Sunday, 29 November 2009

Rain makes life interesting!


Quite a big weekend planned in Ivanhoe  last weekend. Friday afternoon the Broken Hill Rural Services Providers Network was meeting with some of the Ivanhoe community members to talk about what is happening in the area, Friday night was a social night with a guest speaker, Saturday was the Ivanhoe Ladies Lunch and Sun was the Anglican Christmas service. However, Ivanhoe only has one bitumen road to the south and all the other directions have dirt roads that are dry weather only. With the rain Thursday many of the roads were closed. As I said yesterday I had to go an extra 200km to get there but many others didn’t even have this option. The road to the north to Wilcannia was opened again about 11m Friday morning so some of the people were able to come on it. John Blair, the Flying Padre with the Uniting Church, came in by plane but it was very rough and another person with a smaller plane decided not to try it. One other person got bogged on the way but luckily she was right on the edge of phone range and we were able to go and get her. Many of the locals were not able to get into town. Others managed to get through and although the Friday afternoon meeting was very small it was still a worthwhile time. It is a testament to the Service Providers in the area that they made such an effort to get there. I will talk about the other events in the next few blogs.

Happy Retirement Norm and Narelle

Today I attended the service of closure for Pastors Norm and Narelle Hawkes.
Norm and Narelle are retiring to Tea Gardens from the Uniting Church congregation at Wellington.

The accolades the Hawkes' received were well deserved as they have served this congregation tirelessly and faithfully for six years.

I must say they have been champions of rural chaplaincy since its inception and a great support to me in the role. I wish them both a long and happy retirement and will miss them a lot.

Kel Hodge

Friday, 27 November 2009

Broken Hill Moments of Dreaming

On 12th and 13th November Julie and I were pleased to host a group of people fro the smaller centers around Broken Hill. The conference was along the lines of the Riverina Moments of Dreaming which allowed people to explore their dreams for their communities.
People came from Wilcannia, Menindee, Nanua, Tibooburra, Pooncarie and Broken Hill.
I must say that the people who attended were all passionate about where they lived. There was a keen interest in making a better life in these places.
Many stories came out of our time together and we hope to share those with over the coming weeks.
Dr David Lee was our evening speaker who spoke to us about the life of Stanley Melbourne Bruce a Prime Minister of Australia from 1923-1929. Dr Lee is an historian at the department of Foreign Affairs and Trade.
It was a great time and new and important relationships have been formed.

Kel Hodge

Thursday, 26 November 2009

The River is dying!

I have written before of how much pleasure and rejuvenation I get from being able to kayak on the Lachlan River when I am at home. It is especially enhanced by the company and pastoral support of my good friend Jenny who comes with me. So it is with a great deal of sadness that I am watching the water turn stagnant and knowing that soon I won’t be able to go any more.
The Lachlan River has been closed below Condobolin because Wyangla Dam is now less than 5% full. The town of Lake Cargelligo will have some water “pulsed” to it from Condobolin when needed, Hillston has underground water and the same villages of Booligal and Oxley will get water carted in. For farmers on the river they are expected to make their own arrangements, which is causing some hardship. While I can understand the decision I will miss my river and I am certainly praying that there is rain in the catchment soon so they will open it again. In the meantime I have been taking some photos of the river and if you would like to see more of them just click here.

Tuesday, 24 November 2009

Disaster Recovery Chaplaincy Training


The Uniting Church in NSW is working on a Memorandum of Understanding with Community Services NSW to train and coordinate Chaplains at evacuation or recovery centres. Up until now emergency services such as Police and Fire had their own chaplains but there was no-one responsible for the people who had been evacuated. From now the Uniting Church will be providing training for chaplains from a wide range of faiths including Jewish Rabbis and Buddhist Monks and will be responsible for making sure these people are coordinated and supported in this work.

Last week I spent 3 days in Sydney working through the course with some other very experienced chaplains so that we would then be available to train others or coordinate some of the work on the ground. Stephen Robinson who presented the course is extremely qualified and has spent many years doing this sort of work and the others in the course were all very experienced so I learnt heaps and feel that I will be much more useful in the situation, but at the same time I am praying that the fire season this year doesn’t mean that we are called out.

Monday, 23 November 2009

Church In The Garden

The Parkes Uniting Church "Currajong" congregation host an ecumenical service once a year in a garden.
This year I was pleased to be able to speak about rural chaplaincy to the gathering. I was also given an opportunity to baptise two children which in somewhat of a novelty for me these days.
The Currajong congregation hope that this service gives an opportunity for new people to attend and meet with others in a friendly relaxed atmosphere.
It was nice spring day and it seemed that everyone had an enjoyable time apart from the very friendly flies.

Kel Hodge

Sunday, 15 November 2009

CISMFA conference in Melbourne

Last week Stephen Robinson, who heads up the Disaster Recovery Chaplaincy for the Uniting Church in NSW, and I attended the Critical Incident Stress Management Foundation Australia conference in Melbourne. The theme of the conference was "building resilience" and I got some excellent information for the work we do in building resilience in rural communities and also for disaster recovery chaplaincy. Being in Victoria there was an emphasis on the work done after the bushfires, and there are some very valuable lessons for the rest of us.

Tuesday, 10 November 2009

Drought Support Workers plan the next 6 months

Drought Support Workers from Industry and Investment NSW spent last Thursday looking at options for their work over the next 6 months and how to make the most effective use of their time. A number of groups that have worked closely with the Drought Support Workers over the years were invited to attend the morning session and share thoughts on how to more effectively together.

The morning was an excellent time of sharing ideas and plans and some good discussion was generated. It is yet another example of how working and planning together can produce better results.

Monday, 9 November 2009

NSW Farmers seek solutions

NSW Farmers held two meetings last week to look at options for farmers who have yet another failed year. The first was at Lake Cargelligo with 140 farmers attending. The next day a meeting of stakeholders was held in Griffith and I was the representative for the Uniting Church. A board range of stakeholders spent the day discussing options and prioritising measures that they saw as vital to the future for agriculture in NSW. I was very heartened to see that maintaining small communities was considered extremely important by both meetings and was one of the priorities set by the meeting. All there recognised that without strong communities we cannot have strong agriculture.

Thursday, 5 November 2009

TAFE makes a commitment to women in Hillston

One of the issues of living in a small town like Hillston is getting access to further education. Last week the Outreach Coordinator from Griffith responded to my request and came out to Hillston to talk to women about a range of courses that it might be possible to run in Hillston. 12 women turned up (but of course I forgot to take a picture) and the end result is a couple of days will be held this year and then more courses run next year. I was very encouraged by the willingness of TAFE to respond to the need and the commitment of the women who came and I look forward to it leading to bigger things.

Wednesday, 4 November 2009

Birds of the Bush a great success in Rankin Springs

On the October long weekend The Birds of the Bush (click here to see the website) festival was held in Rankins Springs. This is the third year for this festival and it was even bigger and better. The community of Rankins Springs is not very large so it is "all hands to the pump" to make the weekend work. The festival consists of bird watching in the national parks surrounding the town, a dinner and a spring fair.

Last week I attended the debriefing meeting and a meeting of the Progress Association. In conjunction with the Carathool Shire and Industry and Investment NSW the Uniting Church will be holding some workshops in Rankins Springs to help strengthen the community. It was great to see so many of the locals at the meeting and it augurs well for the future of the community.

Tuesday, 3 November 2009

Women from the North West gather in Ivanhoe


I was invited to speak at the CWA Far West Group meeting in Ivanhoe. This group covers most of the North West of NSW with people coming from Menindee (200km), White Cliffs (280km), Tibooburra (540km)  and Ivanhoe Branches. Many of these women live in very isolated circumstances, travel huge distances but enthusiastically put their time and energy in various organisations like CWA. The women that I met on the day were remarkable women who have many skills and great insights into helping make their friends and communities stronger.

Monday, 2 November 2009

Marra Creek on a very hot afternoon


In 37 C heat the Marra Creek CWA group met to have participate in a Grant Writing Workshop. Despite the heat the group came up with lots of ideas for their community and we looked at a number of grants that might be able to help. With the Marra Creek school being over 100km from Nyngan and Warren the 4 students have long distances to travel to join in other school activities or participate in cultural, sporting or art events. So first on the wish list was a vehicle that could transport the kids and their teacher.

It was great to join with this enthusiastic group of people who have a passion for making it better in their little community.

As I travel around I see a great deal of wildlife but not often as I am coming into a town. These pictures show a family of emu I came across just as I was coming into Nymagee.


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