First South Australian Aboriginal woman ordained

The Uniting Church in South Australia celebrated the ordination of their very first female Aboriginal minister in a special ceremony at Adelaide West Uniting Church on Saturday 20 June.

Denise Champion is the first Aboriginal woman to be ordained into Christian ministry, in any denomination, in the state of South Australia.

“My faith has been challenged in many ways as I’ve seen desperate and broken-hearted people looking for comfort and help. As a messenger, I feel compelled to carry the message of a healer of broken hearts,” says Denise.

“I have been challenged, in my work facilitating reconciliation between First and Second Peoples, to create a safe community. A community where people can come together, sit and talk, and experience healing and forgiveness for the past, finding a new destiny together.

“Having been in the church for a long time, I know the issues of justice that communities face. Through my Christian education, I’ve gained an understanding of holistic ministry. Bringing healing and wholeness to people is something I’ve always cherished.

“As an ordained minister, I know I will be empowered by Congress [the Uniting Aboriginal and Islander Christian Congress – UAICC] to fulfil the mandate of Aboriginal people ministering to other Aboriginal people.”

Uniting Church SA Moderator Dr Deidre Palmer comments on the significance of the occasion:

“It is a joy for us to affirm the ministry of Denise Champion as a Deacon in the Uniting Church in Australia.

“This is a historic moment in the life of the Uniting Church in South Australia as we move to ordain our first Aboriginal woman.

“Denise’s work in growing our understanding of Aboriginal culture and spirituality will continue to contribute to reconciliation in our church and nation.
“Denise’s ministry will continue to enrich all of our lives – not only in her current placement at Port Augusta UAICC congregation, but nationally, as she continues
to equip and support the Church in its mission of justice and recognition of First Peoples.”

Denise Champion is an Adnyamathanha woman from the Flinders Ranges in South Australia. She has been following a call to ministry for many years through service and study. Denise recently published the book Yarta Wandatha in collaboration with Rosemary Dewerse. She is a long standing member of the Uniting Aboriginal and Islander Christian Congress and is currently in a ministry placement at Port Augusta UAICC congregation.

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