Mennonites in Australia and New Zealand

There is a small Mennonite presence in Australia which actually traces its origins back to the Anabaptists of the Reformation. A Mennonite man who grew up in The Netherlands pastors Mennonite Church of Hope in New South Wales. Technically it is the only meeting hall/church building in Australia. It belongs to the Australian Conference of Evangelical Mennonites.

Foppe Brouwer, a Dutch Mennonite, moved to New South Wales, Australia in 1952. He and his wife Aaltje (Hazenberg) were sent by the Europaisches Mennonitisches Evangelisations-Komitee (European Mennonite Evangelism Committee), to plant a Mennonite church and outreach in Australia.

Initially the Brouwers developed a newsletter> (De Mennist) and sent it to Mennonite Dutch immigrants living in Australia. Their aim was to locate and bring together the Mennonites of that continent. At the same time, an outreach was begun at Fennell Bay, a small village on the shores of Lake Mcquarie, on the East Coast of New South Wales. They opened a “Care and Share” fruit and vegetable shop. The friendships developed in this shop resulted in the beginning of a Sunday school (attendance 40-50 in 1987). Eventually, a church fellowship, the Mennonite Church of Hope, developed from this outreach. By 1987, 25 adult members had been baptized (average attendance 15 to 35 adults). This church was officially recognized by the federal and state governments in January 1980 under the name Australian Conference of Evangelical Mennonites. In addition to the local outreach, the Mennonite Church of Hope has been working in the city of Newcastle since 1985. Two of its members, Derek and July Bernardson, have opened a Mennonite Information center in the city of Melbourne. In Perth in western Australia, Eastern Mennonite Missions (MC) began planting a church under the leadership of Ian and Anne Duckham, which has recently closed.

In 2000 there was one congregation with a membership of 48.

In addition, there is an association, the Anabaptist Association of Australia and New Zealand (AAANZ), which attempts to network in providing a visible presence and voice for this tradition. The initiative for the establishment of the Association came out of a meeting in Tasmania in May 1995 where participants from a number of Australian states and New Zealand gathered to reflect on the relevance of the Anabaptist tradition for Christian life and witness. The association currently has around 35 members, and a mailing list of members and interested individuals of around 70.

Some information excerpted from the Global Anabaptist Mennonite Encyclopedia Online.