Reverend Alexandra Hazel Gater (59), a prominent member of the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Island community in Brisbane, is an Anglican priest and chaplain at the Brisbane Womens and Sir David Longland Correctional Centers. An elder in the Murri Magistrate Court, she advocates tirelessly in the justice system for humane treatment of incarcerated indigenous people. For over a decade, she has represented Brisbane on the National Torres Strait Islander Anglican Council, fighting to raise awareness of issues such as racism, the Stolen Generation, and the need for reconciliation.
Growing up on Cherbourg Aboriginal Mission in rural Queensland, Alexandra (Alex) Gater attended church regularly. When the priest failed to turn up one Sunday, she decided to lead the service herself. I was just 12 years old, she laughs. I thought, obviously Gods got plans for me! More than 40 years later, Aunty Alex returned as an Anglican priest, the first Aboriginal woman in Queensland to be ordained, and baptized 12 of her own community. It was a moment of joy for the human rights advocate and proved that a young Aboriginal woman could rise above a background of severe poverty, limited education, and racial intolerance (that blights the lives of so many indigenous Australians) to live the life of her dreams. Few would aspire to such a life, or have the stamina to deal with it. Alex works as a chaplain at two womens prisons and does emergency visits to eight more. In one day, she might provide counseling for a prisoner contemplating suicide at one prison then comfort the grieving family of a suicide victim at another. Her anger at the ready incarceration of indigenous youths for minor offences and the disproportionate number of Aboriginals in Australian prisons (at one per cent of the population, Aboriginals are jailed at 18 times the rate of non-indigenous Australians) made Alex challenge the mindsets of church groups, national bodies, and the government itself. I have a right to be angry when I see how Gods people have been oppressed, she declares. She was recently appointed to the Crime and Misconduct Committee, investigating allegations of unfair treatment of indigenous people by the police and other agencies. Alexs energy for realizing her dream of improved lives for Aboriginals is unwavering: We were all created in Gods image, all of us. It is time Aboriginal people were acknowledged and accepted.
Anglican Church of Queensland Murri Magistrate Court
Oceania | Australia