Record Rewind: Pioneer Indigenous missionaries

Richard and Jessie Richardson were Indigenous Australian missionaries to Papua in the 1930s.

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Source: Encyclopedia of Seventh-day Adventists.

Richard and Jessie Richardson were the first Seventh-day Adventist Indigenous Australian missionaries to Papua, and served there in the 1930s.

Richard Richardson, commonly known as Dick, was born about 1910 in a small Indigenous community in the rain forests around Crystal Cascades, west of Cairns, Queensland. His mother was Kitty Courtney. His boyhood and youth were spent at the Mona Mona Mission, further west of his birthplace. At the mission settlement he met Jessie Snider. They married on August 2, 1931. Both were very active in the Sabbath School and Missionary Volunteer Society activities. Dick was taught carpentry and Jessie assisted at the mission elementary school.

When the 1931 Australasian Union Conference Session was held Dick and Jessie were appointed to mission service in Papua. They were the first Indigenous Australian missionaries to go to the Pacific Islands. On November 20 they sailed from Cairns aboard the SS Montoro, disembarking at Port Moresby and transferring to a smaller vessel that took them east along the coast to their destination at Aroma Mission Station.

Aroma was still in the early stages of development. Living quarters were primitive. In Jessie’s first report from Aroma she wrote of large holes in her home and the west wind blowing sand through them into the rooms. Dick put his initial energies into building a sawmill to provide timber for better buildings. He and Jessie endured their unsatisfactory quarters while he built a home for Alma Wiles, the nurse on the station. Then he erected a home for Ross and Mabel James who were in charge of the station. During these improvements, Dick and Jessie were gradually learning the local language and helping to conduct five branch Sabbath Schools in the vicinity.

The Richardson’s adapted quickly to the new culture and conditions. In 1934 they were given responsibility for the Vailala River Mission Station and later, served at Mirigeda Mission. On completion of this assignment they returned to Aroma and remained there until 1939. It was recorded that “their service was greatly appreciated by all and, as pioneers, their name will not be forgotten” (Record, June 7, 1967).

After overseas mission service Dick and Jessie returned to Queensland. Dick accepted the role of farm manager at the Mona Mona Mission—with the orchard, vegetable gardens, and cattle ranch coming under his care. At the same time he gave Bible instruction to the students and grew into a respected preacher at the Kuranda church. He passed away peacefully in the Cairns Base Hospital on June 14, 1967, and was laid to rest in the Kuranda Cemetery.

Of their nine children, four were born in Papua, Leonard (1932), Robert (1934), Ernest (1936) and Grethel (1939). Jessie outlived five of her children, passing away in Cairns on December 7, 2002, aged 92.


Dr Milton Hook. Sourced from the Encyclopedia of Seventh-day Adventists. Visit <encyclopedia.adventist.org>.