Celebrating our Alumni

Wednesday 28 Oct

Scott discusses the Global Interaction Alumni Strategy as we honour the legacy of our workers across the decades.

Since starting in my role this year I have been greatly encouraged by conversations with our alumni – faithful and gracious women and men who have passionately and humbly served across the world. Whenever I leave a phone or Zoom call with one of our former team members I am fuelled with encouragement, particularly as we journey through this challenging season. 
Each has a wonderful story to tell, like Stuart, who I was chatting with last Friday; someone who played a vital role in our amazing B story and who has become a trusted mentor in my journey. And last week I had the privilege of chatting with Roger who played a key role in our PNG work and continues to support the development of the Baptist movement.
I have missed being able to travel and connect with our alumni across the country this year but, as we look to 2021, I am excited that we will be launching a new and formal Global Interaction Alumni Strategy. Whether someone served five or 50 years ago and wherever they were based – globally or locally – our people are at the heart of our wonderful mission story and we need to do more to connect, celebrate their ministry and hear their voice as we step out in faith and build on our past. 
Certainly I know from emails, letters and phone calls how much these faithful men and women uphold our teams in prayer and we can be so thankful for this. 
Please be in touch with me if you have any questions, suggestions or feedback as we look to strengthen our alumni engagement.
A remarkable Australian leader:
Speaking of our alumni, Dr Lowitja O’Donoghue AC CBE DSG is one of our most celebrated Australians; described by Noel Pearson as “the greatest aboriginal leader of the modern era."
Former Prime Minister Paul Keating has described Lowitja as “a remarkable Australian leader. A leader whose unfailing instinct for enlargement marks her out as unique.”
Over the last fortnight, 'Lowitja', an authorised biography by Stuart Rintoul, from Allen and Unwin, has been released and in this week’s ED Update I want to highlight the release of the book and celebrate one our alumni’s finest. Let me also acknowledge Roger for his helpful insights this week into Dr O’Donoghue’s life. 
Aged 29, Dr O’Donoghue, a nurse, departed Australia by boat at the beginning of 1962, bound for Assam. Today we celebrate her as our first Indigenous sent worker. 
In March 1962, Dr O’Donoghue featured on the cover of Vision magazine reflecting on her experience of working day and night and being constantly called out to attend births and then fronting up the next morning for clinics. She had a five-year term in mind but, in October 1962, Chinese troops moved on to the border with Assam and, with India’s apparent abandoning of Assam, Lowitja and Joyce McDonald were evacuated to Calcutta before Lowitja returned to Australia a few months later. 
J.D. Williams invited her to consider a role in PNG, but God had other plans for this woman of firsts. She had earlier fought to become registered as a nurse after being initially refused training because she was Aboriginal. She took on the authorities and became the first registered Indigenous nurse in South Australia. This fight also began her lifelong advocacy for the rights of First Australians. 
Stuart Rintoul highlights in the biography that Dr O’Donoghue lived in a girls home in Oodnadatta in her youth, having been removed from her parents aged two.  The home’s manager repeatedly told Lowitja: “You will never succeed at anything”. And yet the girl who passed her last year at school at number 32 of 32, ended up receiving 9 honorary doctorates in her life and being named Australian of the Year in 1984 for her contribution to Australian life and Indigenous advancement.
Among her other ‘firsts’:
  • First Aboriginal woman to be awarded an Order of Australia
  • First Chair of the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Commission
  • First Indigenous Australian to address the United Nations
I remember the privilege of meeting Dr O’Donoghue a number of years back and I was struck by her humility and quiet disposition. Yet when she rose to speak, there on display was passion, determination and her absolute commitment to justice and improving the lives of others. 
In celebrating this great Australian’s story we’re reminded of God’s power and what He can do with a life committed to His cause and the service of others. We remind ourselves of how often God will use the most unlikely to make a difference! A girl written off as useless, who ends up serving on the other side of the world, and becomes one of our nation’s most celebrated social justice leaders.  
As I thank God for Dr O’Donoghue, I also celebrate our big alumni family - each with a unique story, each who embraced God’s gracious invitation to mission. Whether they served in a state office, in Outback Australia or the other side of the globe, let’s thank God for all those that came before us and the legacy they have left. 
Scott Pilgrim
Executive Director



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