Minister for Indigenous Affairs Nigel Scullion has paid tribute to Boniface Perdjert, Australia’s first permanent Deacon and the senior most Elder of Wadeye, who has sadly passed away.
“Today, we stand with our Indigenous brothers and sisters who are mourning the loss of a remarkable leader, grandfather, uncle, brother, father and Elder,” Minister Scullion said.
“Boniface was a strong, inspirational and passionate man. He dedicated his entire life to the cultural and spiritual lives of the people of Wadeye and the entire Daly region.”
Boniface was a senior elder of the Kardu Diminin clan and a Murrinhpatha language speaker, and the traditional owner of the land on which the town of Wadeye (Port Keats) is built.
He played a key role in educating and shaping the Kardu Diminin people, first as a teacher and then as a religious leader after he was ordained the first permanent Deacon in Australia in 1974.
“The role of the Catholic Church in Wadeye would not be as strong and powerful had it not been for Boniface,” Minister Scullion said. “Working with the Missionaries of the Sacred Heart, he helped propel the spread of the Catholic faith in his beloved community.”
In 1986, Boniface assisted as Deacon at the Mass celebrated by Pope John Paul II in Alice Springs when the Pope delivered his famous address to the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples.
He again assisted John Paul II in the Beatification Mass for Mary MacKillop in Sydney in 1995 and led the smoking ceremony. Boniface travelled to Rome for the Canonisation of St Mary of the Cross MacKillop in 2010 and took Missionaries of the Sacred Heart Father Leo Warden with him.
“Boniface was a key pillar of the Catholic Church not only in his community but across Australia,” Minister Scullion said. “His belief in his religion was as strong as his desire to guide people into faith.
“Although his physical presence will no longer be felt – his legacy remains and lives will continue to blessed and enriched for a long time to come.
“I extend my respects and deepest sympathies to the Perdjert family and the Kardu Diminin people.”