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HomeVolume 27St Mary's sale: Time for the church to comment, says former Anglicare...

St Mary’s sale: Time for the church to comment, says former Anglicare NT manager


My association with the St Mary site began in late 2007 and resumed early in 2013 as a senior manager with Anglicare NT until June 2021.

No one should underestimate the good works of both the Anglican Diocese of the Northern Territory and Anglicare NT. Similarly, one cannot but sympathise with Bishop Greg Anderson’s need to address the financial vulnerability of the Diocese.

I find myself at this time, however, wanting to express my support for the former St Mary residents as detailed in their website.

It is my understanding they are asking the diocese to respond to specific requests for the site and will not gain individually from this process. As has been pointed out, there are other legal mechanisms and government schemes for such compensation claims which they may be actioning.

It is also my understanding that any funds from the sale of the property will go to the diocese. One would not expect any funds to go to Anglicare NT as the two bodies are separate legal entities.

What I hear the members of the St Mary’s Stolen Generation Group saying is that, because they were removed from their home(lands) and family, they are seeking continued “access” to the place that is St Mary’s, not just a building.

And they have spelt out what that access might look like – continued use of part of the land, a meeting place, a place to teach their children and their children’s children, for the land they were brought up on to still be there as their “home”.

It would appear that the diocese has gone to the market at this time without a caveat or legal protection that will guarantee the requests of the former residents. I concur with Mark Smith’s sentiments that it is not enough for the diocese to “seek” a buyer who will honour the legacy and heritage of the former residents.

The history of the Stolen Generation in this country has shown that best intentions, while honourable, are not enough. No one can question the compassion and kindness of Anglicans like Fr Percy Smith just as one cannot dispute the claims of abuse and neglect that took place in the many Church run institutions funded to implement terrible policies of removal.

The proposed sale of the St Mary’s site is of national significance. It would be good for the Church to make a public comment at this time.

Terry Cleary, Glenalta, SA

20 December 2022

PHOTOS of St Mary’s children were provided by the St Mary’s Stolen Generation Group.


  1. Well said, Terry Cleary. The strong feelings of those taken to and brought up at that home need to be properly respected.

  2. If the plight of the Stolen Generation can’t bring the Aboriginal community together then what hope is there for the future?
    Here we have the cash strapped Anglican Church under the pump to give up part of the proceeds from the sale of its property without the slightest consideration that the Aboriginal community actually has the capacity to resolve this issue themselves.
    CentreCorp has over $200 million worth of investments that are said to be used to support funding to Aboriginal people of Central Australia.
    Congress had some $19m in reserves at the end of the last financial year and owns shares in CentreCorp.
    With some creative thinking both these organisations could purchase and repurpose the building in a way that respected the wishes of the Stolen Generation.
    That would be a proud legacy for organisations that rose to the challenge.
    The capacity of Aboriginal people to come together for the Stolen Generation is not limited to these two organisations.
    There is no shortfall of capacity. All that is needed is a willingness to come together and direct funds to one of the most worthy causes for Aboriginal people in Central Australia.

  3. Denying ongoing access to a home … a place of personal and cultural importance … to people who have already suffered so much. Shameful. Just shameful.

  4. I have been privileged to know Sister Eileen Heath (and Sister Fran Northrop), as well as many of the ladies who Sister Heath prepared for the difficult world outside Saint Mary’s.
    A highlight of those friendships was being present at Annette Roberts’s launch of her biography of Sister Health in 2002, SISTER EILEEN A Life with the Lid off. Also present were many of the graduates (I think that a fair description) from Saint Mary’s.
    Around then some others seemed to think it fashionable to denigrate Government and mission types who in earlier times played a part in caring for Aboriginal children.
    But at the book launch Freda Glynn spoke in a loving and very moving way of the appreciation she and others felt about Sister Eileen’s part in their lives.
    It follows that the Saint Mary’s site is very, very special. It must be traumatic for the Church to even contemplate selling it. Times must be tough indeed.
    But it is heart rending for the former inmates to even contemplate no longer having access to their bolt hole, patch, source of the childhood memories, their common heritage, their essence.
    Thankfully goodwill seems to be present in abundance. Surely it is not beyond the wit of stakeholders to find a solution that provides appropriately for those people, AND relieves the Church of its financial problems.
    It is simply unthinkable that former residents could be denied access to the site.

  5. Thanks for some sensible and informed comment Bob. Your long distance lens is refreshing. Hopefully some sense and compassion will prevail.

  6. “Twas the night before Christmas, when all through the house
    Not a creature was stirring, not even a (Church) mouse.”
    Radio silence from the Diocese.

  7. @Rick Simpson: The silence is better than a quiet snap decision that locks former residents out of the site on a permanent basis.

  8. After the Federal Election in May there are now 11 Indigenous voices in parliament (MPs and senators who identify as Indigenous).
    That is larger percentage of the parliament than Indigenous Australians are of the nation as a whole.
    It would be good if one of them could speak up and offer their support for these former residents of St Mary’s.

  9. @ Eric Reynolds: Currently there is a Redress Scheme that will provide the following:
    Tax fee redress payment of up to $75,000.
    Tax free healing assistance payment of $7,000.
    However, some Stolen Generation members believe this is inadequate and families of members who have passed away along with carers and children of the Stolen Generation should also be compensated.
    This would increase the cost of compensation from $378.6m to at least $2 billion.
    There is a now a class legal action on behalf of the Stolen Generations of the Northern Territory who were forcibly removed from their families as children and have since passed away, as well as the carers and siblings of the Removed Children.
    While before the courts it would be inappropriate for politicians to comment.
    It is a pity that a claim for funds to purchase St Mary’s was not part of the Redress Scheme and has not been included by the Stolen Generation in their current class action.
    Perhaps the representatives of the Stolen Generation could explain why?
    I am sure that had a claim for funding the purchase of St Mary’s been included in the class action the church would have delayed the sale pending the outcome.

  10. Could the St Mary’s site be used for building a seniors’ lifestyle village? Giving access to visit by the former residents?

  11. @Evelyne Roullet: This is a good idea, It could be a seniors living precinct, generate revenue for the Diocese and also allow for ongoing access to the Chapel and other important areas for former residents. Why not?

  12. I would have thought that that is what Parliamentary privilege is for … to speak out without legal recourse on issues that matter?

  13. Mary Green makes a useful observation about Indigenous representation in the Parliament.
    I think there is a role for one of them to play here. Having said that any MP with a connection to NT could/should speak up and offer support.
    That is what they are elected to do. Maybe 2023 will be a year with more boldness and progress.


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