Early Gospel Outreach

In November 1894 the Petersham Christian Endeavour Society erected a house at La Perouse near the mouth of historic Botany Bay where Miss J Watson lived and worked among the local indigenous people. Ill health forced an early resignation and Miss Retta Dixon took up the ministry in 1896. By 1899 work had spread to four other centres and the New South Wales Aborigines Mission was formed.

In 1905 Retta Dixon moved to the Singleton district in the Hunter Valley, where a local committee formed the Aborigines Inland Mission of Australia. The first AIM centre was at St Clair and a childrens’ home was opened at Singleton. An out-station was established on the Karuah River near Port Stephens.

Opportunities for ministry and numbers of workers expanded rapidly and AIM was soon reaching out to many parts of NSW. By 1909 Retta Dixon had married Leonard Long and, following a survey of the needs, AIM had commenced work in Queensland, with a centre established at Herberton in the far north. During the 1930s AIM began work in the “Top End” of the Northern Territory.

The Early Church

From the very beginning ministry was aimed at establishing Aboriginal Christians to lead and guide their own people. With the benefit of hindsight, AIM would recognise that hurt was caused through continuing for too long with paternalistic attitudes. Despite difficulties many churches have grown up which, whilst not exclusively Aboriginal, do have strong indigenous social and cultural perspectives.

In the eastern states there are long established Christian fellowships. Church structure has strengthened through establishing the AIM Church Council, a council of representatives of indigenous churches. This AIM Church Council now takes responsibility for such things as the appointment
of pastors, the holding of property, and oversight of an itinerant Bible School ministry based at Rockhampton, providing regular short-term intensive courses at a number of major centres.

In the Northern Territory and Western Queensland most of those ministered to are tribal Aborigines, mostly semi-literate, and often in desperate circumstances, living in isolated places with little or no resources. A number of the larger communities where AIM ministers have social degradation almost beyond belief.

AIM continues to place its major emphasis on preaching, teaching and applying of the Word of God. Through developing good living skills, better health and education, and ability to cope with temptation and trouble, AIM is seeking to build a sound Aboriginal Christian community.

Missionaries are placed at major centres like Darwin and Alice Springs, and in Aboriginal communities, and outback towns. Some undertake a local pastoral/teaching role and are helping to evangelise, to disciple believers, and to develop leadership and a local indigenous church. Others engage in wide-ranging itinerant ministries,
visiting small groups and families and travel many thousands of kilometres every year.


For more than thirty years AIM has provided literature specifically designed for Aborigines through Mission Publications of Australia, previously a joint venture with United Aborigines Mission. Aboriginal Christians are asking for good material in “Simple English”. AIM continues with the ministry of MPA to help provide these resources.

Today & Tomorrow

As with many contemporary mission societies, AIM needed to restructure and refocus for the future. A change of name reflects changes that have taken place. Whilst retaining the initials AIM the organisation is now known as Australian Indigenous Ministries. “Inland” was no longer appropriate with current ministries in urban areas and islands to the north. “Ministries” was preferred to “Mission” reflecting more of the present reality of working with Aboriginal Christian groups, and because the word “mission” was strongly and negatively associated with government institutions in outback areas.

AIM retains its emphasis on sending out full-time workers in evangelising, discipling, training and counselling work, ministering the Gospel of Jesus Christ.
Today AIM also seeks to work with the local Aboriginal communities and government agencies to help with the provision of services to relieve some of the desperate situations. Health care and education remain areas of great need amongst indigenous Australians. AIM appoints Associate Workers to work, for example, in government jobs as doctors and nurses.

Such Christian service with a genuine long-term commitment to the people is greatly appreciated. AIM workers in Aboriginal communities encourage and support local Christians and have many opportunities for sharing the Gospel through their many contacts.

There remains much to be done. Aboriginal Christians from many parts of the nation are
asking for help in taking the Gospel to their own people. The emphasis now is on partnership in this work, with Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal working alongside each other to develop a sound Bible-teaching ministry as a foundation for a strong Church.

Providing and maintaining ministry, especially to isolated areas, involves great commitment in personnel and resources. There is a continuing need for specially gifted and qualified people to take on this ministry, coupled with the need for
the ongoing support of the wider Christian community in this important field of mission in our own “backyard”.

If you would like more information, or would like to know how you might help then contact the AIM office.