The last few months have been a little frustrating for the Flying Padre, David Shrimpton, with his wings being clipped.
His 1974 Cessna 182 has been grounded while a new engine is being fitted.
Despite the frustration, he said that it is a blessing to give a new lease of life to his hardworking plane which operates out of Broken Hill and covers an area of approximately 200,000 square kilometres in the State’s far west.
The Broken Hill Flying Patrol is a joint project of the Uniting Church Macquarie Darling Presbytery and the Synod of NSW and ACT. The patrol is funded by the Uniting Church through donations from churches and individuals.
Individual donations and a very generous $50,000 donation by one Sydney Presbytery was instrumental in enabling the new $70,000 engine to be fitted.
Rev. Shrimpton hopes to be back in the air later this month. He says the need in the regional and remote areas of the State is greater than ever.
“Often the impact of COVID-19 has been focused on the big cities, but it has had a big impact on regional communities and remote areas and stations,” he said.
“For some of the small towns caught up in the COVID-19 lockdown since August, there has been rising mental health issues. People are struggling and many towns are also hurting with a lack of tourists that keep many businesses afloat.
“The internet isn’t as good as it is in the city, so people are struggling. It’s hard to keep up with their work and school. People struggle to know what to do.”
Rev. Shrimpton said that on the remote properties there were different issues. The everyday work on the farm was ‘business as usual’ but it has been much harder to get workers. And many families that have children at boarding school have found their kids are stranded interstate and unable to come home.
He says COVID-19 has also worked to overshadow the mental health crisis that had already enveloped many people in remote areas of the state in the wake of the last devastating drought. And while there was some good rain and the dams are full, the spring rains were poor and there is very poor growth of grasses in many parts of the state.
“The pressure on farmers is great and COVID-19 has intensified that pressure in many ways,” he said. “It is very difficult and there is a lot of fear and concern. There is also heightened concern in the Aboriginal communities that I visit, where vaccine hesitancy is high and vaccine rates low.”
Rev. Shrimpton is a Uniting Church Minister who makes himself available to people in the remotest areas of the state – he is available for all religious services including baptisms, weddings, funerals, or even to just be someone to talk to over a cuppa.
The area covered by the patrol is approximately 200,000 km2, stretching north and south to the borders of Queensland and Victoria, west 200 km into South Australia and east to Emmdale Roadhouse and Ivanhoe.
In many remote areas there is not a Uniting Church and certainly not a Uniting Church minister in many of the smaller towns around the far west of NSW.
“It means people can’t attend a church service, but it also means there is not the same level of support that the church can offer in more larger towns,” Rev. Shrimpton said.
Rev Shrimpton has been the Flying Padre for more than seven years. It costs $50,000 a year to keep him in the air. Budget pressures are always high, especially with the rising cost of aviation fuel.
To donate go to Broken Hill Flying Patrol (wixsite.com)
Media Lead, Uniting Church Synod of NSW and the ACT
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