Ian Robinson interview, 21 August 2014 and 28 August 2014

Dublin Core


Ian Robinson interview, 21 August 2014 and 28 August 2014




Ian Robinson has a passion to see people take a fresh look at Christian faith, walk the talk and connect deeply with God. He is known to be someone who gives honour to God. He has a capacity to identify the strengths in persons and programmes, think them through biblically, make them understandable to others, pass on the story and inspire action. He is also skilled in building networks and creativity in ministry. All these skills are made available to the church and community through the work of Tall Trees ReSource Inc. Makes You Wonder is only one of his passions. He has established several ministry groups – Southcare, Help Street Foundation, Spirit Journeys Australia, and the Australian Research Institute for Desert Spirituality. He has also authored/edited several manuals and books, including Praying the Gospel, Gossiping the Gospel, This Thirsty Heart, If Anyone Thirsts, New Beginnings, Stop Look and Listen, Streams in the Wasteland, Broke, and Growing an Everyday Faith.He has worked widely across Australia, New Zealand, several other nations and many language groups. As well as principal consultant for Tall Trees ReSource Inc, he is Uniting Chaplain at the University of Western Australia. He has held many ministry roles in church and community. He is at present co-convenor of Bringing Them Home Committee (WA) and was for eight years a member of the Uniting Church National Mission & Evangelism Network.


Robinson, Ian


University of Western Australia Historical Society


Copyright holder University of Western Australia


MP3 files


Oral History

Oral History Item Type Metadata


Julia Wallis


Ian Robinson


University of Western Australia and Karawara, WA


Interview 1: 1 hour, 3 minutes, 18 seconds
Interview 2:1 hour 22 minutes, 3 seconds
Total: 2 hours, 25 minutes, 21 seconds

Bit Rate/Frequency

128 kbs

Time Summary

Interview 1

Track 1
00:00 Introduction by Julia Wallis

Track 2
00:00 Ian was born in West Midland, WA. His parents were of UK origin. His father’s side of the family farmed at Brookton. Ian’s father was very community minded and loved camping in the bush. He encouraged his children to progress. Ian enrolled in biomedical sciences at UWA but quit half way through and worked. He studied Philosophy part-time.
06:12 Ian enjoyed UWA – the sport and the social life and he joined the Evangelical Union. He loved learning but felt that the teaching could have been improved. He saw his future wife to be, Margaret, on his first day, going into the Octagon Theatre. He was at UWA from 1970 to 1975. He studied part-time in 1973 and qualified with a BA which included science units and English and Philosophy. Ian felt more suited to the Arts. In High School he was directed towards science and feels that it was more highly regarded.
12:34 The teaching between the science faculty and the arts faculty was very different. Ian worked as a clerk for the first half of his BA and then had saved enough money to study full-time. He had no idea what he wanted to do when he qualified. He had been a youth worker part-time in 1975 and got a job in Personnel (now known as Human Relations). He detested this job and felt that the work in no way tried to assist the well-being of the workers.
19:02 Ian’s next job was in IT which was interesting and creative. He wrote small programmes and witnessed the effect of computers on the workplace. Ian and a colleague wrote the first programme in Western Australia on MS DOS. The thinking training he had learned at UWA (particularly in Philosophy) helped in this role. He left this job to study Theology.
22:19 Ian had become a Christian in High School. His family were not religious. He had been Vice President of the Christian Union at UWA. He was dismayed that you were expected to be an atheist if you were a scientist or a philosopher. He had an epiphany while reading the bible at home one day and decided to enter the church. He went through a selection process to be accepted. He refused to attend the Theological College in Sydney. He wanted to go to a college overseas for perspective but it had to be a place with heart, a strong intellectual base and that taught the history of religion. In addition, he wanted some practical ministerial work. Ian studied at Wycliffe Hall, Oxford. He gained a Masters’ degree at Oxford.
31:00 He was at Oxford for three years and he and Margaret stayed in a little flat near the college. At the time, Oxford, along with Manchester University, was pioneering the use of computers to analyse biblical text. Ian enrolled in this course as well as a course in biblical archaeology at the Ashmolean Museum. He spent a summer in Israel. The course surpassed his expectations and he had to work extremely hard. It was a stimulating environment. The teaching staff was generally excellent but he was not so impressed with Maurice Frank Wiles the Regius Professor of Divinity. The range of students was broad in terms of age and origin.
36:42 The practical work involved helping to run a youth group in a village outside Oxford. In his second year, he visited a juvenille detention centre. Ian found some people were dismissive of people from the colonies. Margaret was working part-time and they lived off their savings and Margaret’s wages. She came to college for the evening meals. They made many lifelong friends here and enjoyed the theatre and trips into the countryside.
43:13 Ian was offered a job in Israel but returned to Australia at the end of 1980. He got a job at a Presbyterian Ministry working in a new public housing estate at Karawara (next to Curtin University). It had the highest density in the Perth metro. People accepted Ian but thought he knew nothing about life! He listened to them but didn’t try to change them. They did not have an actual church building. The church provided food parcels. This turned into Southcare and Second Harvest . The bulk of the refugees resident on the estate were from Chile. They worshipped at the Catholic Church. Aboriginal people had their own church too.
53:58 As a result of these experiences, Ian ran a Churches Among the Poor course which led to the formation of the WA Urban Mission Network which included 20 different churches. The churches among the poor called themselves CHAMP and used Wonder Woman as their symbol. There were very few female ministers. The Anglican Church did not have women ministers at this time.
57:33 Religious integrity must transcend church politics and traditions. The outreach is more important to Ian than the church structures. The churches are united in helping refugees and other groups and co-operate on projects. The Uniting Church led the Stolen Generation project. The Anglicans are good at housing, welfare and government policy as are the Catholics. The Pentecostal churches, Churches of Christ and Baptist Church connect better with the youth through music and sport.

Interview 2

Track 1
00:00 Introduction by Julia Wallis

Track 2
00:00 Started work as Uniting Chaplain at UWA on 1 May 2008. Trinity College at UWA was founded by the Uniting Church but is strictly secular. Ian works part-time. The Catholic chaplain, Father Armando Carandang, has recently retired. Rev Michael Wood is the Anglican chaplain. A Muslim chaplain, Sheikh Yahya Adel Ibrahim, has recently been appointed. UWA requires that the chaplains must have experience in pastoral care and able to work in an academic environment. This means that there is necessarily a generation gap. The chaplain must be appointed by their denomination but is expected to assist people across all faiths in the university. The majority of people who seek support are older students and staff. The church sees it as an opportunity to connect with the future leaders. In NSW and the ACT the Uniting Church has a more conspicuous presence on campus – often based in the colleges or housing.
06:44 The chaplains work in the Law Link Building. It is Ian’s 4th or 5th office in six years. Ian runs a website called Spiritual Life and the contact details for the chaplains are on the website. Chaplains network and attend events at UWA. Fifty years ago, they were more visible. The best office location for drop-ins was next to Student Services. The least number of drop-ins were when the office was located in the Guild building. Once Ian had a red café type tent that he would move around campus to be more visible.
12:06 People who seek Ian out talk mostly about health and relationship issues. The conversation is confidential and is not reported back to any authority. Many seek help with mentoring or starting NGO’s in the community. Some people are so intelligent that they cannot relate to others. Religious students report that some academics heap scorn on their particular religion.
18:08 There are several student religious support groups. The groups do not interact much with the chaplains. Several of the groups appear to be controlled by adults. The chaplains have a good working relationship and are mutually supportive. They have tried to get a Jewish chaplain appointed. They are all part-time because they have other responsibilities. UWA does not pay for any of the chaplains – they are paid by the churches. UWA provides office space and support. Sheikh Yahya Adel Ibrahim also works at Curtin University for a couple of days per week.
26:06 The only marketing is through the website which Ian runs. Each chaplain has their own page and links. Ian also runs a website that links into information on all sorts of information on religions. They have talked about doing more inter-faith events. They have also supported courses particularly those led by Professor Debra McDougall from Anthropology and Sociology. They need more funds to put on more of these. Ian wonders how you reach people who are not open to ideas.
32:54 The chaplains are not routinely consulted in times of incident such as September 11 (2001), the Bali Bombings (2002) and MH17 (2014). An academic suggested that the chaplains mark MH17 in some way to give people an outlet for their grief. Two people on the flight were coming to UWA and were to be residents of Trinity College.
35:55 Ian would like UWA to involve chaplains in pastoral care at all the university colleges. Also, it would be good to be funded so the chaplains could act quickly to support the students in whatever way they might feel would assist at the time.
39:33 Ian reports back to his manager at the Uniting Church but does not report back officially to UWA. Ian organised for a survey to ascertain the effectiveness of his chaplaincy. The online world has created its own unique challenges and problems. Ian has a Facebook and Twitter account but he needs champions among the students to spread the word. He also runs some Blog sites. The School for Indigenous Studies represents Aboriginal spiritual needs on campus.
47:46 Staff student ratios and relationships between staff and between staff and students have changed. Tuition fees have increased. Student friendships are different due to social media. Online learning means students spend less time on campus. There have always been global challenges. When Ian was a student there were concerns about the possibility of a nuclear war. Today’s media is more sensational and alarmist. Students are more cynical about information disseminated through the media. The Education Bill went through Parliament on 28 August 2014 but there were no protests.
54:56 The Anglican chaplain organises a day retreat for staff. He and Ian have worked together to take students on desert retreats but these are expensive. Ian takes adults on Spirit Journeys in the Deserts. It is not specifically for UWA but some academic staff has participated. A maximum of 16 people can attend. People enjoy the experience of community. It is non-religious and non-judgmental. Aboriginal people have also taken the trip. For most people it is a transformative experience and one that is very personal. The risks are managed by the leaders.
01:10:25 Ian does leadership training in community engagement with Christian people and churches. He is engaged in helping the church to move forward. He is highly involved with the Stolen Generations. Ian also works with Reconciliation WA which has recently been re-established.
01:19:19 Ian is very happy with his life and what he has achieved and would not change anything.



Robinson, Ian, “Ian Robinson interview, 21 August 2014 and 28 August 2014,” UWA Historical Society: UWA Histories, accessed July 13, 2024, https://oralhistories.arts.uwa.edu.au/items/show/69.