Ronnie Williams (1940 – 2003) aboriginal pastor
Ronnie Williams was an aboriginal pastor and elder with a passion for mentoring young men, who was widely regarded as a father in the faith and a leader in reconciliation.
Tribute to Mr Ronnie Williams
NSW Legislative Council Hansard – 12 November 2003
Reverend the Hon. Dr GORDON MOYES
My good friend the Aboriginal leader Ronnie Williams died a week ago. He was 63 years of age. He was the spiritual father to the Fatherhood Foundation established by Warwick Marsh that does so much good to inspire fathers to be better fathers for the sake of their children.
Ronnie Williams was a fatherless child himself. He knew what it was like to be separated from his mother and family by the dreaded rabbit-proof fence welfare police. He was separated by the welfare policies about which we understand so much in recent times. The story of his life and his charitable work may be found in a book written by his wife, Diana Williams, entitled Horizon is Where Heaven and Earth Meet, published in 2001 by Bantam Books.
Honourable members may have seen a remarkable, memorable Australian Story on ABC television about Ronnie Williams and his wife. Ron told the story of saying, “G’day mate” with a smile to a man in the streets of Sydney who was staring at him. This same man turned angrily to Ron Williams and snarled in his face, “You black bastard! I hate you … I wish to God that my forefathers had killed you all … you talk like us, you wear our clothes, but I still hate you!”
While this made Ron sad, it did not stop him from helping, loving and providing counsel to all who asked, whether they were indigenous, European, black or white. Last Friday, 7 November, the Great Hall at Parliament House in Canberra resounded with the sound of black and white alike singing songs of thanksgiving for the life of Pastor Ronnie Williams and for his love and service to the people of Australia, black and white. He is only the second person since the Federal Parliament building has been open to be accorded the honour of a memorial service in the Great Hall of Parliament House in the Australian Capital Territory. It is a fitting tribute to a man of the people who was also a man of God. He met with heads of state, business executives, fatherless children and prostitutes, and accorded them all the same respect.
It was a moving experience for those of us who knew him when he fell in love with Diana Williams. Diana, an American academic who was studying in Australia, fell in love with Ronnie. In order to understand Aboriginal culture, she lived with Ronnie after marriage in a cave on the traditional family grounds. She shared this story about her husband Ron and his background, tradition and culture. Last week she shared with us an episode that happened just 24 hours before he died. Three doctors came to his bedside to report the bad news that the cancer was too aggressive and that further treatment would be of doubtful value. When the doctors told him, Ron lifted the oxygen mask off his face and said:
I don’t want any further treatment. I have made my peace with God, I am ready to meet my maker.
Then, taking his wife’s hand, he continued:
I have had a wonderful life with a wonderful wife and daughter. I want to thank you doctors and hospital staff for your patient and loving care while I have been here. I just want to say that the most important thing in someone’s life is to love your family.
The doctors were deeply moved and surprised. They had never before received such thanks and love from anyone in such deep pain and at the point of death. He did not replace the oxygen mask, and died. The spirit of Ronnie Williams, this remarkable indigenous leader, lives on.
Horizon is where heaven and earth meet: A love story that crossed boundaries
Fatherhood Foundation award for Ronnie Williams for having significantly contributed to fatherhood reform in Australia.
Aboriginal pastor & elder with a passion for mentoring young men. Widely regarded as a father in the faith and a leader in reconciliation.
Fatherhood Foundation :
Rare lantern slides offer window into life on remote Aboriginal missions in the 1930s
Influential Australian aboriginal Christians
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