by Lauren Murada
Spending 20 years in one job may be hard to imagine for some people but for Father Dave Smith, it’s his life.
The minister of Holy Trinity Anglican Church, Dulwich Hill, celebrated the 20-year milestone in December.
He was sent to the church in 1990 to oversee its closure, but managed to save the parish and help the community in more ways than anyone expected.
“It was a rough area and no one wanted to come here”, he said.
“The idea was that I was just here on the weekend and the place was just dead on its feet. There were only three people of the age under 70.”
But through an almost cruel twist of fate, Father Dave made the church his number one priority.
“My marriage ended within a few months of me being here and then I ended up putting all my time and energy into it,” he said.
It wasn’t long before Father Dave turned the church around, and put youths at the top of his list.
Although they didn’t have much money, the parish had lost of land, and turned an out Scouts hall into a space for the community.
“It was a very rough area 20 years back, nine out of 10 kids we were dealing with had heroin issues, but it was a safe place for them,” he said.
But it wasn’t until 1993 when Father Dave made his biggest impact on the community and started a boxing program.
“I issued a challenge to all the kids in the neighbourhood to take me on in a five round challenge – if they won I buy them dinner, if they lost they had to come to church,” he said.
He became a professional boxer at 34 to raise money for Holy Trinity and pay for a youth worker.
“I had the Archdiocese at my door wagging his finger asking me to shut it down,” he said.
But the boxing program is still running today, with more than 100 youths using the facilities each week.
“It’s like a hidden treasure that we have uncovered,” he said.
“By the time we get a kid inside the ring he’s not in trouble with the law, he’s off drugs and without letting the kids know, we change their peer group.”