Bro Justinian Thompson by Doug Jones
|LATE BRO. JUSTINIAN THOMPSON FSC - Outback Life of a Benedictine Brother
Justinian Thompson was unique, intrepid and a dedicated man. And we Sydney Bens had
the privilege of knowing him closely. He placed the Benedictine spirit of doing unto others in a
new persective with his yeoman service to an Aborigine community in the very harsh Australian
outback. His was truly a courageous Outback Life of a Benedictine Brother.
Bro. Justinian (Justy as he liked us to call him) first came to Australia in 1953. Here, he
worked for three years in Bathurst, a flourishing town in far west NSW and then accepted a
teaching position in New Zealand. On his return, he resumed teaching in Dandenong in
In 1984 Bro. Justinian was given an offer he didn’t want to refuse. He was asked to play
a pioneer role when the Lumpa School in Balgo Hills of Western Australia was handed over to
the De La Salle brothers..
Balgo, a remote and isolated area 270 kilometers south of Outback Halls Creek in the
Sandy Desert, is home to an Aboriginal community of 500 people making up five tribes. The
school came under the jurisdiction of the De La Salle Brothers from the State department of Education when Bro. Leo Scollen initiated the apostolate to fill a lacuna that the De La Salle
brothers, renowned for their educational accomplishments all over the world, had not, since their arrival in Australia in 1904, opened up a school for Aboriginal children. The Lumpa Catholic school was bilingual with 120 children on roll at the time. Religion was taught in all primary and secondary
classes up to Grade 10. “I took up teaching there to work with people I’ve come to love,” he confided in us once. “My early upbringing has enabled me to take on what seems to be a life of sacrifice, but a pleasurable work of mercy…”
As a schoolboy at St Benedict’s, Justinian loved to play soccer in the hot, blazing sun on the College quadrangle, getting drenched in perspiration and red in the face. It was no surprise
therefore for Justinian to embrace the opportunity offered to him, four decades later, to teach children in an Aboriginal community in the scorching desert of outback Australia where
even big air-conditioners cannot cope with the heat! Bro. Justinian characteristically became immersed in the Aboriginal cuture and became fluent in Kukatja and other tribal languages. In return he taught these people his own Sinhala language.
He was so devoted to the needs and welfare of the Balgo people that they made him Godfather to their children and revered him like a leader. Wherever Bro. Justinian travelled in the outback, he was welcomed like a “long lost brother” and honoured accordingly. On May14, 1998 he celebrated his jubilee of 60 years as a De La Salle brother. Bro. Justinian passed away Queensland after a brief illness and his remains were interred at the Brothers private cemetary at Oakhill College in Castle Hill here in Sydney.
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