The population of Beltana swelled from 16 to nearly 400 people on the weekend as visitors came from near and far to celebrate the centenary of the establishment of the Australian Inland Mission (AIM).
Beltana, a tiny but remarkable settlement 540km north of Adelaide, holds a special place in the history of the AIM as the place where John Flynn began his work serving people in the outback.
The two-day celebration brought together all of those linked to the work of the AIM including Frontier Services, the Presbyterian Inland Mission and the Royal Flying Doctor Service.
Frontier Services National Director and Associate National Director Rosemary Young and David Buxton attended the event with South Australian Patrol Ministers Jenny Swanbury
and John Dihm.
“The Beltana community did the most amazing job of making the weekend possible. The sense of community was palpable and felt to me exactly like what Flynn hoped to build across remote Australia as people came together,” Ms Young said.
A Mission was established in Beltana in 1894 thanks to benefactor, Mrs Henrietta Smith of Dunesk in Scotland. Rev Robert Mitchell was the first padre. He was succeeded by Frank Rolland who advocated for a nurse and a hospital to support the people of the remote region.
In 1911 Flynn was called to the Smith of Dunesk Mission and it was here that he began to dream about how the church’s work could expand throughout the inland.
People attending the celebrations came from across Australia and even included a relative of Henrietta Smith who travelled from Scotland to be there.
Organiser Glenys Aird, who began planning 12 months ago, said it was a very successful event with a range of activities over the weekend.
More than 150 people attended a service inside the Smith of Dunesk Mission Church with seating outside to cater for the huge crowd.
Two books were launched at the celebrations – Beyond Beltana, a history of the town written by Pamela Rajkowski, which was launched by Rosemary Young, and Smith of Dunesk Mission, written by Rowland Ward.
A commemorative cairn was dedicated and a shelter for the local cemetery was unveiled over the weekend. Both were community projects built in the past year.
The Leigh Creek Medical Service had a health promotion stall for people from the region while the Royal Flying Doctor Service brought a simulator plane.
More than 100 entries were received in a photography competition which had the theme ‘isolation’. The winner donated the photo back to the Beltana Probus Association.
Top: David Buxton, Jenny Swanbury, Rosemary Young and John Dihm in Beltana.