Smith of Dunesk Fund

When we hear the name 'Smith of Dunesk' we think of inland patrol ministry, Beltana, John Flynn, the AIM and Frontier Services.  But that's only part of the story.  

When a Scottish widow, Mrs Henrietta Smith, whose home was called Dunesk, purchased land in far away South Australia in 1851, it was her intention that the income from the land should be "entirely devoted to the education and evangelization of the Aborigines of South Australia."  The Free Church of Scotland were the trustees of this gift and  since they had been advised that the Aborigines in this State were a dying race the trust deed that was drawn up did not specify this intention but simply said "Christian work in South Australia."

Initially the fund supported a Free Church Missionary to the Aborigines, the Rev James Reid, who was based at Wellington on Lake Alexandrina but who unfortunately drowned while sailing on the Lake. It then gave some support to the work of the Rev George Taplin (a Congregationalist) at Point McLeay. There was considerable controversy about the use of the fund, particularly after Mrs Smith's death in 1871. Then in the 1890s, when inland patrol work was proposed by the Rev Robert Mitchell and others, the Presbyterian Church of South Australia believed that it would be an appropriate use of the fund and the Smith of Dunesk Mission was formed. 

 The original purpose of the fund was not forgotten, however, and after the establishment of the Ernabella Mission for Aborigines in the 1930s Dr Charles Duguid and others strongly asserted the claims of work amongst Indigenous people rather than the Australian Inland Mission that was seen as serving only 'white' settlers.  In 1936 the SA Presbyterian Assembly agreed to divide the income from the fund between the AIM and Ernabella.  At the time when the fund came into the Uniting Church after church union 75% was going to Ernabella and 25% to the AIM.

 Much has changed since then.  Aboriginal Missions became independent Indigenous Communities and Inland Mission/Frontier Services served people of all races.  The South Australian Presbytery and Synod meeting at the end of last year acknowledged the transfer of the invested funds of the former Smith of Dunesk Trust to TACL, Training Aboriginal Christian Leaders, a South Australian body that clearly fulfils Mrs Smith's original wishes.

Norah Norris

© Scots Church Adelaide  Ph. 08 8223 1505