Empowering Aboriginal & Torres Strait Islander Christian Leaders

The Grasstree Gathering is a national, inter-denominational and non-denominational event which brings together emerging and established Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Christian leaders from across Australia and from across denominations and churches. Grasstree Gathering’s vision is to celebrate, encourage, equip and inspire an emerging generation of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Christian Leaders.

The inaugural gathering was held in March 2012 in Belgrave Heights in Victoria.  The 2013 and 2014 gatherings were held in Brisbane.

The Grasstree Gathering was the vision of Aunty Jean Phillips and has endorsement by senior Aboriginal Christian Leaders including Uncle Graham Paulson, Uncle Ray Minniecon, Uncle Neville Naden and Uncle Rex Japanangka Granites.

The aims of the Grasstree Gathering are:

  1. Create a network amongst established, emerging and young Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Christian leaders
  2. Offer theological and community development, training and equipping
  3. Encourage and empower, new and existing, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander ministry workers
  4. Provide a platform to discuss issues affecting our communities and the issues affecting our people
  5. Explore pathways for the wider church to partner with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander ministries
  6. To have representation from remote, rural and urban Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities

Why the Grasstree?

Grasstrees_1045x1375.jpgWe think that the Australian Grasstree gives a great analogy for the character and identity of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Christian Leaders. We’ve also been inspired by the Biblical passage of Isaiah 61 that refers to “Trees of Justice” – a prophetic encouragement to many Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Christians. This year, one of our Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Christian Leaders, Safina Stewart, has painted “Grasstrees” which you will see on the back page of the program. Here are her words on Grasstrees to accompany the artwork she has done for each and every one of us.

Title: Grasstrees
Artist: Safina Stewart
Country: Mabuiag Island, Torres Straits. Wuthithi country, QLD.
Date: 2014
Website: www.artbysafina.com.au

The Grasstree (also known as the XanthorrhoeaI or Blackboy) is a slow growing and natural architectural feature of the Australian landscape. They can live for many hundreds of years in harsh environments. Yet, today their survival is threatened.

To our Aboriginal people the Grasstree has always been a precious resource. Each part of the grasstree can be utilised – the seeds can be ground for flour, the tender white leaf bases are edible, its nectar can make sweet cordial, its resin used like glue, and its fibres and stalk used to make tools and weapons. The Grasstree is an immensely useful, versatile resource.

We have named our gathering of emerging and established Indigenous Christian Leaders “The Grasstree Gathering” because of the symbolic parallels we have to the Grasstree. As emerging and established Indigenous Christian Leaders we recognise the value of gathering together, sharing stories of hope and encouragement. Therefore, becoming even more ‘immensely useful, versatile resources’ to the communities from which we come from, to Christian ministry, and to the leadership of Australia.

In this painting, each Grasstree is different yet strong in its uniqueness and capacity. Despite being rooted at a cliff edge and surrounded by fog, they stand together, dignified and tall in their purpose.

Isaiah 61:3-4 (CEV)

“…They will be called “Trees of Justice”, planted by the LORD to honour his name. Then they will rebuild cities that have been in ruins for many generations.”


  • Contact

    Brooke Prentis
    Grasstree Gathering volunteer coordinator
    [email protected],
    [email protected]

    Aunty Jean Phillips
    07 3378 8901