Barkat Dass, our second Winifred Kiek Scholar for 1978, was from Karachi, Pakistan. She was a member of the Church of Pakistan and the principal of the Nursing School at Holy Family Hospital. Barkat travelled to Australia for further midwifery training and experience, and to undertake theological studies.
Unfortunately, Barkat’s travel to Australia was delayed so she was precluded from the lectures of her theological studies. Instead, she studied three terms of correspondence lessons with her first term lessons of twelve weeks being completed in half the time. During the second term of these studies, she commenced her midwifery course at the Nepean Hospital, Sydney. Barkat applied herself well to her studies and it was planned that she would complete her third term of correspondence lessons when she returned to Pakistan.
Before Barkat returned home, she was able to visit the members of the Queensland Unit of Australian Church Women (ACW). Here is her account of that visit:
An exciting trip and brief touch of Sunny Q'land. When itinerary was given to me to study, it did not make much sense to me of distances, places and people. Though I was anxiously looking forward to be there in much warmer climate from Sydney. One of my friends commented that you will find Q'landers much friendly and enjoy the warmth of Sunny Q'land, which I found 100% true.
From 26th August to 11th September was full of excitement, joy, pleasure and friendly gatherings. In all, these activities, there was much for me to learn. Each branch [of ACW] did something special to make me feel at home. Each one of my hostesses to me was an old friend, elder sister with full motherly care. It won't be out of place to say that even their husbands and rest of household accepted me with open arms and gave me warmth of their understanding: took special interest in me, my country and my welfare. This could not have been without the efforts of State and National bodies of A.C.W. The words are short to express the depth of their deeds and my joy being with them.
Each gathering made it so easy to share lots of my experiences of Pakistan and gained knowledge and experiences in Australia. Their interesting questions motivated my thinking on deeper level, the opportunities available and making best use of those, when I go back home. Each interview of local and church paper made me aware of the difficulties faced by Christians with a new hope and stronger faith and how much Christians need to contribute for betterment of our nation.
When l look on the photographs of Q'land, each person and place reminds me of happy moments and worthwhile trip. I had seen many hospitals, blue nursing, maternal and child health centres, where authorities made special efforts to show me the areas which could enrich my knowledge, learning, teaching and administration experience, and I appreciate highly.
You must be wondering that holiday trip is full of meetings and business trip and no enjoyment; this is not true. I had seen the best spots of recreation, entertainment and of leisure, from Brisbane to Mackay-Hook, Hayman Island, having beautiful viewing underwater observatory and Great Barrier Reef and corals, sunny spots of Sunshine Coast. Even the bleak days of Warwick and Stanthorpe were bright and warm having Mrs. Gwyn Clark around.
Having fresh fruits, freshness of nature on the farms of Mackay and Darling Downs refreshed me to face the worries of being out of touch with my family for seven weeks, while they were affected by floods. But today I can praise the Lord, for keeping me safe in the midst of disaster.
According to telephonic conversation with my brother, I am happy again to gain more knowledge through my last term at College and observation trips to few hospitals. With much appreciation, Barkat Dass.
Margaret Knauerhase was the South Australian Convenor of the Winifred Kiek Scholarship and below is her report on Barkat:
Barkat means blessing. Barkat Dass of Pakistan has visited us. She charmed us with her smile and her mastery of our language, she instructed us by her humility and her faith in God's guidance, and she inspired us by her total dedication and determination to learn and to serve.
As a W.K. Scholar, she has used her time wisely and well. She has studied theology and found her course opened up new horizons: she has worked as an ordinary nurse though she is herself a teaching sister, and found out what it felt like to be treated as an inferior; she has investigated the care of the physically and mentally handicapped and discovered that more is being done in her home country than she was aware of; she has travelled far and wide in Australia and has delighted in all she has seen; and she has met us personally and made us all part of 'her family' by her warm acceptance and appreciation.
Now she is to return to her own country and is not, at the moment, quite certain what she will be guided to do. Should she stay in Karachi with all its sophistication and hospital efficiency, or should she take up an appointment in a remote desert situation? She asks for our prayers. Life cannot be very easy for her a Christian, in a country where 97% of the 79 million people are Muslim. Don't let us forget those prayers!
I did not find confirmation that Barkat completed her theological studies, but I did discover that after Barkat returned home, she and her family lost their home and possessions in devastating floods. They were later able to have a new two-room house built.
The Winifred Kiek Scholarship aims to further equip Christian women so that they can better serve their Church and their local community.
Working Documents and Minutes of the 1977 and 1979 National Committee Meetings of Australian Church Women (ACW).
Documents from the Winifred Kiek Scholarship folder in the ACW Archives.
Archived ACW photographs.