Brendon Garlett only took up painting recently, but already his designs are set to be featured on a St George NRL team jersey, and he has also used his gifts to foster partnership with Indigenous ministry. 

“I find it’s a way to tell a story,” says Mr Garlett, who pastors the Shoalhaven Aboriginal Community Church (ShACC). “For me, it’s just an expression, storytelling stories through pictures.” 

He was prompted by his wife to enter the St George Indigenous jersey design competition. “She said, ‘Oh, let’s have a go at it’ – so, I did and yeah, they liked it!” His design will feature on the St George jersey for this year’s rugby league Indigenous round. 

The gift for painting has helped the growing partnership of Sydney Anglican churches with Indigenous ministries. The Rev Michael Duckett, who chairs the Sydney Anglican Indigenous Peoples Ministry Committee, uses his paintings to communicate gospel truth. In Synod, he has presented painting and carving as powerful symbols of Christian partnership in the Diocese. 

Mr Garlett was visiting St Jude’s, Bowral, a link church of ShACC, when its rector, the Rev Dr Gavin Perkins, raised the idea of a special painting to hang at the church. 

“We have been able to support ShACC, pray for their ministry, and at the same time be enriched in our own understanding and appreciation for the work of Christ amongst Australia’s Indigenous people,” Dr Perkins says. “Brendon is a wonderfully gifted artist… [I thought], ‘Wouldn’t it be great to have a piece of Indigenous art that expressed our partnership in the gospel of Christ?’” 

To create the artwork Mr Garlett combined technology with ancient art. “I wanted to do something that connects Bowral and our church in Nowra,” he says. “I went on Google Maps and I saw the aerial view. I just drew a line from Bowral to Nowra and followed the road. 

“In Aboriginal art when you want to join places, like a journey, it’s usually three lines that connect them. So that’s what I went with, just like a journey. In Aboriginal symbols, I painted the mountain range, coloured it in green and then 
I included Kangaroo Valley and Cambewarra Mountain and Nowra.”

The painting now hangs in a special place at Bowral’s church centre. “I am so glad that Brendon was willing and able to create the work, which is titled ‘Connected in Christ’,” Dr Perkins says. “When we installed it, Brendon spent some time with the staff explaining the significance of the symbolism.”

Mr Garlett is pleased with the intersection of new tech and old art. “A lot of the Aboriginal art was usually landscapes, and it was aerial views – but they just kind of guessed what it looked like or probably saw it from mountains. They didn’t have the privilege to have Google Earth! 

“Now I can show the links between our gatherings, which symbolise our connections, surrounded by all our supporting churches as one big family of God.”