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Sister Eileen, an Anglican Deaconess, born on 29 November 1905, came to Alice Springs in 1946 at the request of the Diocese of Carpentaria and the Australian Board of Missions. Her role as Superintendent was to establish the St Mary’s Church of England Hostel, for Aboriginal children from remote communities which enabled them to attend school in the town. Although the hostel was basic and had frequent financial difficulties Sister Eileen strove to make it a friendly and caring place of learning, this was rare in a time when many Aboriginal children were being institutionalised.
By 1955, when Sister Eileen resigned, the Hostel had grown from 12 children to housing 71 children. Through her new role as a Field Welfare Officer with the Northern Territory Welfare Branch, Sister Eileen continued her work with indigenous people. She worked to provide services across a range of issues such as accommodation, health and the education of children. In 1961 she became a founding member and Secretary of the Prisoners Aid and Rehabilitation Association which provided prisoners with fellowship, guidance and support.
Eileen was also a member of the Northern Territory Parole Board from 1976 until 1988.
Aside from her work, Sister Eileen was also an active member of the local Girl Guides Association and gave 21 years service to the organisation. She helped establish a number of packs including the Alice Springs brownie pack, the Ida Standley pack and the Amoonguna Brownie Pack for Aboriginal children. In recognition of her long contribution to the local Girl Guides Association, she was awarded an ‘Order of Merit’ in 1970.
As a Deaconess with the Anglican Church in Alice Springs, Sister Eileen presided over baptisms, funeral services, played the organ, taught Sunday school and took an active part in the Ladies Fellowship. She was awarded a Member of the Order of the British Empire (MBE) in 1968 for her work in the community and was ordained a Deaconess in the Anglican Church in Western Australia in 1982. She was named Centralian of the Year in 1992 before retiring to live in Perth.
In the Bicentennial year of 1988 her name was included on one of the tiles featuring 200 famous Territorians laid in Darwin’s Esplanade Park.
Sister Eileen Heath passed away a month before her 106th Birthday on Saturday 22 October 2011 having given a life time of service to the care and education of young people in outback Australia.
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This webpage was updated June 2017.
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