Tim was born in Latrobe, Northwest Tasmania on 2nd April 1957, and is married to Lynne (1983). They have three adult children, Elanor, Ross and Barnaby, and they have recently become the grandparents of twin boys, Harrison and Charlie.They have two pets; a cat, Mika, and a dog, Dusty. He holds a Bachelor of Education from the University of Tasmania (1984) Bachelor of Theology from Melbourne College of Divinity (1986) Masters of Theology from Melbourne College of Divinity. He was ordained as a Minister of the Word by the Uniting Church in Australia, December 1985. Tim has served in a variety of placements in both Victoria and Tasmania, rural, regional and urban placements since ordination and is currently in placement with the Bridgewater – Gagebrook Parish Mission in Tasmania. He enjoys reading, fishing, growing fruit and veg, and bushwalking.
Writing a book is never truly a solo enterprise. The genesis of this book began not long after I had experience with what used to be called a “nervous breakdown”. My doctor had recommended an extended period of leave and professional counselling. One strategy was to write stuff. Twenty something thousand words were inflicted on my wife Lynne and a couple of close friends. While the occasional idea from this preliminary document may have survived into this current book, most of it would be better described as “clearing my mental desk in order to make writing “kurina kuwara milaythina” possible. My thanks go to my wife, family and friends for supporting a half-crazy man during that period.
As the book finally managed to emerge again, the support of family and some friends was significant in getting through the months of writing. Lynne kept getting asked to proof-read drafts and others to simply read and comment as I tested ideas. Just in case elements of the book should prove controversial, I don’t want to name anyone lest someone attempt to hold them responsible for supporting me when all responsibility for my words is my own. They know who they are and I thank them from the bottom of my heart.
Lastly I must acknowledge Zeus Publications for their work. In particular for the professional editorial work by Julie Winzar. She was very easy to work with.
I have a clear memory of a day when I was four years old. It was a winter’s day
with occasional showers and a westerly wind. Dad had my brother and me with him
as he was checking the sheep. It was lambing time. I was a bit of a dreamer and
was facing the west, my imagination caught by the huge mass of Mount Roland,
when Dad called me over to witness the birth of a lamb. As I turned and ran, my
eyes caught a sudden streaming of winter sunlight through the clouds, just like
in the pictures of my children’s Bible depicting scenes of epiphany. Coming up
to view the newborn lamb I explained to my Dad I had seen God creating the new
life of the lamb. I had made in my childish way a spiritual connection between
mountain, wind, sky and lamb. He did not in any way try to adjust my thinking.
He just accepted my statement on face value.
A few months later my
Dad died suddenly in the night. In those days children were kept away from
funerals. Yet when my mother collected us children after the funeral she
immediately took us out to see the grave. She tells a story of me giving another
little sermon on the life hereafter, assuring her that Dad was now with God. The
year was 1961 and the place, Sheffield, Tasmania.
These two little
childhood stories already illustrate the emergent spirituality that has now come
to a much more mature expression in this little book. The themes of creation and
In 1985 I was
ordained as a Uniting Church in Australia Minister of the Word after six years
of studying Philosophy and Theology. During this time I participated in the
Franklin River blockade, which included several days in a maximum security
prison. This was at a time when ecological spirituality was not all that common
in mainstream protestant churches. Finding a common language to explain my
actions and motivation to staff and other students in theological college was a
bit problematic. There was something deeper here than simple green politics.
What I would call now a deep need to defend country.
A few years later I had learnt enough to understand the meaning behind a story my mother often used to tell us when we were young. She would say that when she was born her grandmother said that she must have been swapped in the hospital because she had a darker complexion, darker hair and eyes than other people in the family. Mum was born in 1934. This story was actually about racism and the fear that a family secret would come out.
The date is
significant. Hitler had recently come to power in Germany, racial segregation
laws were common throughout much of the world, and in Australia, the White
Australia policy was unquestioned, Aboriginal people were not regarded as
citizens in their own land and children were commonly stolen from their mothers
and raised in institutions far from their home country. Many families tried to
resist this pervading racism by hiding any connection to Aboriginal heritage so
the children could pass as white and not be disadvantaged. It was to take some
years for me to verify that this ‘passing over’ had indeed happened in my family
when my grandmother was a small child. It turned out that I am descended from a
young Tasmanian Aboriginal girl who had been captured by settlers during the
early colonial period in northern Tasmania, baptised and integrated into a
colonial household as child labour.
in Australia is often problematic and controversial. In central and northern
Australia there are still many communities where Aboriginal people still have an
unbroken connection to traditional country, speak their ancient languages and
are familiar with a wide variety of cultural traditions. However, this is not
true of the majority of Aboriginal people today. Most are urbanised, living
within the dominant mainstream culture, and have some degree of non-indigenous
background. Connection with ancestral country and local Aboriginal communities
Some, like me, could get away with hiding their Aboriginal identity. Yet what
does that do to one’s soul? To come out and assert Aboriginal identity has
consequences. Aboriginal people are still amongst the most disadvantaged
Australians, and racism, while no longer politically correct, still persists. On
the other hand a heritage and connection to country that can be measured in
terms of tens of thousands of years is a powerful thing that I would never want
to deny but prefer to celebrate as defining and grounding who I am. Despite the
trouble it sometimes causes I want to affirm that ancient connection to country
by openly identifying as Aboriginal.
Coming to terms with my identity, owning who I am and where I come from, has been the motivating force behind the desire to write this book and begin a conversation that may bring healing to a contemporary nation living on ancient land that is sorely in need of a new way of being.
kurina kuwara milaythina
The Place of the Eagle’s Feather
In the summer of 2011–12 I began getting to know the Ben Lomond plateau. By my
fourth trip I was becoming more at ease and at home in the landscape. For this
visit I started by walking up the track from Carr Villa Scout Camp between the
high cliffs. Once up on the plateau at the head of a shallow valley, at a point
where the track crossed a field of boulders, I left the track behind and turned
to the right to cross the head of the valley. Passing through a
broken-boulder-strewn ridge, I entered the upper reaches of the same deep valley
that had blocked my path on a previous visit when I had attempted to cross it
much lower down. It proved far easier to cross at this higher, shallower point.
Before long I was winding my way up onto the long ridge that would lead me to
Coalmine Crag. As I mounted towards the crest of the ridge I disturbed the rest
of a big forester kangaroo who leapt out of his shady spot almost knocking into
me, bounded away a short distance, turned and looked back at me; an exchange of
greetings, and then he was off about his business. I continued on my business
for the day, which was to reach the high crag at the end of the ridge. An hour
later I was there admiring the view, taking a few photos, and enjoying a snack.
Time for the return journey.
As I wandered back, feeling relaxed and at home, I was pondering a passage from
Isaiah 40 that contains the words ‘they shall mount up with wings like eagles’.
Just then, right in front of me, standing up vertically in a small bush was a
single eagle’s feather. Was this just some sort of extraordinary coincidence, or
a message from the mountain? The feeling was that of welcome and affirmation, of
coming home and meeting an old friend.
I became even more aware of my surroundings, of the place I was in. I was
standing on dolerite pavements: rough hexagonal shapes, the tops of closely
packed columns of rock, extending vertically deep into the heart of the
mountain. Geologists tell us that these were formed from the cooling of the hot
rock that was pushed upwards during the creation of this part of the world some
65 million years ago as the Australasian plate finally broke free from the
Antarctic plate. This was a creation place. But it was not just about the making
of the mountain, or indeed the whole island of Tasmania.
This whole high plateau was the traditional country of the Plangermairreenner or
‘Ben Lomond mob’. For me there is ancestral connection here. I remembered the
story of when the Plangermairreenner, in exile on Flinders Island, had engaged
in conversations about creation with the catechist who was trying to teach them
about Christian belief. This conversation had led to a translation of Genesis 1
into their language. The Western religious/mythological story telling about
creation had found itself in conversation with the, perhaps far older,
indigenous one. But more than this, in this creation place, and in my soul,
these two conversation partners also find themselves in conversation with the
contemporary scientific story. Indeed, it is as if I am being given a new shape
in the pondering of these stories, re-created in this extraordinary space.
Two years later I found myself in the same area. This time, with the prospect of having to move away from Launceston, I was contemplating the possibility that this may be my last visit to this special place. I was leaving the grassy plains, climbing up onto an expanse of dolerite paving in bright sunlight when a shadow passed over me. I looked up. Only a few metres above me were a pair of eagles circling. They had come down to check me out. In sheer joy and exultation I lifted my arms in greeting, blessed by eagles’ wings. It seemed both an affirmation and an encouragement to get to work on creation conversation.
This story has been poking and prodding at my life and spirituality for over two
years now. It has been pushing me to think more and more deeply about my
understanding of the world in which I find myself. It is time to write about
this. I will do this by taking the hint that is in the story. In the following
pages we will try to engage in a three-part conversation that explores the
worldview of the first people of this land, a Christian understanding of
creation, and what we might believe, and struggle to believe, about project
The first chapter in the conversation will look at some of the story fragments
that have come down to us from Woorrady, an elder of the Nuenonne people of
Bruny Island, by way of G. A. Robinson’s journals. Perhaps the best collection
of these come from Robinson’s journal entries for the 7th to 12th of July 1831
when he, Woorrady, and others were travelling through the hinterland of the
northeast of Tasmania in the region of the Ringarooma River. The intention here
will be to try and discern something of the worldview and metaphysical landscape
of the pre-contact Tasmanians. In doing so we will look for patterns by which
their world was understood. In the same section we will also try to discern
something of the impact that the colonial invasion had on this worldview.
The second chapter in the conversation will concern itself with Christian
thinking about creation and how this might, or might not, be illuminated by the
proceeding chapter. Here we will be less concerned about the Genesis creation
stories and more concerned with the Christian doctrine of creation as it emerges
out of the New Testament witnesses. As we do so it will become apparent that we
can be led into profound misunderstanding as well as into deeper insight.
Chapter three will take up the third voice in the conversation, which concerns
the world as we find it today. Our focus will not be so much on the story of
creation that science tells but rather of human ability to find meaning in
creation. On the one hand we know far more about the universe today than ever
before but on the other we are far less sure of what it all might mean. We can
observe a widespread disillusionment and loss of meaning in our contemporary
society. Science observes the universe in which we live and attempts to describe
it on the basis of rational thought. It seeks to discern the rules or laws by
which the universe works. These rules or laws are given mathematical expression.
What science can’t tell us is whether or not the universe is purposeful. As soon
as we begin to describe the universe as creation we are moving towards the
assumption that someone or something is responsible for making it and that this
making is in some sense purposeful, that there is a positive goal in mind.
Instead of giving a simple description of our universe, we begin to speak of
what I would term ‘project creation’.
In the fourth chapter we will take what we have learnt in the preceding chapters
about ‘project creation’ and seek to discern its applicability to our
contemporary context. In doing so we may discover new insight and renewed
courage in the face of some of the big issues of our day. In part the hope is
that this process will begin to restore our confidence and trust in ‘project
creation’ as a purposeful, and therefore, meaningful enterprise.
This process is not intended to be a comprehensive study of all that is known or might be known about these issues. Rather, it is simply a conversation starter around the insight illuminated by the story of ‘The Place of the Eagle’s Feather’.
Chapter 1 (part sample)
We are told that, some 65 million years ago, the Australian tectonic plate broke
free from the Antarctic plate to form a new continent. At that time in the great
cataclysm, in the great upheaval, a whole mass of hot rock thrust itself up from
deep within the earth’s crust, pushing older surrounding rock with it. Dolerite
they call it. This process led to the shaping of the island we now know as
Tasmania on the southernmost extremity of the newly formed continent drifting
We are also told that from about 40,000 years ago, during the ice ages, the
first modern humans began to enter the island. Following the ice ages they were
cut off some 12,000 years ago. We ask, ‘How might these early people, the first
people in this land, have imagined their world, their island world surrounded by
To help us answer this question there remain some fragments of stories scattered
about in Robinson’s journal entries from the early colonial period. Perhaps the
best collection of these story fragments are those that come from Woorrady, a
man from the south, reflecting his culture and his people. Woorrady gives us
several names for these ‘creation beings’. Of these, three are important for
giving us a working landscape for pre-contact Tasmanian spirituality. They are
Dromerdeene, Moihernee and Wrageowrapper. We will explore these with what
imagination we can, trying to discover what meaning these names had and how they
describe the world of the ancient Tasmanians. Then we might be able go on to see
the relevance these ‘creation beings’ have for us today.
The stories tell us that Dromerdeene and Moihernee fought with each other and as
a consequence Moihernee fell to the earth. This gives us a location or sphere of
activity for these two ‘creation beings’. Woorrady gives two versions of this
story. Later we will explore these variations as we seek to understand the
sphere of activity for Moihernee. For now we will start with Dromerdeene.
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