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Governor-General zooms in on Katherine Hub

Governor-General zooms in on Katherine Hub

Governor-General zooms in on Katherine Hub

17 August 2021

Governor-General David Hurley and his wife, Linda, on the video conference call with (clockwise from left on the screen) South Australia/Northern Territory Divisional Commander Major Lance Jeffrey, Public Relations Secretary Captain Peter Jones, Katherine Corps Officer Auxiliary-Lieutenant Samuel Higginbottom and candidate helper Michellie Higginbottom.

By Darryl Whitecross

The Governor-General of Australia has been given a first-hand understanding of the ministry and mission of The Salvation Army Katherine Doorways Hub in a specially convened video conference call between the Australian Capital Territory and the Northern Territory.

His Excellency General the Honourable David Hurley AC DSC (ret.) and Her Excellency Mrs Linda Hurley had wanted to travel in person to the Top End town, but a COVID-19 lockdown in the ACT put paid to that, so a Zoom get-together was organised.

Joining the call was Katherine Corps Officer Auxiliary-Lieutenant Samuel Higginbottom, candidate helper Michellie Higginbottom, South Australia/Northern Territory Divisional Commander Major Lance Jeffrey (from Adelaide), and Northern Territory Public Relations Secretary Captain Peter Jones (from Darwin).

The Governor-General had briefly visited the town on Anzac Day this year, but his schedule did not allow time to visit the Katherine Hub. He said he would be back before the end of the year, but the current COVID-19 lockdown will prevent him. 

Situated on the banks of the Katherine River, about 320km south-east of Darwin, Katherine has a population of about 11,000. The Governor-General said it was “a vibrant town” and “an important part of the infrastructure and community of the NT”. 

“Our digital engagement program enables us to stay in contact,” he added. “It is important to Linda and me that we check in with local leaders to hear how their community is faring, particularly during the pandemic.”

Samuel said it was not only ‘grey nomads’ who travelled through Katherine, but it also was a strategic stopover point for First Nations people travelling around the Top End.

“It’s the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people who are very transient through Katherine as they either move east to west or north to south,” Samuel said. “We’re like the crossroads they need to come through, and that’s where they come and seek help, and he [the Governor-General] was really intrigued.”

Samuel said he also took the Governor-General and Mrs Hurley on a tour of the facility by walking a laptop around to each part of the centre.

“We were also able to conduct a virtual tour of the hub, say ‘hello’ to staff members and gain a better sense of the work being undertaken in Katherine,” the Governor-General said.

Samuel said he explained that homelessness was a significant issue in Katherine and the lack of public housing to accommodate people experiencing homelessness.

He said the Governor-General was keenly interested in the community programs and the worship component of the corps ministry. He was impressed to hear that about half the congregation was First Nations people.

“He was really interested to hear that we link our social centres in which our church [and] the clients who attend are invited to church and that it’s a welcome space for them,” Samuel said. “He wanted to hear the demographic of our church and how it’s been travelling.”

The Governor-General said the Army was one of Australia’s most “well-known and respected charities”.

“Every day, in all parts of Australia, including Katherine, the Salvos are on the ground helping people, particularly those experiencing homelessness,” he said. “The Katherine Hub is an excellent example of the Army’s support for the vulnerable members of our communities.

“We discussed the expansion plans for the hub and were particularly pleased to see the increase in the number of showers and the expansion of the laundry facilities.”

The Governor-General was also made aware that the daily breakfast and lunch meals program had been expanded in recent months, with a Saturday morning breakfast program now operating. Samuel said people experiencing homelessness or social isolation had been “going hungry at the weekend” as there had been no community services open to meet that need.

The Governor-General said he was still keen to visit the hub in person.

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