CANTLE, Merle (1898-1988) • Australian Dictionary of Evangelical Biography

CANTLE, Merle (1898-1988)

Ken J. Newton, ,

CANTLE, MERLE (b. Auburn, Sydney, NSW, 15 Sept 1898; d. Port Augusta, SA, 12 Aug, 1988). Brethren missionary to Australian Aborigines.

In 1924 Merle Cantle joined the AIM and worked amongst Aboriginal people on Queensland reserves of Barambah and Palm Island. At Palm Island she met Kathleen Simmons (q.v.) and the two formed a life-long ministry partnership which only ended with Simmons' death in 1962. Both missionaries resigned from AIM in 1930 and soon afterwards joined the Brethren assembly in Rockhampton which commended them to Christian work amongst Aboriginal people. They began a work amongst Aboriginal children at Burketown, Qld, before moving on to Doomadgee in the Gulf territory where they were pioneers in the Brethren mission established there in 1933.

In 1942 Merle Cantle and Kathleen Simmons accepted an invitation from Brethren leaders in South Australia to teach in a government-funded school for Aboriginal children at Port Augusta and to manage a home for Aboriginal children. Merle Cantle gave her entire government salary to the Umeewarra Mission choosing to trust God for the provision of all her financial needs. Following her compulsory retirement from the government payroll in 1963 she opened, in 1966, a pre-school kindergarten for Aboriginal children. She also continued to be in charge of a boy's dormitory at the reserve until 1977. She wrote an autobiography and a brief record of the life of Bill Lennon, one of her Aboriginal converts. Merle Cantle remained in service at Port Augusta until ill-health forced her to a nursing home in 1988. Her death that year brought to a close 64 years of work amongst Australian Aborigines.

Merle Cantle, Jewels of Fine Gold (Sydney, 1980); Merle Cantle, Serving Among His People (Sydney, 984)



Electronic Version © Southern Cross College, 2004

Content © Evangelical History Association of Australia and the author, 2004


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