Father David Smith Is a local icon born and bred in the area and known as the “Fighting Father” or “the boxing priest”. Father Dave is reverend at the Holy Trinity Church in Dulwich Hill and spends a lot of his time next door at the Holy Trinity Youth center. He is dedicated to local community work and involve in a number of programs. Marrickville Matters spoke to Father Dave about his work.
Why did you become a priest and how did you become known as the boxing priest?
After a long battle against all things religious I was converted to Christ when I was 18, and I accepted that it had to be my whole life. I also got into martial arts when I was young because I had a lot of enemies but this was the worst possible reason to take up boxing, as fighting and violence are two totally different things. When my first marriage broke down, I got serious about full contact boxing and kickboxing. It became a form of therapy for me, and helped me to survive the trauma of my marriage break-up. I found that it worked equally well for others too, and I still train boxing, kickboxing and wrestling.
How did you get involved in community work?
Being in a church means we have a sense of what a functional community should look like – an inclusive community that accepts everyone regardless of race, class, colour, gender, sexual orientation etc. Its our job to try to help the larger community reflect these values and be a tolerant and open-minded place to live.
What community programs are you involved in?
The work of Holy Trinity is very broad but the Youth Centre is probably our most high-profile venture. It started when I asked people in the area what they thought our biggest problem was and a common answer was kids roaming the streets after school getting into trouble. We had no money but plenty of room, so we thought, lets open up our church hall and see if these kids can do something useful, and here we are!
What are your proudest achievements?
Oh, there have been many things but a few that come to mind are:
- Running our anti-drugs campaign “Get off the gear and into the ring”, in schools
- The series of unemployment programs we held that teach web design skills to long term unemployed
- Starting seated aerobics classed for the elderly
- Putting on a series of wonderful choir and musical performances for the broader community
- Coaching one of my girls to win the Australian women’s middleweight kickboxing title
- Having the Mayor of Bethlehem and his entourage as guests of our community
- Putting on 23 fight shows to help raise funds and showcase the talent of our local fighters.
What kind of legacy would you like to leave?
I believe there is far less heroin and a lot less youth violence in Dulwich Hill now than in the past and I believe we’ve played a significant role in that. The most significant legacy I could possibly leave the broader community is a church that is truly loving non-judgmental and inclusive. I do believe we’ve achieved that to a great extent.
What do you like best about the inner west?
The diversity of people and the fact that there’s always something happening here. I like to work late, and its nice to be part of a community where things rarely close.
What’s your favourite place in the local area, and what do you love about it?
I’ve gotta be honest, our church building and my boxing ring are my two favourite spots. I’ll try not to confuse the two, but they’ve both been the locations of some great battles and some great victories.