trained voice. He has since returned to Korea after being with us for two cotton gin seasons but we are still in contact with him and he still thinks fondly of Hillston.

"Finally, I came my home on 21st March
 I miss Hillston life and would like to see you all.
I'm a lucky guy because I met you and went to Hillston
 I will pray for you and Hillston church. 
Winny, Shannon and Huong make words with  "Bananagrams"
 with volunteers, Pat (second from left) and Carole (on right) 

A Local’s Conversation Group started in early March 2015. Currently 4 local resident-students are attending conversation group with 1 requiring one-to-one English lessons in town. 
Now participants, Winny, her husband Hong, and Huong, have been signed up to the AMES 510 hours of free English tuition program, run by the NSW government and available to permanent visa holders. 
The conversation group has been instrumental in making this happen as locals assist with enrolment procedures. As a group we have become aware of services available for new comers to Australia like AMES and the translation service also available in NSW.                         

Meeting each other through tutoring, Huong and Carole also meet up at church. Carole a long term Hillston resident, has invited Huong and another participant, Winny, to CWA events which they have enjoyed.  Winny now attends playgroup with her young son, Jason. Something they both benefit from. Missing the work she used to do in China, it is hoped Winny’s improved English will lead to employment in the future. And Huong has now invited a new friend –a grandmother from Turkey, here to help with her new grandchild. We look forward to getting to knowing Layla during her time here with her family.


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