In the very centre of Australia, at the top of a mountain is an enormous Cross that is the realisation of a decades-long dream of the local Aboriginal people of Ikuntji. Located near Haasts Bluff, 230kms west of Alice Springs, the 20m Cross made of core-ten steel stands atop Memory Mountain (Kurrkalnga Puli).
At Easter 2023, Harvest Journeys organised a group of supporters and donors, from various Christian traditions, to attend the opening of the Cross hosted by the local Indigenous community.
On Good Friday night the Cross was lit up to officially mark the launch. At dawn on Easter Sunday morning Fr Stephen Fletcher MGL, Moderator of the Missionaries of God’s Love celebrated the first Mass on the top of the mountain, surrounded by the magnificent vista of a special and sacred country.
Ken Duncan, the renowned Australian landscape photographer established the Walk A While Foundation in 2010 to help the Indigenous people of central Australia tell their stories using their creative gifts and to equip them to engage in employment opportunities. This led to the funding and building of the Forgiveness Cross, a project spearheaded by the local elders and traditional land-owners.
The traditional owners have appointed Harvest Journeys as the official pilgrimage tour operator to help fulfil their dream of many people from all over Australia and beyond, visiting Memory Mountain.
A 20-metre-tall solar-lit cross on top of a remote sacred mountain in central Australia has officially opened as a tourist attraction, with locals hoping it could soon join the bucket-list of must-see locations.
Bringing faith, culture, and social enterprise together, the giant cross sits atop Memory Mountain near Haasts Bluff, 230km west of Alice Springs and is a new Australian icon of unity and hope.
Fr Stephen Fletcher MGL was a member of the delegation and celebrated the first Mass on Memory Mountain. Fr Steve has spent many years working with Indigenous peoples Darwin, the Northern Territory and far North Queensland. He reflects upon the significance of celebrating the Easter liturgies at this special place:
“At sunrise on Memory Mountain the Cross of Forgiveness came into full view amidst the rugged beauty of Ikuntji Country. I was reminded of the words of an Aboriginal pastor in our group James Dargin sharing that unity and transformation starts in the heart. The experience of the rising sun over the Cross amidst this rugged beauty of Country was made possible by the vision, determination and large-hearted welcome of the traditional owners. It was a welcome to all people to gather around the cross in their Country. As I gazed on Jesus lifted up in the Eucharist on Memory Mountain, the wide-open Country of this First Nation peoples came into view in the morning sun reflecting the heart of the risen Christ abounding in love and mercy drawing all to Himself.”
Ray Martin, television journalist and five-time Gold Logie winner, was present for the launch of the Cross and emceed the opening ceremony on Friday evening. Proud of his Aboriginal heritage from the Kamilaroi Nation near Gunnedah in NSW, Ray has supported the local people in their dream to build the Cross. Asked the significance of the name given by the local people “The Forgiveness Cross”, Ray said:
“I don’t really know what forgiveness means… but I was talking to one of the elders, Douglas and he told me he thought it was a place where people might come if they’ve got troubles in their own lives, with their families, or work or with friends or just with life. To come and sit below the Cross and chill out for a little while and maybe get your head together. This beautiful country allows you to do this.
To have something like the Cross out here for people to come out not just to see the Cross, but to come to the art galleries and meet the people. This is a beautiful community of people… It’s important for white fellas to meet black fellas.”
Douglas Multa, local Aboriginal elder and traditional owner, welcomed the visitors by saying in English and his local language:
“Welcome to my country. It’s good that you come here. It’s been a long journey for the Cross. We’ve had lots of support from good hearted people, that put in money for this Cross. I want to thank all of you. Thank you!”
“That place was chosen by the old fella. My uncle, Nebo Jugadai. He had a vision way back then, way back, for this special place here. It is a good opportunity for young people, bringing opportunities like jobs, proper wages. We don’t have to rely on Government no more.”
Selina Hasham, CEO of Harvest Journeys is committed to providing the means for people all around Australia to visit Memory Mountain, witness the Cross and encounter the local community. Though the site is remote, it has been incorporated into a Red Centre Pilgrimage from Alice Springs to Uluru. She attended the opening and was moved by the power of the place:
“This Cross rising up out of the red earth of the very centre of our vast and beautiful country seems like God’s timing and God’s design. While Australians are deliberating over the Uluru Statement from the Heart and The Voice, the Aboriginal people of Ikuntji have realised a decades long dream, a vision of their elders for the Cross of Jesus on their Country.
The Forgiveness Cross is a cry in the desert, a cry erupting from the wilderness heart and soul of our land, from the lips of our Aboriginal brothers and sisters. A cry we can’t ignore. It is time to listen to the people and to the land, and the message of this mysterious and beautiful symbol that now stands at the heart of Australia.
I believe this will become a significant place of pilgrimage for all Australians in the years to come.”