31 July 1960. Where were you? What were you doing?
Up in the Centre of Australia, they had just finished building a brand new, very modern hospital and had gathered to dedicate it ‘to the glory of God’. The gifted builder and brickmaker, Roy Burton, together with a work team of Aboriginal men, were proud of what stood before them in the middle of Hermannsburg.
It was the most up-to-date facility of its kind in the Northern Territory and would provide excellent health support for the community for many years to come. The men were quite weary from many months of labouring. They had made all of the 41,000 cement bricks, dried them in the sun and then carefully built up the walls of the hospital, nurses’ quarters, maternity block and ablutions block. Athol trees were planted along the fence lines. There was the smell of new paint … Everything was new!
Exactly 60 years later, people from Hermannsburg and Alice Springs gathered at the hospital to hear stories and give thanks and praise to God for those builders and for the many Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal nurses, cleaners and cooks who kept people healthy. We also remembered all those who were born there, or were treated and nursed back to good health again.
The highlight of the event was hearing the recorded 48-second greeting from none other than Roy Burton himself, now 94 years old and living in Box Hill in Melbourne. Some Aboriginal ladies who were nurses in the hospital joined hands to cut a large 60th anniversary cake, which was enjoyed by all present. While chatting after this, it was decided to ring Mr Burton. Amazingly he answered the phone and a number of people listened via speaker-phone as he talked for 20 minutes about his memories.
This was a historic event to remember, with thanks to God.
Five years ago a new modern clinic was built. The Carl Strehlow Memorial Hospital is slowly taking on a new life and being transformed into a cultural centre for the community and tourists.
Neville Doecke is the Ministry Support Worker for the Western Arrarnta Language Area.