Archived News Item

Perth sister reflects on new ministry with Indigenous

Since July 2006, Perth Sister of Mercy Dolores Coffey has been involved in setting up the Daydawn Hope Advocacy Centre*, a new ministry with Indigenous people in the Archdiocese of Perth.


Dolores recently returned from a sabbatical time overseas which included time on Canadian Reservations. She shared some of her reflections with Perth Sisters of Mercy about her involvement in this newly established ministry in Perth city.


Dolores was involved in the Aboriginal Mission in Billiluna when it first began and became deeply involved with the Aboriginal ministry when she returned to Perth. Apart from her experience in the Kimberley and Perth, Dolores has qualifications in education, social work and counselling.


In her own words Dolores shares her dream:


I am deeply disturbed about the appalling problems, both material and spiritual, of the Aboriginal peoples. These are present consequences of past dispossession, injustice and introduced disease. They were deprived of their life, culture, law, language and land.


I ask myself what would Ursula (Frayne) do to help overcome these devastating conditions that still exist today in 2006?


I feel a strong call to bring forth my compassion and love to the original people of my adopted land! [Dolores is from Ireland and came to Perth to join the Sisters of Mercy] In the spirit of Ursula, let us pray for a hope-filled tomorrow for this land and all its people.


Since July 2006, I have been involved in setting up the Daydawn Hope Advocacy Centre in Perth. It will be a culturally appropriate service to the Aboriginal people and will be ministered under the auspices of the Archdiocese of Perth.


During the first few weeks, I spent many hours searching around the city for suitable premises. The site chosen is surrounded by three parks and already, the area has some connections with Aboriginal people. The Centre will be staffed by a team of volunteers and the current budget allows for a full time Aboriginal worker.


The vision is to have a Centre that is:

  • Culturally welcoming

  • Safe, homely, friendly, non bureaucratic

  • Mercifully hospitable

  • Reverent and compassionate

  • Spirit-filled and hope-filled

  •  Joyful and faithful

Some of the key aspects of my role will be to:

  •  Liaise with Government and non-Government agencies;

  • Network with Aboriginal leaders;

  • Assistance with legal and court matters;

  •  Link marginalised groups with decision-makers;

  •  Conduct preventative programs;

  • Personal counselling and referrals;

  • Shift the political notions;

  • Advocate to ensure that Aboriginal people will have access to resources, services and opportunities which contribute to their well being.

As I listen to the Gospel, I pray that I seek out the best things of their traditional ways, respect their differences and know that God will be revealed through diversity and not just in the resolving of differences.


My prayer is that we all link our minds, hearts and hands with theirs. May we see with new eyes, new hearts and new understanding, our wonderful land Australia. And may Aboriginal peoples, our brothers and sisters, find their rightful place.


* Archbishop Hickey, who has encouraged the development of this new ministry, came from Cue, a gold mining town in the Murchison area and knew of the story of the founding of the mine and its connection with the Aboriginal people. Edward Heffernan is attributed to collecting 260 oz. gold after being given a nugget by an Aboriginal known as Governor. One morning Edward came out of his primitive dwelling and saw the gold gleaming from the blue rock. The Aboriginal word in this district for the dawn of a new day is Jigagher Djidar. The imagery that has emerged is that the rock is symbolic of the Ancient rock of Australia and the bright gold being the people custodians. Reflections have also been connected with the Christian Story – the rock being the tomb and the gold being the coming forth of Jesus at the dawn of a new day. The mine is still registered under the original name, however the name of the Centre Daydawn Hope expresses its link with this outback area.


From: Sister Joan Smith RSM (Local Communications Facilitator, Perth)