Wednesday, 24 December 2008

Christmas For You

Knowing that you our readers live all over the world there would be a lot of variation in your Holiday customs. The weather may be cold, hot or in the middle range. You may eat different foods, sing different songs, speak in many languages and worship in a variety of styles.
It is my belief that all people of good will wish for a world of peace, harmony and love. A world where our children may grow and prosper. This is not a vain hope where people believe and trust in each other and the providence of God. It can so if we are willing to share what we have and give of ourselves generously.
I wish to thank those people who have shared with me over the past year. These people have offered their support in many different ways. My life and the lives of those I serve are richer because of it.
In the world of community developement an emphasis has been placed on partnerships. The value of partnering with people and organisations to pool resources for the common good. It is an old idea that still works and I am happy to be a beneficiary.
At the personal level I believe partnerships whether they be our families, in our communities or in our owrk places offer us the chance to put aside our differences and egos for the sake of our world.
I encourage all our readers to foster new partnerships and to cherish those you have.
May God's blessings be for you all and those you love wherever you may be.

I have posted the picture of my grandson Jyai because I love him and I look forward to my partnership in his life.
Kel Hodge

The Night the Train Ran and the Yellerbellies Sang

You may have already guessed from the title that the place where all this happened was in Fords Bridge just 70k. north west of Bourke NSW. Well maybe not. It was my first visit to Ford's Bridge last Saturday and I must say I am glad I made the journey.
Fords Bridge has a pub and a hall and not much else in the way of permanent structures. I was to learn that Fords Bridge does have a vibrant community life and a proud tradition of Christmas celebrations.
I estimate there were about two hundred people at Fords Bridge that night. Many of the children enjoyed a ride on the community train which headed in the direction of Bourke whilst blowing much smoke. I must say that the word train is used with license as you may see from the posted photo. Of course Santa arrived and the children received gifts and instructions about what they must do for the coming year.
I assisted with the bbq and learnt from John and Ted that Fords Bridge is like many other small communities in the west. That is to say, they are trying with all their might to preserve a sense of identity and promote community spirit. These are pretty good goals to work towards and I wish Fords Bridge all the best for 2009.
The adults indulged in food and libations that were complemented by the music of the Yellerbellies, a Bourke band, who sadly were performing for the last time. The band members are mainly Bourke school teachers. Two of the band members were leaving to take up other positions.
The Yellerbellies performed on the back of Andrea's( the local publican) camel trailer. "Andrea is a camel lover", said Ted. I did not see her camels although I believe they are much deserving of love as are all of us on God's wonderful earth!

Kel Hodge

Sunday, 21 December 2008

December newsletter

The lastest edition of the Rural Chaplains Roundup is out and about. To view it go to December Roundup



Those who call Louth (Map) their village come from up to 150km around the town. Most of them gathered for their Christmas Tree on Saturday night on the lawns next to the Louth pub on the banks of the Darling River. The kids were there from Louth school as well as quite a number of others who do school of the air, and those home from boarding school. Louth is 130km from Cobar along a very bad dirt road so when the kids finish primary school they have to go away or do home schooling.

Santa arrived on the back of the fire truck and after the present giving everyone enjoyed the dishes that many had contributed for dinner.

The only slight hitch to the night was that somehow the message that I was coming had become confused with another that had me singing Christmas carols! Fortunately they didn't make me go through with it.

Louth is well known for its annual race meeting but the community demonstrated that it has many skills and talents in other areas as well.

Saturday, 20 December 2008

"We knew it would be friendly but it is so different when you experience it"

Those following the blog would have read my post on the sheep day at Cawkers Well property near Wilcannia. I was fortunate enough to travel to the property again this week for the district Christmas Party. About 70 people turned up by plane and car, some travelling over 200km, to a fantastic evening by the pool. Fay and Charles are great hosts and everyone relaxed and enjoyed themselves.
During the evening both Fay and Charles commented how easy it was to make friends in the bush. They were amazed that having only been here 2 years they still knew most of the 70 people who had come.
About 30 stayed the night sleeping in swags around the garden, the house or in the shearer's quarters, so breakfast was another social event before everyone headed off and the planes took to the sky.

Turkey, Dust and Mud

About 70 people gathered for the 60th Clare Christmas Tree (Map showing Clare ) and school concert and were treated to a great play by the 7 kids at Clare School. After the entertainment there was a huge meal, a pinyarta for the kids and then Santa arrived on the back of a ute. Just to add some extra excitement to the evening we were treated to a terrific storm coming through kicking up a huge dust storm in front of it. Even shutting the doors and windows of the tin hall we were in didn't do a lot but the dust only lasted about 10 mins before the storm hit. Everyone enjoyed watching the rain fall and they ended up with about 5mls. It was lovely to be celebrating with a community but even more special when it rains in the middle. The area has had a bit of rain lately and the ground has some green pick coming up so this shower will kick that along.
The only down side for me was it took an hour and a half to travel the 40km on the very muddy dirt track to the farm I was staying on. Made for a long night!

Friday, 19 December 2008

Technical Difficulties

I apologise to those readers who were not able to access the Letter to Ian McDonald because they did not have a Google account. Hopefully the problem is now fixed and you should be able to click on the link to the right.

Kel Hodge

Thursday, 18 December 2008


All of us make decisions that impact on our lives and the lives of others. Most us I believe, try to make good choices that will have positive consequences. Sometimes we make poor decisions that have negative consequences. It is no different at the corporate level. Organisations, corporations and governments are involved in decision making that impacts on the population all the time. As with individuals, corporate bodies make choices that have positive and negative repercussions.
We are a democratic society and it is our duty to inform governments in the appropriate ways if we consider the government has made a poor choice.
There is also a prophetic tradition within my Christian faith that is about pointing out to the government of the day when it is perceived an injustice has been done. The prophetic tradition is still a part of our heritage and I have chosen to point out the Minister of the Department of Primary Industries that I believe a poor policy decision has been made in regards to rural N.S.W.
I will not go into the details of my concern as you are able to access the details on this blog site by clicking onto the letter to Ian MacDonald.
Please do so when you are able. You may not agree with objection, none the less I hope it encourages you to question the decisions made by those in power and exercise your right of appeal in respectful and appropriate ways.

Kel Hodge

Wednesday, 17 December 2008

How The Organism Works

As a minister of the Uniting Church in Australia I am obliged to be a part of the working process of the organisation. In our church we have chosen to be organised and governed through councils that elect working committees to carry out due process. It is an essentially democratic way to order the church as the process is designed to be inclusive and egalitarian.
Unfortunately this is not always the case as powerful and savvy people are able to use the process for their own egos and agendas.
I am happy to say that one committee that I serve on works well because the members have the interests of the people they serve in mind and they have worked on the challenges presented in relating to one another in a respectful and loving way. It seems that if we are willing to get to know one another our emphasis can shift from fulfilling an agenda to working together for the good of all.
It may sound idealistic and yet I believe it challenges the culture of competing agendas to that of consensus brought about through trust and healthy relationships.
I must say good on you the Central West Presbytery Strategic Mission Committee.

Kel Hodge

Tuesday, 16 December 2008

Where do they all come from?

When you go to Gunbar all you see is a hall, some tennis courts and lovely Uniting Church. But don't let the lack of anything there fool you. Last night 60 adults and 60 kids gathered for the 76th annual Christmas Tree. It was amazing to see the cars pouring in to the hall in the late afternoon. Dept of Primary Industries put on a BBQ and some local ladies organised gifts for all the kids. Santa arrived on the cleanest red farm truck I have seen, especially polished for the occasion. The other tradition at Gunbar is to have the tallest Christmas tree and this year was no exception! It was a great time of fellowship and social activity.

Getting the information out in Urana and Oaklands

Recently I helped form a network of service providers and others in the Urana Shire. Urana is small town NE of Jerilderie and the Shire is made up of 5 small towns. Yesterday about 20 Service Providers from all sort of services from Centrelink to Health met with local community members to talk about what services are available in the area. The group then moved on to Oaklands and repeated the exercise. It was an excellent time with community members and hopefully will mean that people who live in the area will be more willing and able to access services they need.

Friday, 12 December 2008

A proud history and a hopeful future at Binya

Binya is a tiny locality 30km east of Griffith with a long history. When you drive through Binya you will see a silo, a few houses, a post office, school and the hall. Many services and functions are now delivered from Griffith. However, there is a very enthusiastic group of young women, supported by the local church group, who are actively striving to breathe new life into the hall, which is the focal point of their community. The hall had once resounded to the sounds of dance bands, recitals, dinners and many other get-togethers. Whilst the sounds of the hall may be different today with electric music , faster dancing and “Binya’s got talent” contests it is still a place locals want and need to gather in. As with everything, the hall has aged and needs repair and renovation if it is to keep the sounds of the future alive. Kel and I met with the local committee and church members to see how we could support their endeavours. I was also fortunate to be able to join the community in the hall for the carols service. It was a great evening with nearly 100 people from Binya and Yenda celebrating the advent season together. I very much look forward to working

Enngonia School, hub of the community


Julie and I were lucky enough to attend the end-of-year concert at the school this week. The school has 15 pupils, 14 of them boys, as well as a pre-school and playgroup. For a tiny school 100km from Bourke we were treated to a multimedia presentation of the year in review. They have had a wide range of activities including an excursion to Canberra and the snow, all sorts of sporting events and many artistic endeavours. It was quite exhilarating to see what they have accomplished with the help of their teachers and many interested community members. They academic record is also spectacular. It reveals that small communities can excel regardless of their size and location.
It is essential for the life of a community to have a place where people can gather for a meal and a drink and to meet friends. Up until recently Enngonia didn’t have such a place but the new owners at the pub, The Oasis Hotel, with the support of the Uniting Church, have done modifications and now have a cafĂ© style area where families can have a meal. They are also providing basic groceries as there is nowhere else to buy them in town. This has made difference to this small isolated place. It’s attracting people who haven’t ventured to Enngonia for years.

Wednesday, 10 December 2008

Innovation brings Capers


I am constantly amazed at the innovation of farmers. Today I visited an older couple who have started growing capers. This is a plant that is a desert plant so doesn't need much water and grows on a small bush. There is not a great market for capers in Australia but then there aren't many growers either so there is a good return. It is fantastic to see farmers trying new things and adapting to the situation they find themselves in.
However I was just thankful that I wasn't the one who had to get down on their hands and knees and pick the capers! I suspect that if I had to make a living from it I would starve!

On to Ivanhoe

After packing up at Booroorban Danny and I made our way to Ivanhoe which is about a 260 klm journey. Ivanhoe lived up to form and was hot, windy and dusty. There was consternation fro the locals about whether the weather would permit us to have and out door event.
Danny Byrnes had faith the wind would drop and all would be well. Danny was right. People gathered at the oval and a crowd of some sixty people enjoyed the food, company and the movie, which was by the way , the World's Fastest Indian for those who have not read the previous post.
The highlight of the evening for young and old was the presence and presents of Santa Claus. I do not know whether it is because I am of a mature age but Santa reminded me of some one I know in both manner and bearing. It's uncanny that even Santa may have a double.
Thanks to Julie breakfast was catered for by the Uniting Church at the Ivanhoe pub. The numbers at breakfast were greatly diminished yet it was Saturday morning and people were probably sleeping in.
I am very encouraged by the people of Ivanhoe who are few in number and yet have a passion to support local events and enterprises. The proposed age care facility a project taken on board by the newly chartered Lions Club in Ivanhoe. Well done Lions and the people of Ivanhoe!

Kel Hodge

There Is A Pub

There is a pub called the Royal Mail Hotel about 60ks. south of Hay. I for one did not know about the pub and the people who gather there in the place called Booroorban.
Booroorban came into existence as a place where stock could be watered on the long journey north from the Murray to Hay and further on. Later on it became a Cobb & Co. stop where horses and people could be refreshed after the long dusty journey north.
It is still a place where people come to refresh themselves.It is not from the rigors of the road that they seek relief but from the trials of long lonely work in the paddocks and in the station houses surrounding the Royal Mail Hotel.
Last Thursday 4th December the Department of Primary Industries hosted a Christmas event that involved a barbie, a few drinks, some games in front of the pub and an out door movie show that featured the World's Fastest Indian starring Anthony Hopkins.
It was great night even after the brief shower of rain drove us inside to finish the movie.
After the every one called it a night Danny Byrnes (the DPI Drought Support Worker and event organiser), myself and the publican Mandy shared a nightcap in the quiet of the outback night. Mandy lamented the fact that it may not be possible to keep the pub open into the future because of financial viability. The Royal Mail Hotel which is kept in pristine order, could not provide an income because there are not enough locals left to make the pub and only gathering place in Booroorban a going concern.
I for one think it is worth lamenting the loss of small communities that link us to our past and still provide the haven of company every one needs.

Kel Hodge

Thursday, 4 December 2008

Booligal sheep races

Booligal is a tiny village between Hay and Ivanhoe, which has a few houses, a school and a great sports ground. This year was the 10th annual sheep races. Over 300 people turned up to have a great time cheering on their selected sheep and in the process significant money was raise to help support the village. People travelled from all over NSW and VIC to join the locals celebrate their major community event, so if you are looking for a real outback adventure why not join them next Oct. Booligal sheep races 2009

A dinner in Bourke


This week in Bourke saw the "Behind closed doors" conference which was organised by Links, a domestic violence organisation in the Orana Far West area. By all reports the conference when really well and I was lucky enough to attend the dinner with ABC presenter, Julie McCrossin, held in the brand new Back-o-Bourke cafe. Julie did a fantastic job of interviewing people who were attending and there were heart warming stories of some of the people who are receiving help. It was a great example of some of the good stuff happening in this part of the world.

Sunday, 30 November 2008

What is happening to rural service?

I was supposed to be on my way to Sydney tomorrow for a medical and work engagement. I was flying with REX from Orange to Sydney.

The flight was scheduled for 6:30a.m to arrive in Sydney at 7:30a.m. I was notified at 8:05p.m the day before that the flight was cancelled. This means that my medical appointment will have to be cancelled tomorrow with minimal time for the medical people to reschedule their day. I also booked accommodation that can not be cancelled because it was a special deal that required money up front.

What is happening? I am sure that I am not the only person who has been inconvenienced by REX an service that used to be reliable.

We are told that are not enough pilots. This is probably true. Please Rex do not schedule services that you are not able to guarantee !!!!!

Kel Hodge

Saturday, 29 November 2008

The Soul of the Village

I ventured down to Weethallie yesterday for a meeting and found I was there very early. The town was just waking up to a hot and humid day. I had time to observe the old buildings in the village and thought that somehow they did not fit this small and struggling community. The general store for instance was a substantial building as is the The Royal Hotel. It seems that the builders of these establishments had plans for a secure future.
The general store stands empty and the pub no longer has the number of clientele that this premises was built to house. In fact, most of the main street is unoccupied by commercial tenants. To use the medical metaphor , Weethallie is terminal!
Then I met some locals.
The area network service project is called NEERCS and I can not remember why. Some Weethallie locals turned up to share what they and their community are working on. They are involved in a number of projects aimed at improving the quality of life and health in Weethallie. You could say there is life in Weethallie and hope for the future. The town buildings may be empty but the lives of the locals are overflowing.

Kel Hodge

Monday, 24 November 2008

Ladies Day out at Lake Cargelligo

Over 150 ladies gathered for a Ladies Day Out in Lake Cargelligo recently. There were many stalls with clothes, jewellery etc, service providers with information, a fashion parade and a guest speaker - me.
As you can image there was lots of catching up, chats with old and new friends and time to do some Christmas shopping.

Saturday, 22 November 2008

A small community celebrates

The small town of Merriwagga (40km south of Hillston, pop 60) has had a bad week. Two funerals for long term residents in 5 days are hard to take. However the spirit of the community was alive and well today with their annual Christmas lunch and concert. After a fantastic lunch we were treated to a beaut time of carol singing (accompanied by Lorna on the accordion) and skits by the Merriwagga and Hillston locals. An excellent example of the resilience of small rural communities.

Click here to see the location of Merriwagga

Thursday, 13 November 2008

Service Providers in the area

One of the things I have been doing is to help others set up a network with service providers and community members in the Carrathool, Murrumbidgee and Griffith local government areas. The network ran a very successful stall in Griffith during mental health week and gave away lots of mental health material. In the new year the network will be concentrating on different ways to involve older men from ethnic groups such as the pacific islanders. It is great to see how keen people are to work together.

Wednesday, 12 November 2008

I've been blogged

I was told on my return to work from annual leave that I had been blogged. Somehow I knew this as I felt somewhat different, linked into the universe in a way that I had never felt before. 
For those of you who have been blogged you will know what a mystical experience this can be if you just let it happen.

It is this new and transformed self that offers the ether and those tapping into it the opportunity to come along on this journey of sharing and exploration.

I must say that I am approaching the end of this year with revived hope in the lives that we lead in the bush. There are challenges that our special and wonderful environment offer us and yet we have the connection with each other and the universe through being blogged and being blessed with each other and our God. 
Rural Chaplain Kel Hodge

Tuesday, 11 November 2008


After the day in Wilcannia I met with a some of the Retirement Units committee in Ivanhoe for dinner. We have been working with this group to get some transportable homes into Ivanhoe so local people can retire in their own area. We had a very pleasant dinner and with DPI planned out a Christmas event for Ivanhoe. This will involve a BBQ meal followed by an outdoor movie. We will also be providing breakfast for those who chose to stay on.

Click here to see the location of Ivanhoe

A Day at Wilcannia

Went out to a sheep day on a property "Corkers Well" which is half way between Wilcannia and Broken Hill. There were about 20 people there from neigbouring properties and all great people. one of the neighbours flew in for workshop. The couple who own the property are ex-bakers from Victoria who sold their bakery and 100 acres and moved out to Corkers Well to raise cattle. They are having the time of their lives.

The workshop in the old shearing shed was a great day and I will probably go back to run some workshops and join with DPI for a Christmas do.

Click here to see the location of Wilcannia

Monday, 10 November 2008

Our fabulous state scenery

As I travel around the state I see some amazing scenery like this at the Macquarie River near Hill End or this sunrise near Hillston. I have also been canoeing down the Lachlan River at Hillston.

Sunday, 9 November 2008

The day the dust blew

Hillston had the best dust storm I have ever seen. The sky turned blood red with the dust in a way I've never experienced. And no I didn't have a red filter on the camera for these pictures.


View My Stats