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Advocating for change

Bernie Bergh came to Australian from Southern Rhodesia. 

We were very lucky when he became an important person in the life of Colony 47. 

He was known as the chairman not because of a position but because when our wooden seats were so often broken it was Bernie who repaired them. 

Over the years the 40 or so wooden seats in the coffee shop declined till there was only one left.  

He would repair broken ones by taking parts from other broken ones. 

Some young people decided it would be easier to break a chair and burn it in the fire than go outside and bring wood in. 

Sometimes the pile of wood outside the coffee shop had disappeared after being stolen. 

All one could hope for was that the thieves were cold and needed it. 

To understand the type of person Bernie was happened one day when I was asked to attend a meeting in North Hobart about homeless men. I couldn’t go because of another responsibility, and I asked Bernie to go in my place. 

At the meeting the discussion was about men who were homeless. 

Bernie asked the question “What about homeless women”? 

The response was women can always find half a bed any time at all so there is no need to provide accommodation for them. This comment brought forth laughter from some of those present. 

There were no women present at this meeting. 

Bernie was absolutely shocked by what he heard. 

Bernie was over 70 years of age and retired. He decided to do something about the problem. 

He asked Neville Marsh who has been his employer and was a very generous supporter of Colony 47 and the Toy Library if he could be employed again. 

Neville agreed and for more than two years Bernie went back to work but continued as a volunteer committee member of Colony 47, the Chairman and odd job man saving us much expenditure on repairs and maintenance. 

Not only that, the majority of the money he earned at his job he used to set up and finance the establishment of Caroline House for homeless women. 

We assisted Bernie to establish a committee to run and employ staff at Caroline House. 

However, as we had often done, we remained separate from the organisation and assisted if needed but continued as a separate organisation. 

Bernie for many years was on their committee and continued to support it financially and practically until his death. 

It is important that Bernie’s work is recorded as he never received any formal recognition nor did this humble Christian seek recognition. 

I was honoured to be asked to officiate at his funeral service. 

Jim Colville. 

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