Special Tribute: Reg Carnamah dubbed ‘Simply the Best’

04 Apr 2022

By Amanda Murthy

Reg Carnamah obituary
Perth Emeritus Archbishop Barry Hickey presents Reg with the Catholic Social Services Employee of the Year Award at a special ceremony in November 2021. Photo: Michelle Tan.

Tributes have poured in to honour Yalgoo Badimia Yamatji man Reg Carnamah, who spent the past 12 years serving the Catholic Archdiocese of Perth community with his many talents and sharing his experiences to help people grow in their faith.

Born on 15 November 1953 to Horis and Kathleen, Reg, nicknamed “Apple” by his family, left school at an early age to work on a sheep and cattle station, coincidentally owned by the now Bishop Michael Morrissey’s family. The two spent much time together at Noongall Station.

After travelling around the country to complete contract roles for some years, Reg landed his first permanent role with the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation (CSIRO) at Useless Loop in the Shark Bay area.

The work involved looking after endangered species and catching feral cats and foxes. Reg then went on to worked as a boarding supervisor at Tardun Mission, and in September 2009, joined Aboriginal Catholic Ministry (ACM) until his demise on 23 January due to cancer.

Perth Archbishop Emeritus Barry Hickey with Reg Carnamah, who received the Catholic Social Services Employee of the Year Award at a special ceremony in November 2021. Photo: Michelle Tan.

His sister Joan and first cousin Yvonne, described their ‘brother’ as a ‘happy-go-lucky person, who was always getting into trouble as a kid.’

“Being the youngest, he was always doing naughty things around the house. Mum used to make us apple pie a lot, and as she served it, she would realise one piece always missing – it was Reg – and that is why we call him Apple to this day,” Joan said.

“Reg had a big heart and was always made it a point to keep in touch with his immediate and extended family. He particularly loved his grandmother Mary who he lived with for a while. He was a loving father to his son, Jeremy – and later, a grandfather to two granddaughters.

ACM Director Donella Brown said that Reg was a man of faith, who was passionate about his work for the church. Here is his painting of the stations of the cross. Photo: Eric Martin.

“Reg had many passions and talents. He was an artist, he loved his plants, he had a strong faith, he loved music, from country to blues, rock n roll. He was most fascinated with Tina Turner, and like his favourite song of hers, we think he was ‘Simply the Best,” Yvonne said.

ACM Director Donella Brown said that Reg was a man of faith, who was passionate about his work for the church.

“He would often say “There was always something to do and a lot of change occurring which it meant that ACM could only go on to do bigger and better things.”

Yalgoo Badimia Yamatji man and Aboriginal Catholic Ministry Pastoral Worker Reg Carnamah, right, with fellow colleague Donna Ryder from ACM. Reg will be remembered as a happy-go-lucky person and a man of faith, who was passionate about his work for the church. Photo: Archdiocese of Perth Communications Office.

Ms Brown said that Reg regarded meeting all the different people he did as a blessing and he yearned to find like-minded men, especially young men, to share his love of the Lord.

“In a way he was hoping to find someone to carry on his role as Pastoral Worker at the ACM. “His dream was to see more young Aboriginal men becoming acolytes and deacons in the Church, allowing them to see how faith and culture could impact their lives in a positive way.  “He was truly a man of vision.”

Throughout his time with ACM, Reg worked in Pastoral care in hospitals including Royal Perth Hospital.

This, Ms Brown explained, enabled him to minister to Aboriginal people who came from all parts of WA.

“In his hospital ministry, Reg recognised the important role and significant links between, Aboriginal spirituality, religion, and the contemporary western health care system.

“He saw the need for health professionals to understand that healthcare needs of Aboriginal patients’ must be wholistic,” Ms Brown explained.

Donna Ryder and Reg Carnamah assumed the role of Aboriginal Pastoral Care Assistance under the Aboriginal Catholic Ministry. Photo: Feby Plando.

“Visiting the families in their homes was also a special time for Reg. There was lots of yarning and cups of tea enabling him to find out the spiritual needs of many families.

“It was an opportunity for families to let the pastoral team know when they wanted help to prepare the family, including his own family, for the sacraments, especially baptism and holy communion. He never missed an opportunity to encourage people to look after their spiritual needs.”

“Reg, you have left us with this legacy and challenge to be Jesus to one another, to find the good in humanity and to walk humbly with this truth.

Reg Carnamah is the sole representative from the Archdiocese of Perth to receive a NATSICC Adult Service to Community Award. He accepted the award at the conclusion of a Mass held on Sunday, 11 July 2021, at Embleton parish, in conjunction with the 2021 NAIDOC Week (4 to 11 July). Photo: Jamie O’Brien.

“Everyone involved with the ACM will remember you through your stories and the work that you have done for all our people so rest in peace, our brother.”

Centre for Liturgy Sister Kerry Willison recalls the evening that Reg turned up to the Vietnamese Centre for the beginning of his Acolyte training in 2010.

“There were around 100 attendees for this training session.  Reg’s commitment to his ministry as Acolyte from that day was absolute. 

“Any encounter I had with Reg, whether outside Bunnings, at meetings to plan Aboriginal Sunday Eucharistic celebrations or when he was an acolyte for a Cathedral Mass, was one of gentle joy.”

Reg Carnamah served at Masses and was an active member in the Perth Catholic community. Photo: Jamie O’Brien.

ACM Chaplain Father Sebastian Fernando added that he will miss the interactions had with Reg during their home visits and during Mass at Embleton parish.

“Reg has contributed so much to our community. His gift as an artist let him to paint the Stations of the Cross during a COVID lockdown in 2020, and share his life experiences including his struggles, to inspire others and lead them closer to Christ.

Reg’s funeral took place on 25 February in Yalgoo.