Gumbuli Wurramara aboriginal elder of Arnhem Land standing against alcohol

The story of the Anglican Aboriginal Churches in the Northern Territory cannot be told without including Gumbuli. He was the first Aboriginal person to be ordained as priest in the NT, and only the 2nd Anglican Aboriginal priest in Australia.

He was respected by many at Ngukurr for standing against alcohol being brought into the community. The community had already experienced what it was like to have alcohol freely available. He was aware of the violence and problems that went with the alcohol and wanted his community spared from the consequences of binge drinking, violence, sleepless nights, and frightened women and children who were unable to sleep because of the noise and fear of the violence.

Gumbuli also played a key role in the use of the local language in church. He preached and taught in Kriol. He was a strong supporter of the Kriol Bible Translation projectt. He selected the first Aboriginal members of the Kriol team and encouraged the translation work. He strongly advocated for Aboriginal partnership in the translation work and insisted that they needed the whole bible Kriol. In 2007 when the Kriol bible was dedicated and presented to the people he was very proud of what had been achieved and encouraged people to use it. He understood the value of reading the bible and preaching in the language the people spoke.

Extracts from EFAC Australia – Joy Sandefur’s book review “Gumbuli of Ngukurr”.

While not uncritical of the missionaries, he does appreciate them, and is recorded as having said:

‘Who brought this Word?’ holding up his Bible. ‘Who brought clothes? Who brought medicines? Who teaches? Not ordinary man, not Government worker. Missionary brought these first. Missionary told us of the love of God. Praise God for the Missionary! Praise God, He changed my life!’

Extract from Sydney Anglicans – Kara Martin’s book review of “Gumbuli of Ngukurr”.

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