On Monday 21 February, Mitchell Garlett and Uniting Church WA’s General Secretary, Rev Dr Andrew Williams, met to sign Mitchell’s contract of placement with the Uniting Aboriginal and Islander Christian Congress WA Regional Committee.
Mitchell, a graduate in Christian Ministry and Theology from Nungalinya College in Darwin, had been authorised for ordination by the Uniting Church Presbytery of WA in November 2021. His placement commences on Tuesday 1 March, 2022.
A Whadjuk Nyungar man, Mitchell is the son of the late Rev Garlett AM and Marilyn, née Riley. He and his wife, Janice, are the parents of four boys, one girl and have a toddler grandson.
Following in his Father’s Footsteps
Mitchell’s father, Rev Garlett also trained initially at Nungalinya College and was ordained in 1991 at Coolbellup Uniting Church, now called Maaman “O” Miya – where Mitchell’s placement will be based.
Rev Garlett was a Stolen Generations survivor who, at age 7, was taken from his family camp and placed at Mogumber Methodist Mission – he only saw his parents twice during the next 12 years. In an open-hearted interview on ABC Radio1 some years ago, Rev Garlett described hearing a voice say “you got to cross the line”. After serving, until then, in Christian leadership amongst First Peoples, he understood in his heart that the line to cross was to serve amongst Second Peoples also – the very people who represented to him so much pain. Rev Garlett went on to be ordained in the Uniting Church and in 1995 become the Chairperson of the Uniting Aboriginal and Islander Christian Congress (UAICC) WA Regional Committee where he worked tirelessly to promote the culture, rights and recognition of First Peoples and reconciliation between First and Second Peoples.
Mitchell himself has been a longstanding member of the UAICC. In November, he represented the UAICC at the launch of the Stolen Generations memorial, ‘Mia Mias’, in Wellington Square, East Perth. Through his placement, he will continue to be a representative and also a spokesperson of the UAICC.
Of his father, Mitchell said, “Dad retired in 2016, but never left the Church”. Interestingly, Mitchell noted that 2016 was the very same year that he made the decision to enter into a Period of Discernment which led to him becoming a Candidate for Ministry. In his new role, as well as serving Maaman “O” Miya, Mitchell will provide ministerial support, as needed, to the Uniting Church WA’s Waroona and Tammin faith communities.
Sharing Culture and Spirituality
Through his father, a fluent Nyungar speaker, other Nyungar elders and his connection to Whadjuk country, Mitchell is the beneficiary of a culture, language and spirituality of one of the longest surviving peoples and cultures in the world.
“It all started when I was very young, and it came from my Dad” he said. “I didn’t get this out of books, it was something that I learnt from listening – and it was important for me to know”.
Mitchell shares his knowledge, culture and connection to his land with us, particularly at Welcome to Country and Smoking Ceremonies.
In a previous interview, he said “A Welcome to Country is to welcome people to the land of the Traditional Custodians of the area, and also to thank the ancestors for allowing meetings, events or whatever it is to take place in that area….It’s important to do Welcomes for people who do not know Nyungar ways …. It gives them the opportunity to listen with respect and to be a part of allowing our ways to be your ways, in treating our land with respect and listening to our language.” He described a Smoking Ceremony as a process of cleansing and healing2.
Going Home and Looking Forward
After the signing of his placement contract, Mitchell said, “the process was smooth, in line with my expectations and confirmation to me that I am moving in the right direction. I am looking forward to honouring God as an individual, a family, a congregation and a community”.
Reflecting on his long association with Maaman “O” Miya where his Dad was ordained over 30 years ago, he said, “It feels like going home”.
As for his vision for the future, he added, “My hope is for the light to continue to shine, but even brighter”.