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8th August 2015

Tragic Accident at Gawa Christian School

Please be in prayer for the Gawa community at this time. In a shocking and tragic accident, a 12 year old student died during a sports activity on the afternoon of Thursday 6 August.  

We ask you to join with us in prayer for our brothers and sisters in Gawa.  It is our prayer that God would be particularly generous in the pouring out of his love and comfort on the entire community at this time.  Please remember Karen, the school principal who is on the ground managing the situation and Debra the CEO of NT Christian Schools.


The following is an update from Debra Twartz  written on Sunday afternoon after returning from Elcho Island:

As I write this, my beautiful daughter is cooking dinner and my amazing son is watering my plants. What an amazing gift from God our families are.

I am still struggling to comprehend the enormousness of this tragedy. I have come to accept over the past days that God’s particular protection and provision to me, is allowing me to maintain clarity of mind in the midst of this shocking loss.

I cannot begin to express my thanks for the prayers and messages of support that have been flooding in over the last few days. It seems timely to provide the CEN family with a bit of an update.

My time at Gawa was important and helpful. The counselling team were able to spend time with all staff and their families. It was my great privilege to spend time with the staff and community and see the incredible way people are pulling together in this time of crisis.

I have been particularly impacted by the way so many people have responded to this tragedy first and foremost as ‘people’. From the NT Department of Education, to the Media, Police, NTWorksafe and others. Although these people people have duties and responsibilities in their particular spaces, the collective responses have initially been as one human to another human. The tragedy of this incident has impacted all those who have come into contact with it.

There is no doubt that God’s grace and provision has been evident over the past few days. The overwhelming love and support that has come from the Gawa community has been amazing. There has been a consistent message of grace and ‘no blame’ that has come from so many community members. This support is truly ‘counter cultural’ and can only come from the one true God who unites us all under His spirit.

As with ripples in a pond, this devastating news has begun to spread to other communities over the past 24hours. Not all other extended family/community understand the strength of relationship between the Gawa staff and community. There has been some measure of angst as others hear of the tragedy and seek to apportion blame or claim retribution. What a miracle of God’s grace and provision that the members of the Gawa community continue to strongly affirm relationship and claim the Gawa staff as part of ‘the family’ during this grief process.

There are additional layers of complexity in that the child was a grandson of a senior leader of the Gawa community. The fact that the death took place on school grounds also means that the school buildings cannot be used (for the purposes of school) for the next week or so. It is likely that the funeral will take place in Gawa in several months time.

We are also so deeply, deeply thankful that the ‘right’ elders were physically present in Gawa following the death of the child, which is rarely the case. This meant that the staff were taking their direction from the correct traditional leaders and that no (unintentional) mistakes were made with regard to process and protocol following the incident.

In summary, the staff are deeply shocked and grieved yet coping with the situation. Without doubt, the love and support from the Gawa community has made the crucial difference in all of their hearts and minds. This is simply the beginning of what will be a very long journey.

I have been overwhelmed by the outpouring of prayers and support from the broader family of Christian schools across Australia too, including a significant donation from the CEN family in recognition of the additional costs of supporting staff and families in a remote context during this time.

We are at the beginning of a long process of supporting staff, students and their families through this complex trauma. Please continue to pray for all involved, that our God of peace may strengthen and comfort their hearts and minds at this time.

Please feel free to share the above information in whatever form you feel would be most appropriate. I have been thinking about what might be of best support to the Gawa team at this time. I am wondering whether letters/home-made cards of support might be appreciated. These could come from staff or students in any of our CEN schools.

The address for Gawa Christian School is:

PMB 257

Elcho Island via Winnellie

NT 0822

I’ve been having a bit of a think about who people might address letters/cards to and I think simply the “Gawa team”, “Gawa community” or just Gawa Christian School would be best.

Thanks again so much for all your care and support.

Yours in His service, Debra.

Debra Twartz
CEO, NT Christian Schools

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