Friday, October 29, 2010


Did you know there are still Bible translation needs in Australia?
An Aboriginal Bible translator concluded: “When we hear the story in English, it does not transform us. But in our own language, God talks directly to us like a close relative.”

The Australian Society for Indigenous Languages has been serving the Aboriginal and Islander Language Communities in Australia since the early 1960s. In the last 7 years, we have expanded our work to include communities and groups in and around the island of Timor. We specialise in the production of vernacular language materials, as well as linguistic documentation of the many vernacular languages.

Current Needs:

Audio Recordists and Vernacular Media Specialists, Print Publications Manager, Artists including Graphic Design Artists, IT Specialists, Sunday School Curriculum Developer, Linguist/Translators, Office Manager, Finance Manager, Administrative Assistants, Bible School/Seminary Trainer, Scripture Use Workers, Web Master, Events Coordinator, Photo Journalist and more!

Contact me if you'd like more information.

    AuSIL signs MOU with Indigenous Presbytery (NRCC)

        and Uniting Church in Australia, Northern Synod

On Monday evening, 27 September 2010, a Memorandum of Understanding regarding the translation of Scriptures into indigenous languages was signed by leaders of AuSIL, the Northern Regional Council of Congress (NRCC – an indigenous presbytery and regional committee of the Uniting Aboriginal and Islander
Christian Congress) and the Uniting Church in Australia Northern Synod. The signing was witnessed by Synod and surrounded by indigenous translators and advisors representing teams from eight languages in Arnhem Land who have recently started working on translation.

The partnership will be carried out through Coordinating Support for Indigenous Scriptures (CSIS), a Uniting Church initiative to support people who are involved in indigenous Scripture and resource work in the ministry areas of the NRCC. For more information see and


The Book in the Bush

by David Strickland

Papunya. Mutitjulu. Titjikala. Irrwelty. Areyonga. Kiwirrkurra. The names roll off the lips after a while, but most Australians have never heard of them. Some of them you would be hard put to find on a map. The names evoke an Aboriginal world that almost seems to operate in parallel to the white Australian world, and can be almost invisible to it. Yet these worlds momentarily mesh together for a meeting of minds and fellowship at the pastors’ training courses, held by the Finke River Mission (FRM).

The names are all places where these courses are held. They are held three times per year, and when you consider that the area covered by these Lutheran communities straddles two states as well as the Northern Territory, you have some idea of the distance travelled to attend the courses, sometimes up to 1500 kilometres. These distances are often beyond the reach of the average sedan car, so those with four-wheel-drive vehicles (including the missionaries) are usually required to pick up people.

The courses are held at bush camps, within easy range of a local community. Usually an area is cleared for this purpose. Having the camp away from the community means that there are fewer distractions to the Bible studies. Holding courses in the bush near where the people live seems far preferable to bringing them to a town like Alice Springs, where there are too many unwelcome distractions.

The course itself may be a study of a book or a wider theme such as parables. A visiting speaker conducts the teaching in English, then the teaching is interpreted in various languages by the missionaries.

The available languages include Pintupi/Luritja, Pitjantjatjara, Western Arrarnta and Alyawarr. Where the translation work has already been done, the Scriptures are read in these languages. More translation is being produced including in Anmatyerr, a new project, and work is continuing in the Alyawarr project. This mode of teaching means that the course moves more slowly, but it also means that everybody should be able to understand what is said. FRM has always had a policy of working in the people’s own languages and translating the Scriptures. This involves a huge investment in time spent in learning the culture and language, but it yields results with pastors and churches established throughout Central Australia.

Imagine having a week’s Bible study in full view of Uluru! Or, in a creek bed fringed by ghost gums! We can often enjoy God’s creation when attending the course, uncluttered by classrooms or desks! Normally we need to find shade, so there is a lot of jockeying for position. We are vulnerable too to wind, rain or dust, so there can be interruptions. Whenever there is rain, people get nervous about driving home on the dirt roads, so it can be a hard job to keep the troops in the barracks!

FRM has an efficient ordinance system perfected after years of practice. A food trailer and a water trailer are brought. The food trailer has a generator and a freezer to keep the food supplies for a week. The local community usually pitches in by providing firewood. There is a cook who lights the fires and cooks vegetables and billies of tea. However the overwhelming preference is for meat, and there is plenty of it! The men cook their own meat on the fires provided.

Some men find the course a bit daunting. They may be reluctant to travel into unknown areas. Tradition and folklore may need to be overcome, or they may just get homesick being away from their homelands. Perhaps they experience ‘culture shock’ or even are convicted by the teaching. Others relish the opportunity to mix with other groups, and one man seems to be known from the West Australian coast right across to Queensland! When camping, they tend to camp and eat with their own group. At night camp fires light up the night sky, especially if it is cold. It is a great opportunity to sit around the fire just chatting with the men, and building up strong friendships. They appreciate it when the missionaries sleep alongside the others, ‘just like one of us.’

During the course of the teaching, issues may arise pertinent to the current life of the churches. These and other church matters may be discussed at a meeting, usually held during an afternoon session. The last course was studying the book of 1 Peter, which has a theme of perseverance under persecution. While there is no state persecution in Australia, the men agreed that they sometimes get ‘pressure’ or ‘persecution’ from their families or community to compromise their faith. Although Aboriginal people appear to be passively listening to the messages, without much comment, these meetings give indication that the teaching is ‘getting through’. The real response is probably best expressed in their love of sing-alongs, held at night and preferably with a full electric band. A Western Desert Gospel band was formed several years ago and has produced several cassettes. They have taken an entourage of a bus and several vehicles on bush tours, recently travelling north as far as Katherine.

You can learn more about the work in Australia by reading their newsletter,

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