5th July 2021

Rev Graham Paulson – First Ordained Indigenous Baptist pastor in Australia

This week, NAIDOC week, we celebrate the history, diverse culture and achievements of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples.

The BUV would like to particularly acknowledge and recognise Rev Graham Paulson, the first Indigenous minister to be ordained by the Baptist church in 1968.

Rev Graham Paulson

Image from Australians Together, used with permission from Rev Graham’s family.

Rev Graham’s extraordinary story to his appointment as a Baptist minister began when he was still subject to the Aboriginal Preservation and Protection Act, an “act some have suggested was adapted by South Africa for apartheid”. Rev Graham says this about his experience in an interview in 2004:

“Under the provisions of the Act a policeman had authority to arrest me without a charge, if he saw fit, and place me on a penal settlement without a trial and without letting my family know. After the 1967 referendum attitudes were changing, but the authority was still on the books.”

Despite this cloud of fear and uncertainty hanging over him and his family, Rev Graham continued his pastoral service and ministry until and after the Act was finally changed in 1972, four years after he was ordained.

With over 50 years of experience working in remote, rural and urban contexts and an extensive knowledge and background in Aboriginal identity and spirituality as an Indigenous elder, Rev Graham’s extraordinary contributions include:

• Serving with the Baptist mission agency ABMS and Global Interaction.
• Serving at Lajumanu and Wave Hill for the Wave Hill walk-off which is now remembered as “Freedom Day” at Kalkarindji (formerly Wave Hill settlement) in the Northern Territory, celebrated as the beginning of the land rights movement in Australia.
• Involved in the negotiations with the Fraser government during the 1970s in what is now known as the Makaratta Talks, a “kind of healing that addresses the deep wounds created by unresolved colonial history”.
• Serving as one of Australia’s premiere Aboriginal theologians with a substantial contribution to “exploring what it means to be truly Aboriginal and truly Christian in a post-modern Australia”.

Rev Graham continues to be a pillar of strength, knowledge and resilience to the Baptist and Aboriginal Communities. We want to acknowledge and celebrate his incredible contributions to not just the communities of faith here in Australia but to everyone as a whole.

We honour Rev Graham as he continues to nurture, teach and be an example to all about what it truly means to love God and to love our neighbour. Click on video here for more of his remarkable story.


Reference Articles:

Australian Baptist Ministries: The Old Man and the Voice of God: The Untold Story of The Wave Hill Walk-Off

Canberra Baptist

The “Makarrata: The Aboriginal healing process we should know about”

Australians Together: Aboriginal Spirituality

Uncle Graham Paulson: Developing Australian Identity

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