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Bush chaplains go extra mile

By Jacqui Simpson

Have you ever travelled through the outback, or seen those vast sprawling maps, and got a sense of the incredibly vast distances out there?

The far horizons and sweeping plains are what make the outback so special, but it’s also what makes everything so much harder for those who live there.

Any help can be a long, long way away.

Elaine’s* property was a 400km round trip from the nearest town.

She didn’t mind as she’s a fiercely independent woman fully capable of running her 200,000-acre property, even after the sudden death of her husband.

But then came dementia, and Parkinson’s.

The vast distances made everything so much harder.

Elaine had to leave her beloved property and the life and business she and her husband had built for 40 years.

The nearest aged care facility was 200km away, where she knew no one.

People in the bush bear the same burdens as all of us: illness, death, heartbreak, and despair. But they have to bear it with no one around, and hardly any support services.

How would she sell her property? How would she organise the hugely complex paperwork involved in moving into aged care? How on earth could she sort through 40 years of memories and decide which mementos to leave behind?

Thanks to the generosity of wonderful supporters, Frontier Services bush chaplains can travel across the outback to bring practical and pastoral care to anyone in need.

They are there for people in whatever way is required.

Some need a chat and shoulder to lean on. Others need prayer and hope. Others, like Elaine, need active practical support: sorting through belongings and filling in forms to move to an aged care home.

Elaine’s bush chaplain was there by her side as she sold her farm, her business, her cattle, and everything she’d worked hard for.

The bush chaplain was there to hold Elaine’s hand and drive her around as she packed up her life in the farm.

Each visit involved a 400km round trip from Elaine’s property to the nursing home.

On an average day, a Frontier Services bush chaplain can travel anywhere from 20km around town to meet with emergency services teams or local elders to over 600km round trips to teach children and engage youth through music.

But it’s still not enough.

Bush chaplains say that they simply can’t meet the increasing need and can’t cover enough kilometres in a day.

It breaks their heart, but sometimes, they have to tell someone asking for their help, “I’m sorry, but I can’t be there for you right now”.

Frontier Services, formerly the Australian Inland Mission, is an agency of the Uniting Church.

It is Australia’s oldest bush charity, established 112 years ago by Rev John Flynn, the man on the $20 note.

Through the generosity of supporters, Frontier Services bush chaplains can live and travel in the bush to provide practical, pastoral, and spiritual support to people doing it tough on the land.

A gift of $20 can help continue Rev John Flynn’s legacy of providing a ‘mantle of safety’ to people living in rural and remote parts of Australia.

Learn more about Frontier Services here

* Name changed to protect privacy

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