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Father Michael Hayes was a man of God and all people

MAN OF GOD: Father Michael Hayes was an advocate for Indigenous people and a community leader throughout Central Queensland during his time as a priest.
MAN OF GOD: Father Michael Hayes was an advocate for Indigenous people and a community leader throughout Central Queensland during his time as a priest. Contributed

FATHER Michael Hayes was a son, brother, leader and a man devoted to God.

He was also a voice for the Aboriginal people ever since he began his priesthood in the 1950s.

As a young boy, Father Hayes spent most of his holidays on a cousin's property in Central Queensland.

That time in Clermont saw him become friends with, and respect, the Aboriginal people working in the area.

Father Hayes had a strong connection with the Aboriginal people and fought for them throughout his life.

It was CQUniversity Adjunct Associate Professor Robert O'Sullivan who delved into the life of Father Hayes to tell his story.

Theologian of The Scrub: A Biography of Father Michael Hayes explores how passionate Father Hayes was to ensure all were treated as equals.

After Father Hayes was ordained into priesthood in July of 1950, he was sent to Bundaberg. It was there where he first saw the injustices being done to Aboriginal people; in many cases they had been viewed as outcasts to society.

Dr O'Sullivan explains how Father Hayes had knowledge from his youth about the Aboriginal people and knew they should not be a marginalised group.

"He saw that they had culture," Dr O'Sullivan said.

"He was active in intervening in situations where they needed help."

With the Aboriginal people's "tenuous relationship" with the law, Dr O'Sullivan explained how Father Hayes devoted his time and energy to ensuring they had assistance when it came to legal matters.

It wasn't only injustices with the law that he was trying to change; it was the culture of the Aboriginal people that was just as important.

Father Hayes also proposed that Aboriginal History be taught in Diocesan Catholic schools.

Besides helping Aboriginals with the law and pushing for education, he also set himself the task of encouraging Aborigines to buy their own homes and live as part of society in the 1960s and 70s.

As well as being an advocate for Aborigines and Torres Strait Islanders, Father Hayes was a keen community leader and reached out to mothers, starting mothers clubs in the 50s and 60s.

"A lady had to leave the workforce when they were married and were confined to home," Dr O'Sullivan said.

"He realised what that would be like, without having contact to adults, so he formed mothers clubs for mums to get together; that was an innovation."

He focused on every aspect of the community, even establishing basketball teams throughout the years.

When Father Hayes celebrated his 25th year, he was well respected for the work he had been doing, and had a special place in the hearts of the local Aboriginal people.

"He was active in intervening in situations where the Aboriginal people needed help; for his 25 year anniversary, practically the whole town of Theodore turned up to acknowledge him," Dr O'Sullivan said.

Father Hayes left his mark on Central Queensland having worked throughout the region including Bundaberg, Theodore, and Mackay before coming to Rockhampton in 1978.

He passed away in October 2011 at 85 years of age, leaving behind a legacy of treating all humans as equals, and caring for your fellow man despite their skin colour or heritage.

FATHER MICHAEL HAYES

  • Born on September Sept 25, 1926
  • One of four children born to William and Ruby Hayes
  • Completed his secondary education with the Christian Brothers in Rockhampton in 1943

ABOUT THE BIOGRAPHER

  • Robert O'Sullivan wrote about Father Michael Hayes' life in the book Theologian of the Scrub: A Biography of Father Michael Hayes.
  • Dr O'Sullivan had been asked by former Rockhampton Catholic Bishop Brian Heenan to pen a book on Father Hayes' and his mission in life.
  • After 20 months of researching and writing, Dr O'Sullivan had completed the book, which was launched at Rockhampton's St. Joseph's Cathedral earlier this month.
  • Father Hayes's biography was launched at St Joseph's Catholic Cathedral last month.

Topics:  catholic, cquniversity, michael hayes


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