Loving our neighbours through language learning

I first met Purwanto when he helped me translate an interview I was conducting with a minister who had just moved to Australia from Indonesia. He helped me out a lot and the interview may not have  been possible without him. I quickly learnt that he’s helped many people in his time, from all walks of life in his role as an interpreter and translator.

Dr Purwanto Danusugondo grew up in Java, Indonesia and as a child learnt Javanese, Dutch – which his parents spoke in the home – and Indonesian. English is his fourth language, but he speaks a total of seven languages in all.

Having now travelled and studied all over the world, Purwanto didn’t actually leave Java until after completing his first degree, in 1963, when he was offered a job in Melbourne working for the ABC’s Radio  Australia program, English for You. Since then, he has also studied in Hawaii – where he completed a PhD in German – Texas and Indiana.

As a translator, Purwanto has worked with large companies including mining and insurance companies, as well as helping people in a range of ways within the local community, usually translating English  to Indonesian or vice versa. Continue Reading

How do you travel around the world in seven days?

You go to the World Folk Festival in Springville, Utah!

In July this year, eight students from the Gorna Liyarn Indigenous dance group of Presbyterian Ladies’ College (PLC) spent two weeks in America to attend the World Folk Festival. Whilst there, they shared their  culture with people from all over the world, including spending time with a Native American group. Hanna Chulung shares her experience.

I am so honored to have represented my country and culture at the World Folk Festival in Utah. It was an incredible experience shared with many other countries. And to be able to do so through songs,  stories and dance was just unbelievable.

It was such a humble experience to have collaborated with the Native American group, Morning Star, at the festival and to have performed for the public and the owners of the Chumash Museum in Los  Angeles (LA). I was able to find out some of the history of Native Americans and compare Aboriginal culture with theirs. It was interesting to see how they lived, what their customs were, their beliefs and so  much more. I had a lot of fun at the Chumash Museum because we were given a tour around the land that they owned and we were given special access to see a cave, where villagers would have gone on a hot  day or where pregnant women would have gone to give birth. Continue Reading

Yearning for nature: Is there respect?

In Australia’s cities, it’s so easy to spend days or weeks without really connecting with the natural environment. Not only that, but how many of us actually know how the ecosystem works, or where our place in it is? Even in rural areas, it could be said that we dominate the land without really living with it.

Over time we’ve lost a vital connection to the earth and the natural system with which we once lived. Rev Dr Geoff Lilburne has a passion for theology of the land and has published works in the areas of contextual and eco theology. Geoff said that while we place a lot of importance on our history – or timelines – we also should be thinking about the space that we exist in.

“In our western tradition we have tended to think time and history are important, but we haven’t tended to think of ‘space’ or ‘place’ as important,” he said.

He continued, saying that it is important for churches to develop a sense of place by living locally and taking care of the spaces that we inhabit.

Part of thinking about this local space  means looking into how we consume our food. While the food we eat is possibly one of the most direct ways we interact with our natural environment, many of us have no real sense of where it has come from and the work and resources that have gone into producing it. We may rationally know that our beef is dead cow or  that our apple has grown on a tree, but for most of us, our minds simply don’t comprehend what that actually means for the producers, the economy and the planet. Continue Reading

Education journeys in the North West


Just four weeks before this edition of ‘Revive’ went to print, Gail Cresswell packed up her things in Margaret River, in WA’s south west, and moved to Mowanjum, a remote Aboriginal  community in the north of WA on the outskirts of Derby. With a passion for education in Indigenous communities, she is starting up a Montessori program for kids under three.

Montessori is an alternative form of education that encourages independence by creating an environment for children to learn at their own pace. Gail said that the system focuses  heavily on learning by observation and involves lots of one-on-one interaction. “It’s about each child,” she said. “It’s a learning journey for each child.”

“It’s about the kids learning to be resilient and learning to be responsible to themselves.”

It is also a system that has been highly successful in Indigenous communities around Australia. Towards the end of August, Gail and her assistant, Daphne Gilbey, a member of the  Mowanjum community, will be attending the Thursday Island Montessori Summit where they’ll be exploring the benefits of the Montessori approach in Indigenous cultures. Continue Reading

Collective climate action

Rev Dr Jason John has devoted his life to environmental issues with university degrees in zoology and environmental studies. Add in an ordination and you  have a ministry with a passion to care for creation.

With a PhD in evolution, ecology and theology, Jason is well equipped as the keynote speaker at the upcoming God of Sea and Sky conference, this July. Eco-theology may sound like a  relatively new term to some, but Jason says the concept isn’t new – it’s just new to us as a culture born post-industrial revolution.

“Eco-theology, or eco-faith, is primarily the reminder that there are these very strong links between our relationship with our creator and our relationship with creation,” he said. “In  a sense, it’s not something new. It’s a reminder of something we’ve forgotten.”

There are plenty of references in the Bible to do with caring for creation, and many cultures – regardless of religion – did so for thousands of years. In our modern world, however, we  seem to have lost the way. It’s the creation story that Jason wants to shake up. He believes we have a new creation story: one where God is present throughout evolution and one  where humans, as we know them now, are not the end goal. In his book, Worshipping  Evolution’s God, Jason explains how science has taught us that life has existed billions of years  before us, and will exist for billions of years after we’re gone.Continue Reading

Nonviolence on the streets


On Wednesday 16 April a group of 11 Christian leaders from a range of denominations were arrested in Subiaco, Perth. Their crime? Speaking up for over  1,000 children who are held in indefinite detention in Australia. Otherwise known as trespassing.

The group, including Paul Montague, First Third specialist for the Metro South Region of the Uniting Church in WA, were arrested in the office of the Minister for Foreign Affairs, Julie Bishop, as they prayed and asked for a response to the question: why are kids in detention?

A similar event was also held in Immigration Minister Scott Morrison’s office a few weeks prior, and just days before going to print, two nonviolent sit-ins were held resulting in  arrest, one in Prime Minister Tony Abbott’s office, the other in the office of the leader of the Opposition, Bill Shorten. Included in these arrests was the moderator of the New South  Wales/Australian Capital Territory Synod, Rev Dr Brian Brown, past president of the Uniting Church in Australia, Rev Alistair Macrae, and three more Uniting Church ministers. Continue Reading

Learning, leading and passing it on

The chamber is full of representatives from countries located all over the globe. They mingle about the room, negotiating amendments to Resolution 2155  of the United Nations (UN) Security Council: The question of the rules of war. A young man with a suit and pony tail announces it is time to sit back down for the debate, and a representative from China stands and puts forth her case.

I’m sitting in the Legislative Assembly at Parliament House of Western Australia where 15 teams from schools across WA, including three teams from Presbyterian Ladies’ College  (PLC) a Uniting Church in WA school, battle it out in the finals for UN Youth’s Evatt competition – a model UN debate. Sam Herriman, a 19-year-old media and communications  student from the University of Western Australia, strolls around the room making sure everything is running smoothly and occasionally collects notes from members of the Council. Continue Reading

Welcoming the stranger: Putting it to the test

A journey in faith is so rarely put out there in public for all to see. But as Pastor Nadia Bolz-Weber writes in her new book, “Pastrix: The beautiful cranky faith of a sinner and saint,” the  truth is so much better than just trying to be good all the time.

Raised in the Church of Christ in America, Nadia always felt uncomfortable with the strict rules of her church and the dismissive ways women were treated. While her journey has led  her to becoming a Lutheran Pastor, there was a time in her life when she felt so hurt by Christianity that she wanted nothing to do with it at all. Continue Reading

Religion and spirituality: Finding God within

“I don’t go to church – I’m spiritual, but I’m not religious.”

It’s a phrase often heard and it’s being heard more and more. Research from the National Church Life Survey (NCLS) found that 44.6% of respondents to the 2009 Australian Survey of  Social Attitudes believed that there is something beyond this life that makes sense of it all. Of this, 24% have no religious affiliation.

So what does that mean exactly? As Dr Val Webb, theologian and author, explains, it’s a little hard to define – mostly because the term ‘spiritual’ is so full of baggage. Continue Reading

Challenging the language of fear

When we think about what we are scared of, what comes to mind? Debt? Crime? Death?

Dr Keith Suter, managing director of Global Directions and Uniting Church member, is a leader in global thought and a member of arguably  the most prestigious global think tank in the world, the Club of Rome. While you may not realise it, he believes that many Australians are  fearful of invasion. Continue Reading