Australia Day and John the Baptist

Many national days commemorate a revolution, when an old order was overthrown, often after a violent struggle and a new bright future was established under different leadership and different rules. Examples of this are the USA, China and France. Others attained independence when colonisation came to an end, and the day that happened became their national day. Most former colonies of Britain in Asia and Africa can trace their national day in that way.

Australia’s national Day is quite different in origin, simply marking the day in 1788, when the First Fleet, comprising 11 ships laden with convicts, landed in Port Jackson, after a failed attempt to land in Botany Bay, some days before. As such, the landing marked the establishment of the penal colony of New South Wales.

In 1818, on the 30th anniversary of the founding of the colony, Lachlan Macquarie, the Governor of New South Wales, gave all government employees a holiday. He also celebrated the day with a 30-gun salute and a ball!  It was known as Foundation Day. In 1838, 50 years after the First Fleet arrived, Foundation Day was declared Australia’s first public holiday in New South Wales.

By 1935, January 26 was known as Australia Day, in all states except New South Wales, where it was then known as Anniversary Day. From 1946, January 26 was called Australia Day in all states and territories.,

From the time of the Bi centenary, in 1988, the scale of celebrations has increased enormously, and since 1994, the Australia Day celebrations have been on January 26 regardless of the day of the week.   The rise in  the celebration of January the 26th has been accompanied  by nationwide protests , as the date represents  the beginning of colonisation  for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Island people , who  refer to it as Invasion Day, and despite the raising of the Aboriginal Flag in Sydney  along with the Australian flag, and the addition of First nation dances ,and use of the didgeridoo , many  indigenous people find it an alienating event.

Imagine for a moment that the Japanese had invaded Australia in WW2, that we now all spoke Japanese, and it was assumed we would celebrate the day the Emperor’s men arrived!  I am guessing aboriginal people see our present Australia Day, somewhat in this way.

It is sometimes difficult for descendants of settlers and later arrivals, as most of us are, to cope with negative responses to things that we may cherish, but it does raise important questions.

The reality is, that the arrival of the First Fleet marked a collision of two worlds, one, whose last day was January the 25th, and another which began the next day, and rapidly prevailed by of force of arms and other superior technology.

For a much of the past 232 years, this clash of worlds has resulted in many indigenous people feeling exiled, despised, worthless and undervalued in their own land.

The Gospels consistently present us with another clash of worlds, between the religious establishment that grew out of the Old Testament, and the person of Jesus, and his teaching about the Kingdom of God.

One man stands between these two worlds and he is John the Baptist.

John belongs very much to the old world of Judaism, but not that of the religious institution. Rather, he belongs to the prophetic tradition of greats like Isaiah, Jeremiah, Amos, and Hosea. They were people who made the establishment, represented by kings and priests, feel very uncomfortable and confronted.

John finds himself in a conundrum. He expresses uncertainty when with reference to Jesus, he twice retrospectively says, “I myself did not know him”. He was uncertain as to whether or not Jesus was the promised one, but nevertheless, he did what he felt called to do, in baptising at the Jordan, so that the Messiah might be revealed.

Standing at the edge of the old-world, John is open to what the new world might me, and he stands there in wonder, ready to diminish for the sake of what is to come.

” Among you stands one whom you do not know, the one who is coming after me; I am not worthy to untie the thong of his sandal.”

Jenny Thompson, an Aboriginal Deacon, once said, of the collision between the Indigenous world and the First Fleet, that her grandfather had once told her, that it had to happen, and that the old Aboriginal world could not continue as it was.

John was filled with wonder, and in allowing himself to stand back, as the friend of the Bridegroom, his felt ‘unworthiness ‘made him grow in stature, because of who the Lord of the new world was.

In spite of the best efforts of Governor Arthur Phillip, any wonder those watchers on the shore may have felt ,as those ships entered the harbour, and their leaders decided to offer hospitality rather than resistance,   any wonder soon  turned to dust, and Bennelong and his  Eora people ,and   all the tribes of this land ,came to feel worthless . To this day so many of their descendant’s struggle with the purposeless and racism brought about by dispossession and lack of respect.

Symbols that are based on justice, are enormously important. We have only to think of the positive impact of the National Apology to the Stolen Generation.

We are now living into the meaning of the epic collision between two worlds: The world begun by the industrial revolution from the 19th century, and the now clear sound of the groans of creation in the Climate Emergency, that has broken upon us in the enormous bushfires. It is time for us to swallow our pride and seek the help of the indigenous people of our land as to how we can preserve and reverence creation once more.

A potent symbol of our willingness to listen would be to support changing a change to our present National Day.

While allowing celebration of the arrival of the First Fleet, to be a Sydney event on January the 26th, we need another day for the nation as a whole.:

A day when we could together celebrate what existed, before January the 26th 1788, and still continues.

A day when we could celebrate the good brought by settlers of all generations.

A day that celebrates the values of a multi-cultural, tolerant, democratic and just society for all who call Australia home.

A day when we could truly sing with one voice: “I am, you are, we are Australian.”

Godfrey Fryar, Provincial Minister

Betty and Bob Hay, RIP

Betty Hay was the first member of the Australian Province of the Third Order, Society of St Francis.

She was noviced in Papua New Guinea in 1959 and professed in 1962.
She died in Western Australia in November 2019.

Her husband Bob died in December 2019, and their combined memorial service in Denmark, Western Australia, was conducted by Tertiary, Sally Buckley, in January 2020.

The Eulogy and Homily delivered at this service can be found at the links below:

Franciscans International and the Society of Saint Francis

Report from the Board Meeting of FI in New York. November 2010

by Averil Swanton tssf (representing the three Orders of SSF)

As on previous occasions the three-day meeting was grounded in the worship and faith-sharing at the start of each day. In addition to this, a Eucharist was celebrated on the Friday evening to honour the work of two volunteers, Mary Theresa Plante FMM and Bernadette Sullivan SFP, who have been working from the New York office of FI for many years, tracking events at the UN and working with other NGO’s.

One of the achievements of the past months for FI has been the appointment of all three Regional Directors in Geneva, New York and Bangkok. As well as being responsible for their own regions, Europe and Africa, the Americas and Asia/Pacific each of these will take the lead in advocacy. This means that the Executive Director will be able to fulfil the task of taking global responsibility and co-ordinating all three offices, which will have some degree of autonomy. All three, Markus Heinze OFM, Mike Lasky OFM Conv and Mateus Tuniewcs recently net up with Denise Boyle fmdm, the Executive Director, and she reported a high level of energy and co-operation between them all.

Work continues with great attention being paid to the UPR, The Universal Periodic Review, whereby every nation in turn is scrutinised on the issue of human rights. FI sees its role as helping with presentations and following up with proposed action from the UN. Member of the New York office had recently gone to Brazil to meet with JPIC reps and Provincials and also grass roots to help with their presentation for the Review of Brazil in 2012.

Other ongoing work consists of training sessions and as we met, Mateus and a team from the Bangkok office were working in the Solomon Islands with Clark and other Anglicans. From early reports of this venture, I gather it was a great success, with several notable firsts, namely not just the first co-operation with Anglicans, but also the first time FI had trained in the Pacific and the first time that all the Anglican communities had got together to train. I understand that a common declaration was made and a press conference held.

This kind of training work is a core part of the service that FI can offer. Foundations are keen to give funds, including set-up costs, so this very valuable work can be funded. Elsewhere within the organization there is great concern about funds. As with so many at the current time, donations have dropped considerably and the excellent scheme of urging people to give 5$ or £5 a month has not taken off as much as was hoped. Various cost-cutting exercises were proposed, but there is real concern that core work should not be threatened. One of the main issues is spreading costs globally. There is strong feeling in some quarters that money raised in one are should be spent in that area. (A feeling that I encountered when I wrote to other Third Order Provinces.) This however ignores the fact of administrative and other support from Geneva or New York to other offices. Attention has been paid to establishing the offices according to local laws with at least semi-autonomy, but funds will continue to be an issue. Denise Boyle herself feels that the Franciscan way is to share and support those in need as and when they need it. Geneva has already halved its office space to cut costs.
A new initiative set up by a new member of the New York office, Heather Metcalf, is ‘Hear it from the Experts’. Each month an evening meeting is held at St Francis’ Church on relevant themes. The evening before the Board Meeting we all went to a talk, Islam in the 21st century ,given by Fr Elias Mallon SA, who also works from the New York FI office . It was extremely good and based on his years of study and experience and the evening was well attended. Fr Elias is coming to the UK next year and will speak at Hilfield and Canterbury. He is well worth hearing. I much admired his sense of humour and his way of dealing with questions from those who still hold 9/11 close in mind and sympathise with those who object to the building of a so-called mosque near the site.

We went to the UN for a briefing on the various women’s groups at the UN and the recent amalgamation of them into one body under a high profile leader. Two of the sisters from St Anthony’s Convent where I stayed also came to this briefing and I became aware of how much work at the UN is done by individuals tracking and following up evidence of human rights abuse on the ground. I particularly like the definition of FI as having one foot in the UN and one foot in the grass roots.

Active advocacy work by FI in the US as it faced its own UPR included issues on homelessness and the right to adequate housing; the rights of migrant workers who have been illegally detained; human trafficking and the impact of mining on indigenous peoples’ rights to clean water and food.

We were reminded of the valuable role of the Clares who pray and support FI and I was wondering how I could engage with the Sisters at Freeland. Can I approach them direct or should I make a point of going to see them and ask for their help? Would Sr Helen Julian be able to act as an intermediary?

We covered a lot of ground and worked hard, but there was time for some marvellous American hospitality and as always time for much laughter.

I am more than happy to give talks to publicise the work of FI and am due to go to a Third Order Cluster meeting next May in Norfolk. Any requests would be appreciated.

I did intimate to the Board that, having discussed the matter with Dorothy it was very likely that I would not expect to serve a second term of 3 years on the Board of FI. If the process follows the same course as it did for me ,I would expect any nomination, together with a CV, would need to go to the Franciscan Family, ie the four Heads of the Franciscan Orders, when they meet in October of next year for appointment the following year. The date of the following FI Board meeting would be 19,20,21 April 2012.

Averil Swanton
December 3 2010

Reprint of Franciscan Gold

The first print run of Franciscan Gold sold out earlier this year, and so we have arranged for a reprint. Copies can be ordered online using the link on the resources page at the reduced price of $20 plus $5 postage anywhere in the world.

Franciscan Gold is the history of the 50 years since the first member was admitted in Papua New Guinea in 1959, written by Denis Woodbridge.

Alternative payment by cheque in Australian Dollars payable to TSSF (WA) may be sent to The Provincial Secretary, TSSF, 5 Mandora Way, Riverton, WA 6148.

Prepare the Way of the Lord


1. Christmas Unshopping: BUY NOTHING THIS CHRISTMAS!
? Give no gifts this Christmas
? Explain to your family that you are using your economic power to help the poorest by giving no gifts. Often, the gifts we give are useless or unwanted.
? Instead, make gifts or cards which are so much more personal.
? Join the Advent conspiracy. (
? Give Christmas gifts directly to the poor through Oxfam Unwrapped, Christian Blind Mission Gifts of Life, or the Tear Fund.

2. Give to the needy, for example:
? Christmas Bowl,
? Mutunga Partnership,
? Christian Blind Mission ,
? Oxfam, or
? Anglicare.

3. Pray differently. Maybe:
• More silence
• More meditation
• More reflective reading of Scripture
• Fewer words
• Different symbols (candles, ikons, etc.)

Comment on the “Advent Challenge” here. Is it Franciscan enough? Is it too idealistic? Will you try to do some of it? All of it?

Our Appeal to raise money for a dinghy to transport Tertiaries and others in PNG was launched in January of this year. We are almost there, with over $9,000 in the bank; almost another $2,000 is needed.
Nearly $3,000 of this was raised by John Clarkson (Minister NSW-B). The Province congratulates John for a terrific effort, the centrepiece of which was a bikeathon on the Eve of the Feast of St Francis.
Read on to be inspired, encouraged and challenged. Click here for the rest of the article.


Our JPIC (Justice, Peace and Integrity of Creation) group recommends this anthology, which gives more than 2,000 verses from the scriptures on poverty and justice.
Word bookstores have this on special at the moment.

Each week during Advent, Franciscans International will post a letter to help us journey towards Christmas. The letter for Week 1 is here .
Franciscans International seek financial support for their work. Please add your donation when paying your subscription (there is a space for this), or send it directly to our Treasurer Geoff Jordan, marked “Franciscans International”.

The group charged by Chapter with sensitively creating studies to help us explore non-heterosexualities and the Church has begun its work. We are finding out that the task is complex, and we are currently reading a challenging book edited by Stephen Hunt, Contemporary Christianity and LGBT sexualities. A summary of the book is on Ted Witham’s blog. If you are interested in reading this book, please ask to borrow it from one of the committee (Ted, Tony Hall-Matthews, Glenys McCarrick, Esmé Parker and Colin Valentine).

Ted Witham has been editing the newsletter only because no-one in our community has come forward to take on this important ministry of communication. If you think God is calling you to this task, please talk to Ted or your Regional Minister.
You need to be able to work with Microsoft Word (a template is provided), and gather material from the many areas of our community. There is a laser printer available to print copies, and someone else can organise the postage and distribution of copies.
Please pray about this. The need is great.

Peace, joy and love
Ted Witham tssf

Dinghy Appeal Almost To Target

Our Appeal to raise money for a dinghy to transport Tertiaries and others in PNG was launched in January. We are almost there, with over $9,000 in the bank; almost another $2,000 is needed.
Nearly $3,000 of this was raised by John Clarkson (Minister NSW-B). The Province congratulates John for a terrific effort, the centrepiece of which was a bikeathon on the Eve of the Feast of St Francis.
Read on to be inspired, encouraged and challenged.

by Father John Clarkson tssf, 134 Mitre St., Bathurst, 2795 NSW

The day started cold and threatening clouds were looming. Previous days had brought us intermittent rain. It was the eve of St. Francis Day, Saturday October 3rd. Franciscans keep that day as a remembrance of the death of St. Francis prior to celebrating his birth to new life the next day. So we experienced a Eucharist of remembrance. Francis always regarded his death as a joyous occasion. He praised the Lord in a great joyful outburst of body and soul praising Sister Death. He exhorted death itself to give praise, and going joyfully to meet it; he invited it to make lodging with him. What a hopeful spirit for us all! After the Eucharist and breakfast my bikeathon began.

Eight of us started. Apart from a couple of adults, my companion cyclists were members of our youth group. One of them had gained sponsors from teachers and fellow students at school. About ten well wishers gathered to see us off at 10.30 a.m. One of cyclists was in a bit of hurry as he was being presented a sporting trophy that morning. The route was about 20 kms around Bathurst and for safety reasons and encouragement, I decided to ask people to stand around the course where there was a break in the course between road and bicycle track. One of my route markers who was halfway round and at the end of six kms of open twisty and hilly road provided us with a carton of water bottles; very much appreciated.

Our cyclist in a hurry beat the markers to their position and completed the course in 70 minutes. It took me 100 minutes! One of our adult cyclists was riding a collapsible bike which unfortunately soon after we started collapsed under her so she had to walk back!
We had a couple of support vehicles with signs borrowed from the Cycle Club. The one behind us protected us from fast cars along the Drive. The last 10 minutes of my ride was tolerable rainy conditions. There were about 15 people in my team and I am very grateful to them and sponsors for their astounding support.

The route started and finished at Peace Park with six route markers and two support vehicles. By the time I returned and I was not last, the Sausage Sizzle was well underway. About 30 people clapped me in! They must have thought I was not going to make it and their money would be safe!

The response to the bikeathon has been quite amazing.
I started thinking about the possibility in June. I obtained insurance cover from the Parish and permission both from the Regional Council and the Police. I have been riding a bike on and off for about 20 years. My bike became a bit fragile but the family encouraged me to use my Government stimulus package to buy a new one to assist the economy.

Recently I have become a reluctant cyclist because we live at the top of a hill and the bike tracks are on lower levels. This bikeathon will encourage me to make more of an effort. One of our riders suggested we make it an annual event. We shall see.
The response has both been a financial success as well as good for fellowship in the Church. In other words riders and supporters enjoyed themselves.

All of us who are members of the Third Order of St. Francis decided that we wanted to help our brothers and sisters in Papua New Guinea when we heard that they were not able to have fellowship together, visit coastal and river communities for works of evangelism and also transport emergency cases to hospital. There are few roads.
What they needed for was an ocean-going fibreglass craft which would cost about $6000 and the engine would be $5000. They would also need money to do repairs and purchase fuel. It should be possible to easily obtain this money. I set myself a target of $2000 but we are approaching the $3000 mark at this moment and money is still coming in. I have made it known to church members here in Bathurst but also where I have preached about St. Francis, to parishes where I have done locums, organisations I am involved in, relatives and friends. Lorraine has been my secretary and treasurer. So far we can account for about $2695.85 and there are a few more promises to come. If anyone has not responded and would like to make a donation of goodwill to this bikeathon, please send me a cheque. So far we have over half the amount required to buy this boat and hopefully the appeal will be able to be concluded by the end of the year.

Therefore, my fellow Franciscans, if you have not yet supported this appeal and regard it as important, support my effort, or use your own skills, church and friends to raise significant amounts of money. There are many equally important calls on our money but this craft is regarded as one of them. Thank you to so many of you who have been so generous.

John Clarkson

International Third Order is now on Facebook!

At their meeting in Western Australia in August this year, the Ministers-Provincial and the Minister General decided to experiment with a Facebook page.

The page is primarily for people wondering about a vocation to the Third Order, and it directs people to the web-sites of each Province.

It also encourages Franciscans [and all Christians] with short quotes from St Francis, the Scriptures and other places.

You can visit this new page here.