Remembering Bishop Hale edited by Jane Lydon

Reviewed by Richard Tutin

The rediscovery of diaries of Bishop Mathew Hale for the period 1858-1868 in 2015 prompted the holding of a forum in Perth in 2018. The forum, through the lens of the diaries, focused on the period of Hale’s service and ministry as Bishop of Perth which at that time was a diocese that encompassed the whole state.

Hale was ordained a priest in the Church of England in 1837 and arrived in Adelaide in 1847 to be Archdeacon to the first Anglican Bishop Augustus Short. In 1856, he accepted the post as the first Bishop of Perth, but it was not until 1858 that he settled fully into the role he was to engage in for the next ten years.

This book, edited by Jane Lydon, contain the papers that were presented at the Forum. Each of the contributors present different aspects or facets of Hale’s life and ministry that fill out the person and provide us with a picture of his participation in key issues of nineteenth century of Australian colonialism. Church life in the colonies was in a state of transition with the Church of England facing the prospect of losing its established status in society while the Roman Catholic and other protestant churches were making both their presence and voices felt. At the heart of much of this debate and discussion was the prospect of how much monetary assistance the colonial governments and by default the Colonial Office in London were prepared to give to fund the provision of buildings and clergy now that the transportation of convicts was being reduced or had already ceased.

While he was Archdeacon of Adelaide, Hale’s interest in missionary work with Aboriginal communities in South Australia led in 1850 to the establishment of the Mission at Poonindie. Peggy Brock though in her paper on Early Missionaries in South Australia makes the point that Hale’s views how to proceed with this work was in direct contrast to that of the Lutheran missionaries who were working with the Kaurna people on the back of the Torrens River. Hale supported the model shaped by the established missionary societies that supported the establishment of reserves that would eventually support native townships and the separation of children at an early age from all connection with native customs and influences. The Lutherans believed that more would be achieved by learning the local language, customs and culture in order to effectively preach the Gospel and gain conversions.

The papers in this remembrance volume show that Hale was very much a man of his time though he was conscious of the need to address the issues such as ministering to convicts, the provision of clergy and establishment of parishes as well as the perennial need to find funds to support the growing church. He also had a great interest in education. While Bishop of Perth, Hale did establish a school that eventually grew into what is now the prestigious Hale School.

In 1875, Hale accepted the position as Bishop of Brisbane. He retired from active ministry in 1885 and returned to live in England after serving the colonial church in Australia for thirty-eight years. He lived in retirement near Bristol where he died in 1895.

Remembering Bishop Hale both reminds us of his contribution to church life in an age of change and reform and introduces him to those who may have heard of him but had not been able to read about him in any depth. Lydon and her colleagues allow us to see Hale’s life and complexities as he navigated through colonial life in a land that became his home for almost forty years.

Remembering Bishop Hale

Jane Lydon (editor)


Wakefield Press

ISBN 978 174305 865 7

$34.95; 156pp

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