Review: Charlie’s Country

Engaging, thought provoking, feeling sad, comic, angry, frustrated!  - Yes, these are all components of my response to this excellent film: Charlie’s Country.

And did I mention that it is sooo sloooow! Ah! I hear, “You, white fella!” Yes, the pace of the film is itself a cross cultural experience for this fella (me!). This aspect of the film reminded me that the challenge to learn is heightened when the way we speak and listen is so very different. Note, ‘different’. Not wrong, just different! This latter sentence became a key learning for me during my cross cultural missionary training at St Andrew’s Hall in the 1970s.

Film Director, Rolf de Heer was interviewed following the film at the State Cinema North Hobart where it was shown as part of NAIDOC week. One of the many ‘takeaways’ from the interview and film was the emphasis on persistence in respect and the forming of a new way, a new third culture/way was thought provoking, where traditional indigenous culture and the new culture can be founded in respect and care. A genuine shared life together of the original custodians of Australia and the ‘white fellas’  has been and continues to be a long term project for all Australians. We must continue seeking and building this life together: to gather around the camp fires and learn each other’s hearts. This is a very great challenge given our mutual fragility; as ‘Charlie’s Country’ so vividly demonstrates.

At the Tasmanian  film showing, I along with community leaders, politicians, Municipal Councillors and Church leaders, were informed by Tasmanian Indigenous Elders of RECOGNISE which is the people’s movement to recognise Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples in the Australian Constitution. See, RECOGNISE. Although broadly supportive, my concern is that this project may take energy from the deeper issue of growing respect and understanding, working practically, so that we can build healthy and life giving ways to live together in this land, Australia.

The film is very well reviewed by Gemma Blackwood, Charlie’s Country: David Gulpilil confounds our romantic fantasies. A snippet:

Poster for Charlie’s Country. One films

In Charlie’s Country, Eurocentric fantasies about Indigenous men are deconstructed. For example, the main character works as a tracker – but for the police. Rather than being able to live off the land, his inability for long-term survival in the swamps of Arnhem Land is revealed.

Gulpilil and de Heer’s decision for the film to be a character study allows the banal daily problems and ongoing prejudices in Ramingining and Darwin to convey a much bigger social commentary about disadvantage and cultural misunderstanding and miscommunication.

Charlie lives in a self-made humpy because he feels the government provisions are inadequate. The film progresses through a register of emotional states, charting Charlie’s struggle to do things in his way. He tries to go bush in the traditional sense, but he’s all on his own and an unfortunate early wet season means he contracts bronchial disease.

Then, released after extensive rehabilitation from Darwin Hospital, he falls in with itinerant drinkers in the city and is eventually incarcerated, and for a while, silenced.

I urge you to please take the opportunity to view and discuss this important film.

Following my heartfelt ‘Sorry’ to the indigenous peoples at my first media conference as Bishop of Tasmania, I asked that the history of the relationship between the Aboriginal Community and the Anglican Church in Tasmania be told. Anglicare(Tas) generously funded the project resulting in James Boyce’s ‘God’s Own Country?‘. The book launch address at St John’s New Town, Wednesday 27 June 2001, is here.

Participation in events such as The Water Ceremony and Ecumenical Reconciliation Services continue to grow my understanding, as does reading and consideration of indigenous biography such as Yulki: Arnhem Land Priest  and Michael Gumbuli of Ngukurr. Also, listening to indigenous concerns such as the NT Emergency Intervention Response: An Indigenous Christian View.

Book: In GOD They Trust?

With a not insignificant number of professing Christians in our Federal and Tasmanian Parliaments my thoughts have been drawn to an important book, “In GOD They Trust?”. 

The book highlights the religious beliefs of Australia’s Prime Ministers over the last century and addresses the way in which their religious beliefs influence their approach to public life and national leadership .

The book is well written and researched. I found it very challenging and thought provoking, not just to the consideration of our former Prime Ministers’ leadership but also to my own leadership practise. In what way has the Good News of Jesus Christ truly influenced my leadership?

The book groups our Prime Ministers into eight broad categories.  To some extent they serve to highlight the various religious ‘types’ who have directed the nation’s affairs since Federation:

  1. The Good and Faithful Servant (Andrew Fisher, James Scullin, Joseph Lyons).
  2. The Ardent Seekers (Alfred Deakin, Billy McMahon, Kevin Rudd).
  3. The Righteous Straighteners (Joseph Cook, Billy Hughes, John Howard).
  4. The More-Than-Tribal Catholics (Ben Chifley, Paul Keating).
  5. The Enigmatic Presbyterians (George Reid, Robert Menzies, Malcolm Fraser).
  6. Labor’s Lapsed? (John Curtin, Bob Hawke, Julia Gillard).
  7. The Fellow-Travellers (Chris Watson, Stanley Melbourne Bruce, John Gorton, Gough Whitlam).
  8. The Gentlemanly Agnostics (Edmund Barton, Harold Holt).

The book was written prior to the election of our current Prime Minister, Tony Abbott, who is a professed Christian. As to deciding on which of the religious ‘types’ Prime Minister Tony Abbott seems to most embody, I leave to a few more years of grace. Certainly, our current Prime Minister’s leadership and its relationship to his religion is already drawing keyboard time from commentators.

See an interesting interview of the author, Roy Williams, by Simon Smart of the Centre for Public Christianity, here.

See also, Gillard’s atheism an issue? and Is Rudd’s Religion political opportunism? and Leadership: Kevin Rudd by Tim Costello.

Australian Christian Book of the Year: Shortlist 2014

The following titles have been shortlisted for the 2014 Australian Christian Book of the Year Award:

C.S. Lewis and the Body in the Basement by Kel Richards/Strand Publishing

Eating Heaven – Simon Carey Holt/Acorn Press

In God they Trust? – Roy Williams/Bible Society

Love is the New Black – Cameron Semmens/Crooked Nose Wisdom Publishing

On the Way to Faith – Ken Manley/Morling Press

Sorry, We have No Space – Joseph Wakim/Connor Court Publishing

Tactics for Teen Ministry – Scott Petty/Youthworks/Christian Education Publications

The Great Bible Swindle – Greg Clarke/Bible Society

The 2014 Australian Christian Book of the Year, Young Australian Christian Writer and Teen Writer awards will be announced and prizes presented during supper at 7:30 pm for an 8:00 pm start on Thursday 14 August 2014Join the finalists at St Alfred’s Anglican Church, Blackburn North, Victoria, corner of Springfield Road and Koonung Road.
$20 per guest. $60 per family. Buy tickets online,  by credit card – ph 1300 13 7725 or write to:

You can follow the Australian Christian Literature Awards on Facebook.

Q & A with the Bishop @ Launceston Church Grammar

I visited Launceston Church Grammar School in July for Bishop’s Day.  It was a joy!  We celebrated an excellent “Christmas in Winter’ in the Chapel as well as a very moving Baptism and Confirmation service. I relearnt some TCE chemistry at the Secondary Campus: thermodynamic reactions – exothermic and endothermic and I even calculated the lab prac to get the graph going in the correct direction! Life’s small victories!

The Junior School questions from Grade 6 ’Q & A with the Bishop’ or colloquially ‘Bishop in the Lions’ Den!’ led to profound conversation with respect and gentleness. The students’ questions follow – they may be helpful to those involved in Youth activities and are sure to stimulate some interesting conversations:

On being a Bishop…

  • How did you become a Bishop? Why did you want to be a bishop? How old were you when you became a Bishop?
  • What’s the difference between a priest and a Bishop?
  • What does your job involve? Do you come under much conflict in your job?
  • What denomination do you come from? What’s the difference between a Christian and a Catholic?
  • What does Anglican mean? What are the “rules” of Anglicanism?
  • Why are there denominations?
  • What did you do before you became a Bishop?

Personal Questions…

  • How long have you believed in God?
  • Have you always believed in God?
  • Why do you believe in God?
  • How old were you when you accepted Jesus?
  • Did you believe in God since you were a child.., is your family a Christian? When did you become a Christian?
  • Do you have a wife?
  • Has God changed your life and why? Has believing in God changed your life?
  • What is your favourite passage in the Bible?
  • Would you change your life in anyway if God gave you the power to?
  • Do you have a motor bike?
  • Why do you have donkeys?

Theological questions…

  • How did God come to be… was he born?
  • How do you know Jesus is real? How do we know that God is real?
  • What do you think God looks like? Does he have a moustache? Is God fat? How tall is God?
  • How do we know the Bible is true?
  • Is heaven and Hell real?
  • Why are we suffering from Adam and Eve’s choices?
  • How do you REALLY think the world was created?
  • Do you believe in the OLD earth theory or the NEW earth theory?
  • Why does God let bad things happen to good people?
  • Why do you think we have wars.., and how do you think we can solve them?
  • Why do we die? What happens when you die?
  • Who is the oldest person in the Bible.., how old were they?
  • Name 5 reasons people should believe in God?
  • How many types of sin is there… are they different? Has God ever talked to you?
  • What do you think would happen if Jesus came back to earth?
  • How much does God love a prisoner?
  • How do you become an angel?
  • Is there anything that proves the Bible is real apart from faith?
  • How many religions are there in the world?
  • A very specific one… bring your Bible!! (the background is 2 Kings 2: 23):
  • Why did God send down two bears to maul 42 children when some kids said “go on up you baldy”?

My thanks to the Headmaster Stephen Norris, Jane King Head of Junior Campus, Nick Foster Head of Senior Campus, Mark Cox Pastoral Dean and chemistry educator, the School Chaplains Paul Grayston and Elizabeth Poland, staff and students. I thoroughly enjoyed the day!

See from previous years: Grades 6 + Year 10 Q&A with the Bishop  and Grade 6 and Year 12 Religion and Philosophy questions How would you have gone? 

Suspended Sentences Postion Statement

The Anglican Church in Tasmania envisions a Tasmanian Society in which individuals and communities have every opportunity for renewal and transformation.

The Anglican Church in Tasmania affirms the need for justice to be done, and to be seen to be done, with respect to criminal activity, but affirms that restoration for both victim and perpetrator is a greater good than simple punishment.

The Anglican Church in Tasmania does not support the general abolition of suspended sentences.

The Anglican Church in Tasmania recognises that there are inadequacies in the current use of suspended sentences that can be resolved by establishing and resourcing mandated programs as a meaningful sentencing option.

The Anglican Church in Tasmania will be seeking to make a submission to the Sentencing Advisory Council as it advises the Attorney-General on intermediate sanctions.

The full statement can be found here.

Anniversary of my Ordination as Bishop

Today is the Anniversary of my Ordination as Bishop of Tasmania on St James’ Day, 25 July 2000.

As I reflect on that humbling, joyful, overwhelming occasion I am reminded of the St James The Apostle Day prayer (APBA page 616) and the prayer’s ongoing seeking of God’s strength for ‘self-denying service’. May the Holy Spirit empower this spirit of Christ within and through me. Amen.

O gracious God,
whose apostle James left his father and all that he had,
and without delay obeyed the call of your Son Jesus Christ:
pour out upon the leaders of your Church
the same spirit of self-denying service
by which alone they may have true authority
among your people;
through Jesus Christ our Lord,
who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit,
one God, now and for ever. Amen.

See explanation of St James the Apostle, 11th Anniversary of Bishoping

Tasmanian Anglican Articles – June 2014

The June Edition of the Tasmanian Anglican magazine is now in circulation.  Below are links to some of the articles.  The full June issue is available here

Media Release:The Late Governor Peter Underwood

The news of the death of His Excellency the Honourable Peter Underwood AC, Governor of Tasmania last night is received with sadness by the Anglican community in Tasmania.

On behalf of the Anglican Church, Bishop John Harrower extends his sympathy to Mrs Underwood and their family upon hearing of this news.

“Governor Peter Underwood was a gracious and thoughtful leader committed to the wellbeing of Tasmania,” Bishop John Harrower said.

“The Governor and Mrs Underwood will be fondly remembered for their untiring travel throughout the state to meet Tasmanians in all their many and varied communities and activities.  It did not matter how big or small the group activity was, the Governor was there to encourage them.

Because of the Governor’s dedication to Tasmania he had built strong relationships and was able to challenge us with his thoughtful addresses. A key theme of his addresses was peacemaking: a concern for addressing the causes of conflict, in order that conflict would be resolved by peaceful means”.

“A great statesperson for Tasmania”.

“A good sense of humour which lightened formal occasions – and made people feel at ease and welcomed.”

“I will miss him, we will miss him”.

(Media Release of 8th July, 2014)

What is our Vision?

With God all things are possible

What joy as we live in the wonder, awe and joy of the Resurrected Christ!

What worship, what marvel!

Who could have ever imagined Resurrection Life?  A corpse cooking a BBQ for his mates returning from a night’s fishing! The vision of the Resurrection was beyond all imagining, or dreaming, or wishing and hoping; and yet in Christ, it was true. Christ is Risen. Alleluia!

Following the Resurrection, who of the disciples could have imagined the ascension of Christ? The ascension to Heaven of this Resurrected back-from-the dead One! Yet God had a further reality in store for the disciples. The reality of an event which was as yet unimagined. The Glory of the Ascended Christ: Lord of Lords, King of Kings, the Lamb on the throne.

And as if this was not sufficient to sharpen our vision of new possibilities, do you recall what event follows the Ascension of Christ? Yes, Pentecost: the coming of the Spirit of Christ, the Holy Spirit. Who could have imagined such wonder as 3,000 people were baptised in Jerusalem that first Pentecost?

What of our dreams?
What of our visions?

Let me share my vision. I envision Christian communities living and growing as they should: in Christ’s life, light and love. Christian communities are not perfect, they have their share of problems but they are living and growing as they should because they are focused and captivated by the right vision.

What is this right vision that brings life and growth to the Body of Christ?

Surely, it is the character and likeness and image of Jesus Christ, the Son of God in all His Glory! My vision is of Christian communities for whom this is the primary vision and focus.

In my mind, I envision and describe a healthy and transformational church but I do not limit God to the capacities of my mind.

110 years ago in Wales, God used a young coalminer’s burden for revival, a burden he had carried since childhood, to transform an entire region. Owen Robert’s compassionate love for people led to his calling Christians to listen to God, to be changed by His power and to live a public faith.

As more and more Welsh believers lived the call, God seized upon the submissive spirit of the church in Wales, and Robert’s burden and love for those outside of the faith inspired an evangelistic and missional fervour unlike any they had ever seen. It has been described in this way:

As God answered this burden, even the newspapers published the results. In two months, 70,000 were converted, 85,000 in five months, and more than 100,000 in six months. Judges were presented with white gloves signifying no cases to be tried. Alcoholism was halved. At times hundreds would stand to declare their surrender of Christ as Lord. Restitution was made; gamblers and others normally untouched by the ministry of the church came to Christ.*

With God all things are possible. May the Holy Spirit give us the vision and empower us to make this vision real. May the Holy Spirit change us by His power to submit to God and practise a public faith. May the Holy Spirit burden us with a love for those outside the faith. Inspired by an evangelistic and missional fervour, let us be the vision’s hands and feet.

In the name of Christ and through the power of the Holy Spirit. Amen!

Other articles, including this one, can be found in the Tasmanian Anglican Magazine here

St John’s Franklin closure

There have been a few enquiries in regards to the closure of St John’s Church, Franklin.  In response to an article published in the Huon News recently, I have issued a Media Release which can be viewed below.


I write in reply to the front page article on 18 June about the closing of St John’s Church Franklin.

Local Anglican Churches, and their buildings, can only be sustained if there is a vital local congregation. The Church at Franklin has been maintained for over 150 years by active members of the Anglican Church, who have put countless hours and dollars into this building and to providing Ministers and mission for the community.

Yes, the local Parish of the Huon is currently discussing the future of this Church building.  The reason for this is that for many years the number of church-going Anglicans has declined, to the point where regular services have not been held there in recent years. There simply have not been enough people supporting the life and health of this Church, in spite of the wonderful efforts of the current small group of faithful members.

The St John’s Church building has a number of workplace, health and safety issues that need to be addressed to comply with government legislation. There would need to be considerable funds spent in order to maintain it as a public Church building. The Church does not have these funds, either locally or centrally. We have around 350 buildings across Tasmania, and their maintenance depends on having a healthy vibrant local church to do that.

As a result, the Parish of the Huon have made the sad and difficult decision to recommend the deconsecration and closure of this church building.

It is not true that prospective purchasers have already been shown over the building.  If the Church decides to dispose of this building, there will be the opportunity for a community group to put in an expression of interest to purchase and take over the running of the building.  Or, an individual might find another use (as has previously occurred with the adjoining hall).

Nor is it true that the graveyard might be dug up by excavators.  Any graveyard in Tasmania is governed by strict State Government Legislation regarding its use.  Whether the owner of the graveyard was the Anglican Church or someone else, the graveyard would be maintained under the same government laws.

As I have said, we are sad that this season of Anglican ministry in St John’s Franklin is finishing.  We know that current and future church members will be able to create new and vibrant church ministries in this region, such as: St James Village, Huonville that provides affordable housing; a free pick up service of donations and supplying wood during winter to those in need; the connection with youth from the Huonville High School; and the provision of affordable meals for the disadvantaged.

All these services deliver in a practical way, hope and support for those currently in need and those that have been disadvantaged.

Our hope and prayer is for a healthy church transforming life in the Parish of the Huon.

John Harrower,
Anglican Bishop of Tasmania

Contact: The Rev’d Stephen Carnaby, Bishop’s Media Officer, 0417 343 710