Father Tom Kessey
I came to Australia with the view of staying for a short time and then going back to my country, Tanzania. I am a Roman Catholic Priest, a member of the Congregation of the Holy Ghost Fathers, or (Spiritans) entrusted with the care of St John the Baptist Parish in South Hedland. After my ordination I was assigned to work in a minor seminary with a High School for seven years, at the end of my time I was tired and was looking for a renewal course. It took me nine months to get the visa to come to Australia and I arrived in October, by this time the short course was not available so I was asked to supply this parish for six months, this was in 2001, so I have now been here for 12 years. There are two reasons for this, firstly, it is hard to find someone to replace me, and I also started getting involved in the community, with both Indigenous and Non-Indigenous people. I have a real passion towards the Indigenous community. I do quite a bit of work with Maureen Kelly, she gives a lot of support at Yandeyarra and with St Vincent de Paul, which is a shop for selling clothes.
My first impression of Port Hedland was that it was so hot, where I come from we have a cool climate, when its 28 degrees we complain. I come from an area with big trees , here it was just shrubs and dry, not green at all. I thought, could I manage to stay here? Tanzania is a very unique and peaceful country, with the highest mountain in Africa. I came from Kirua Vunjo in Kilimanjaro Region, it is a small village where the villagers get involved in cultural activities and also produce coffee and maize banana, they have small projects for poultry, and zero grazing, which provide them with daily food and income. Today, many have abandoned the coffee farms because the price for coffee has gone down.
When I was a young boy, I offered myself to the church and started to help the poor. I did my studies and finished training at University when I was 29; it took me eight years of training to in Tanzania to become a Priest. I belong to the third generation of Catholics in the Moische area. My Grandfather was first to join the Catholic Church. My Father was a teacher, training young men, my Mum was a housewife and was very involved in the family, we are 14, 11 from the same Mum - seven boys and four girls, my parents are good Catholics. We adopted three more children. My Dad passed away in 2004, which was a big loss for the family and Mum died in 2010. Through out their lives they worked so hard to make sure, we got a good education, they were very inspirational and a great model in life. For this we are so grateful to God.
People in Port Hedland are friendly and accommodating. There is a lot of richness in terms of all the cultures and I love to relate to all these different people, who accept me, in spite of my accent. We face some difficulty with the transient population and FIFO doesn’t encourage growth of communities. Another big change for me was, where I come from, we may have 1,000 people at a mass, here there is usually around 30, or 100 at the highest for a holy communion, Easter or Christmas.
With the parish there is very good involvement, we have people who do a lot of volunteer work, to build up our parish community, people are very generous, they're always ready to help when there is a need. We have a charity walk, where some of our members climbed Mount Kilamajaro, that included Tom Stephens with his family and last year we had a group of 14, accompanied by Kelly Howlett with the money being used to support orphanage and schools in Moschi.
We have a very good parish team with Sister Jane Ablett, Father January Mkude and Father John Martin, who give a lot to the community.