National camp celebrates 40 years of impact

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ATSIM celebrates 40 years in 2019. Photo: Murray Hunter

More than 200 Indigenous Australians gathered together in Victor Harbor, South Australia, for the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Ministries (ATSIM) national camp from January 16-21.

From Geraldton (WA) to Kuranda (Qld), from the Finke and Tennant Creek (NT) to Port Augusta (SA), from Hammond Island in the Torres Strait to Tasmania, and everywhere in between, they flew, caught buses and drove great distances to gather in the beautiful coastal town. One lady even claimed to have flown in from Sri Lanka.

Camped at the Adare Uniting Camp and Caravan site, set about 500 metres from the ocean, the multipurpose venue provided cool sea breezes and picturesque walks to nearby Granite Island and the township of Victor Harbor.

With a heatwave blasting much of Australia, the cooler temperatures were a blessing for many of the camp attendees. Some had travelled from areas experiencing 50-degree heat while some of the desert people had never been to the ocean before.

Music was an important part of proceedings. Photo: Murray Hunter.

Each of the evening programs featured a slide show of historic photos, showcasing the different regions where ATSIM has been working over the past 40 years. Connie Toga, who ministers in Mildura, Victoria, shared ATSIM history in workshops and presentations throughout the weekend. A large cake was also provided to celebrate ATSIM’s 40th birthday.

While some of the focus was on the past, the camp also provided encouraging signs for the future. “A lot of people at this camp are new faces,” said ATSIM national director Pastor Darren Garlett. “Often, most are from Kempsey, Cairns and WA but this year we’ve got a large group from the desert (Central Australia).

“Those who have attended our camps for years have commented that there are so many new faces. This just shows the work of ATSIM is growing right across the country and reaching out to people and they’re responding and camp is such a big part of that.”

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