Jim Downing (1926 – 2009) theologian, social worker
A social advocate who devoted his life to helping Aboriginal people has been remembered as a larrikin and stirrer. “Jim listened, and heard the cries and ministered to those inner cries. He was a man of immense doggedness – if he thought an injustice had been done, he felt compelled to do something about it.
He was remembered by his wife as a passionate humanitarian who loved life. “He was very slow to judge,” she said.
“Jim listened, and heard the cries and ministered to those inner cries. He was a man of immense doggedness – if he thought an injustice had been done, he felt compelled to do something about it.
“There was not much religiosity … his faith was very strong and led him.”
Mrs Downing said her husband would always be remembered as a larrikin.
“Everyone called him a bloody stirrer,” she said.
“And a loving man – people always seemed to sense this about him.”
The couple moved to Alice Springs from Sydney in 1965 and Mr Downing immediately began working with Aboriginal people, eventually establishing the Institute for Aboriginal Development in Central Australia and later working for the Aboriginal Resource Development Services in the Top End.
He was rewarded for his work as a Member of the Order of Australia.
Originally Congregational, Downing was qualified in theology and social work. From a ministry with aborigines in Redfern, he moved to the Northern Territory where he learned Pitjantjatjara, acquired an aboriginal name and became a legend.
In Alice Springs he helped establish the Institute for Aboriginal Development in the late 1960s.
Later, in Darwin, he served through the Uniting Church’s Aboriginal Advisory and Development Services.
Leave a Reply, comments are welcome.