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Partnering In Arnhem Land

MAF and Pioneers have had a partnership in Arnhem Land since 2014, but it has only been in the last year that things have really started to gain momentum. The Pioneers team has grown from one to four families, and one of the families is now based out in a remote community. Over the past year the partnership has only grown stronger.

MAF’s work in Arnhem Land provides Aboriginal homeland communities with access to healthcare, education and development opportunities as well as supporting the local church.

Over the years, MAF have received many requests from Yolngu believers in Arnhem Land for mentoring and discipleship. There have been so many that, alongside the constant demand for flights, our staff could not meet the growing need. In 2014 MAF invited Pioneers to work alongside them to meet this need and an MOU (Memorandum of Understanding) was signed, but for almost two years Pioneers was unable to find anyone willing to come to Arnhem Land.

Craig and Red Fulton joined MAF in mid-2010. Craig began in Arnhem Land as a pilot, but after three years took on the Programme Manager role from 2013 - 2016. Seeing the need for discipleship and with a strong desire to spend full-time ministry with the Yolngu people, Craig eventually left his role as Programme Manager and became the Team Leader for Pioneers at the beginning of 2017.

“I remember sitting in the car park – where all of our important decisions seem to be made!” Red laughed, “And Craig said to me, why are we waiting for a new family to come to Arnhem Land to fill this role? We should do it!” 

Having the Fultons step sideways from MAF into Pioneers has enabled a very strong partnership to form. With a number of years’ experience in both culture and language as well as within MAF, Craig and Red were well equipped to begin this new partnership.

“I see our partnership with MAF as synergistic,” Craig said. “Our unity will lead to our enhanced realization of both of our visions. Together our mission is to see the long-term transformation of the indigenous people of Arnhem Land through Christ. The result will be far greater than the two parts working separately.”
“Our hope is to see that grow even more, as we look for ways to enhance the unity between all Christians of this area,” Craig continued. “This will, in turn, enable God to work in this land.”

MAF supports Pioneers by offering discounted flights, inviting them to join Language and Culture courses as well as MAF retreats and conferences, sharing resources and spending time together in fellowship. MAF has also developed many relationships and connections within the communities and homelands, which Pioneers are able to build directly onto.

The vision of Pioneers is “Yolngu discipling Yolngu”. This is a long-term goal, but they are here for the long-haul. “All the members of our team have a long-term commitment to Arnhem Land, considering 10 years as a starting point,” Craig said. “We have realised that to make an impact in Arnhem Land, to build relationships, to see transformation, requires time. And we want to give this the time that it needs.”

Since 2017, the Pioneers team has grown from one to four families, with more in the pipeline.

Ed and Sal Hawkins had a clear vision about working with indigenous people, and in December 2017 they moved to Milingimbi as the first community-based family for Pioneers. Sal had this to say, “We are so blessed by the foundation that MAF has built here over all these years. There is a great fondness for all the MAF families who have lived here. The community accepted us straight away and we are reaping the benefit of the trust, love and respect MAF has already earned.”

Milingimbi is close to the heart of MAF staff. Having been based there for over 40 years, MAF saw the community reach a point of struggle. The young people were constantly caught sniffing fuel and their desperation also led them to break into the MAF aircraft to steal avgas. When sniffed, it was having a disastrous effect on their health because of the lead content. After many attempts to work with the community and the elders, it became apparent that we were not going to see an end to the fuel sniffing in the near future, and the difficult decision was made to temporarily relocate our MAF family and our aircraft out of Milingimbi.
This makes us even more grateful for our partnership with Pioneers. While we are not based in Milingimbi at present, the ministry still continues with our close partners, and our pilots still regularly fly in and out of this community.|
Our partnerships with organisations like Pioneers is exciting as it further empowers our vision to see physical and spiritual transformation in Arnhem Land.

Story: Pilot Brett Nel (MAF’s Ministry Coordinator in Arnhem Land) with Sal and Ed Hawkins.

Intro: Pioneers team from L to R: Red Fulton Fabio and Maria Zuglian with kids Leyla (front), Luca and Linda. Ed and Sal Hawkins Tim and Elyce Richards Craig Fulton with kids, Sienna (front), Johanna and Henry.


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