Kalumburu Museum’s extensive collection of artefacts can be attributed to one man: Father Anscar McPhee.

Story & photos by Robin Maher

If you look up Simpson and Day’s Field Guide to Birds of Australia, you will find the great northern bowerbird with a description that tells of the fantastic collection of colourful stones, shells, bones, fruit and leaves that the bird gathers for its bower. In the north Kimberley, there is another great bowerbird, Father Anscar McPhee – a Catholic priest, who has a twinkle in his eye, an infectious laugh and a delicious sense of humour. “Here is a photograph of the Bush Tucker Man, Les Hiddens, and next to him is me, hidden under me ’at,” he says, pointing to a large picture on the wall.
Father Anscar was born in a small wheat-farming town in Victoria in 1939. “My lovely mother went to church every morning but she was very relaxed with us kids,” he recalls. “Three of my brothers became priests, and in my early teens I decided that’s the way I wanted to spend my life as well. I looked at various orders and realised following St Benedict’s rule was the path for me, so off I went to New Norcia.” New Norcia, in WA, is the only Benedictine monastery in Australia, established in 1846.

This story excerpt is from Issue #45

Outback Magazine: Feb/Mar 2006