An amazing strength of character shines through the diminutive Daphne Puntjina. She has a strong love for God and for her Central Australian community.
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At 73, age doesn’t appear to have wearied Daphne Puntjina’s spirited love for her 250-strong community at Areyonga, 200 kilometres south-west of Alice Springs in the Northern Territory.
Her passion shines through as she shares about her love of giving back. It shines through her parish worker role at Good Shepherd Lutheran Church, through leadership roles on community boards and councils, and through her role as a published author.
But it shines brightest when Daphne shares stories about teaching the current crop of local school students all about bush tucker. ‘We want to teach all the kids so when we pass away they can take over and teach the next generations’, she says.
Daphne, who was the NT citizen of the year in 2004, shares her culture and love of God in many ways. ‘We are rich in the Bible, we know God gives us everything’, she says. ‘That’s why I trust only in God.’
As a child growing up at Areyonga in the 1950s, then a government reserve managed by Finke River Mission, Christian songs and Bible stories were a major part of the school curriculum for Daphne.
Her love of singing was fostered by good friends and mentors Pastor Leo and Mrs Lydia Kalleske. Daphne began helping teach Sunday school and religious instruction at the local school. In the 1960s, she also began helping other adults from Areyonga lead family and community devotions.
The spark ignited by Mrs Kalleske led to Daphne’s leadership of the Areyonga choir from 1966 and, from 2012, the Central Australian Aboriginal Women’s Choir, the latter of which travelled to Germany in 2015.
Despite everything she has done, she names her most important achievement as sharing her love of God, her stories and knowledge with the next generation. This includes a book of bush medicines, and a traditional, bilingual story called Kupi-Kupi and the Girl: Tjukurpa Kungka Munu Kupi-Kupitjara. Daphne has also contributed to the Pitjantjatjara hymnal Nyiri Inmatjara in 1995 and a new Pitjantjatjara Lutheran hymnal in 2010.
Daphne has been a community volunteer for almost 50 years. ‘I look after all the people and they look after me too’, she says. ‘God is working with me and helping other people, and I always ask God to look after us, our community and other communities.’
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