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Celebrating 50 years of flight

11 September 2015

Lieutenant Natalie Steele, Lieut-Colonel Noela Dawkins and Lieutenant Simon Steele cut the cake at the 50th anniversary celebrations of the flying padres. (Photo by Kate Glover)

Several past and present flying padres were among the guests as The Salvation Army's Outback Flying Service celebrated its 50th anniversary in the Mt Isa airport hangar on Saturday 5 September.

Lieut-Colonel Noela Dawkins (1965-70) and Majors Don and Eva Hill (1984-91) attended the occasion, along with current padres Lieutenants Simon and Natalie Steele, who have been based in Mt Isa since 2008, and Captain Mark Bulow, who is the South East Queensland Rural Flying Service chaplain, based at Dalby.

Lieut-Colonel Alf (dec.) and Noela Dawkins began the Australia Eastern Territory Outback Flying Service in Longreach in 1965. The service moved its base to Mt Isa in 2000, with the south-east Queensland base opening in Dalby in 2012.

“We feel very privileged and honoured to be a part of the rich history of the flying service and to be here when we’re celebrating a significant anniversary,” said Lieut Natalie.

Following a buffet lunch for invited guests, an open day was held for the public which attracted about 200 people. The flying padres' aircraft were on display, as was a range of historical photos and documents representing the past 50 years of the service.

A small brass-band ensemble provided music, there was a sausage sizzle and children were kept busy with a paper-plane competition, jumping castle and arts and crafts.

Among the dignitaries were Salvation Army Chief Secretary Colonel Mark Campbell, Salvation Army Divisional Commanders Colonels Merv and Elaine Rowland, Mt Isa Mayor Tom O’Grady, and Councillor Joyce McCulloch.

“I feel really thankful for the people that came together to celebrate,” said Lieut Natalie. “When you sit back and think that you’re a part of something bigger than yourself … and that these people all came together to celebrate this history and to rejoice in what God has done, it’s wonderful to be a part of that.”

Lieut Natalie said the flying padres' ongoing request was for prayer support – prayer for protection during travel, for rain to break the droughts, and for those they visit to be open and receptive to their ministry.

“Continued rural chaplaincy is an important part of ministry in the bush,” she said. “People need to be loved and that doesn’t change. We need to come alongside each other and we need to know we’re not forgotten and you’ve got someone with you when you’re going through tough times.”

By Nathalia Rickwood

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