Pastor Dennis Phillip Jetta OAM
Pastor Dennis Phillip Jetta OAM is a highly regarded and proud Noongar Elder from Australind, Western Australia. Dennis was born in Kellerberrin in the Western Australia Wheatbelt. Kellerberrin is 204 kilometres east of Boorloo (Perth) on the Great Eastern Highway.
Dennis worked as a shearer and a stockman as well as an advocate, Pastor, and grassroots community person, all before making a career change and working as an Indigenous Employment Officer for the Government.
As one 1 of 15 children, Dennis left school at 14 years of age to start a logging job clearing vegetation throughout the West Australian Wheatbelt. This decision was the start of a journey which led him to numerous communities throughout Western Australia, and Australia. After putting the wood saw down, Dennis became a shearer in Pingelly, and then a stockman at a Waroona cattle farm. From 1978 to 1984, he worked as a stockman at the Waroona farm until he was presented with, what he describes, as a life-changing opportunity.
“The major part of my life would have begun in 1984,” he said. “I was offered a trainee clerical assistant job with the Commonwealth Employment Service in Bunbury. From that trainee position, I was able to gain a full-time position with the Aboriginal employment branch.”
Dennis went on to forge a career spanning more than 30 years in the employment industry, helping Aboriginal people from all over Western Australia gain employment through traineeships. Dennis oversaw 190 Aboriginal trainees and assisted them in gaining training, experience and employment opportunities. He also co-founded Noongar Employment and Enterprise Development Aboriginal Corporation (NEEDAC) and Noongar Property Holdings to further his passion for promoting employment opportunities for Aboriginal people.
Nowadays, Dennis has stepped aside from his full-time role into semi-retirement but remains active in his Pastoral duties. Dennis also continues as Chaplain with the Aboriginal Evangelical Fellowship Australia, in the past at the Bunbury Regional Prison, something he has done for over 30 years. As a devoted Christian, Dennis has officiated at countless Aboriginal weddings and funerals, and in 2017 he was appointed a National Evangelist at the Aboriginal Evangelical Fellowship of Australia. This nationwide fellowship supports leadership, service and ministry development for Christian Aboriginal people. Dennis’ pastoral work also took him to Hawaii. In 1996, Dennis was one of 32 Indigenous men from 15 countries to attend a one-month Christian leadership course hosted by the Haggai Institute on the island of Maui.
As a Senior Elder in the Greater Bunbury Aboriginal Elders Group, Dennis shares Noongar culture to improve awareness and appreciation of Noongar culture, people and practices. Dennis does this by delivering Welcome to Country ceremonies and Cultural Awareness Training to multiple organisations across Western Australia including the Western Australia Police, the Western Australia Prison Service, the Western Australia Health Service and Western Australian schools.
Outside of his community commitments, Dennis enjoys honing his golf swing, and as one of many bush mechanics, is still tinkering with cars. He also loves talking proudly about his wife Wilma and their 6 children, 23 grandchildren and 51 great-grandchildren.
While modest about his long list of achievements including:
- 2002 South West Community Elder of the Year
- 2019 South West Community Elder of the Year
- Recently being presented with an Order of Australia Medal in May 2023
Dennis says he is proud of what he has accomplished so far and continues to accomplish.
“Helping people has been my passion my whole life,” Dennis said. “I have a passion for working with people and trying to assist them – that’s why I won’t give up.”
Video created by Blacklock Media.