The Noongar community and many other Western Australians are mourning the loss of Reverend Sealin Garlett who was much loved and respected for his cultural leadership and pastoral care.
Reverend Garlett was a respected elder of the Noongar community and passionate about keeping Noongar language alive. As a Minister of the Uniting Church in Coolbellup, Maaman ‘O’ Miya, he touched the lives of many people, both Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal, through conducting weddings, baptisms, funerals, Welcome to Country ceremonies, and the pastoral care that sometimes saw him travelling great distances to provide comfort to grieving families.
Reverend Garlett was born in 1957 in Bruce Rock and grew up speaking Noongar language and learning stories from his elders. But when he was around six years of age, he was taken from his family to Mogumber Methodist Mission. Describing this as a ‘new type of prison for Aboriginal people’ he saw his parents only three times over the next twelve years.
This originally alienated him from the church but in 1979 he felt called to the faith and spent four years at theological training college. Initially he wanted only to minister to Aboriginal people but after hearing a voice telling him to ‘cross the line’ he realised he was being called to minister to both Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal people.
He advocated on a range of issues concerning the Western Australian community such as justice reinvestment, mandatory sentencing, the stolen generations, the closure of remote communities, protecting the Beeliar wetlands and other sacred sites.
Reverend Garlett retired from the ministry in December 2016 and in June this year was awarded an Order of Australia medal.
As stated by Aboriginal Affairs Minister Ben Wyatt:
“Reverend Garlett was widely known and respected for his grace, compassion, justice and humility towards all people and became an advocate for reconciliation between Indigenous and non-Indigenous Australians.
“His passing will leave a large hole in the lives of many people and my deepest sympathy goes to his widow, children and grandchildren.”