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Fighting Spirit


A History of Christianity at Warruwi, Goulburn Island

By William W. Emilsen

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Goulburn Island or Warruwi has a big history.  Situated off the coast of West Arnhem Land, this small island has occupied a special place in the heart of the Methodist Church (later the United Church in North Australia and then the Uniting Church) and in the history of Indigenous Australia.  Before European colonisation, Macassans visited Warrruwi each year for centuries to fish trepang in its shallow waters.  Goulburn Island was first identified on world maps and charts by Captain Phillip Parker King while surveying the Australian coastline in the early nineteenth century.

In 1916 Goulburn Island was selected by the Rev. James Watson for the first Methodist mission in Arnhem Land. For much of Goulburn Island’s history, it has been a beacon of light, attracting scientists, adventurers, politicians and prominent photographers.  Many fine Christian leaders have emerged from Goulburn Island, including Australia’s first Aboriginal Methodist minister, the Rev. Lazarus Lamilami.  Fighting Spirit is a history of the dedication and resilience of all who have formed part of the community at Warruwi, a community which in the late 1970’s assumed responsibility for its own future.

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