Rev Sealin Garlett celebrated his retirement to a packed room on Sunday afternoon 18 December, at Len Packham Hall in Coolbellup. Sealin officially retires on 31 December 2016.
Sealin trained at both the Perth Theological Hall and Nungalinga College, a ministry college for Australia’s First Peoples in Darwin. He was ordained in 1991 to serve at Coolbellup Uniting Church, now Maaman ‘O’ Miya Uniting Church.
Throughout his ministry, Sealin has served with the Uniting Aboriginal and Islander Christian Congress (UAICC), both nationally and in WA. He was also instrumental in the establishment of the UAICC WA’s Beananging Kwuurt Institute.
One of Sealin’s passions has been strengthening the covenantal relationship between the UAICC and the Uniting Church in Australia – a journey of working together to bring about reconciliation and forgiveness between Indigenous and non-Indigenous people of Australia.
After a welcome to country from Nyungar elder Uncle Ben Taylor, Rev Dennis Doust introduced a range of speakers from many walks of Sealin’s journey in ministry.
Rev Dr Ian Tozer, acting general secretary of the Uniting Church WA, said that Sealin’s use of Indigenous stories and traditions has helped introduce many people to Jesus Christ.
“He was involved from the earliest years of Congress [UAICC], and he is a key leader here in WA,” Ian said.
Rev Rronang Garrawurra, past national chair of the Uniting Aboriginal and Islander Christian Congress, came to Perth for the special occasion. He spoke fondly of time spent with Sealin during their training in the 1980s, and into the future.
“We learned together in the college and we share together, telling our stories and our history,” he said.
“The old way is still alive today; our culture is still alive and we can help each other.”
Sealin’s ministry has touched the lives of many people through conducting weddings, baptisms, funerals, welcomes to country, congregational ministry, and pastoral care.
Sealin’s ministry has led him to be a well-respected member of the local community, including amongst both Indigenous and non-Indigenous people. He has spoken out on issues concerning the WA community such as justice reinvestment, mandatory sentencing, the stolen generations, the closure of remote communities, protecting our wetlands and other sacred sites, plus many more.
Logan Howlett, Mayor of the City of Cockburn, said that Sealin has been a leader in the Cockburn community, including as a member of the city’s Aboriginal Reference Group.
“At our citizenship ceremonies, when Rev Sealin Garlett stands up to deliver a welcome to country you can hear a pin drop,” he said.
“We convey our heartfelt thanks for your contribution to our community.”
Staff from Hamilton Senior High School, in Hamilton Hill, also spoke of the great leadership Sealin has provided in the school, especially in encouraging Indigenous students to stand with pride.
Cheryl Lawson, daughter of Sealin and Marilyn Garlett, spoke on behalf of family and thanked her parents for their unconditional love.
Rev Dennis Doust then reflected on the sacrifice that families of people in ministry often make.
“The times that I know Sealin has travelled eight or nine hours to be with a couple, a family in grief, and return to his beautiful family; thank you kids for your sacrifice. This man has touched lives in a huge way.”
Sealin said that while ministry is a never-ending call, he will take the time now to be free to relax.
“I want to say that I came into the church with some baggage in regards to my relationship from the stolen generations and I just wanted to be a minister; to be trained for my Aboriginal people,” he said.
“In 1988 I was challenged with crossing the line and thus I made a heart commitment to the people of God, and I never, never regretted my decision to follow the call and the voice of God.”
Top image: Des and Cheryl Lawson, daughter of Sealin Garlett, perform at Sealin’s retirement service in Coolbellup.