Happy 100th birthday, Harold

WWII veteran found God and came home to serve indigenous Australians

Could faith, selflessness and helping others be the key to longevity? The life of Harold Kleinschmidt suggests that could be true.

The World War II veteran is one of Queensland’s newest centenarians. Founder of Aboriginal Inland Mission Church in western Brisbane, Harold has dedicated much of his life to helping Indigenous Australians.

‘If you get me home from the war, I’ll serve you for the rest of my life’

Harold, who lives at the Carinity Brookfield aged care community in Brisbane, turned 100 on June 20. He celebrated the milestone with his wife Audrey, their three children, and family and friends from as far away as Kalgoorlie, Western Australia.

Born in Beenleigh in 1918, Harold only went to school for a few years before working as a farm labourer. At 18 he enlisted in the Australian Army and five years later was called up for active duty, serving during World War II.

Taken by ship from Cairns to the battlefields of Papua New Guinea, the journey at sea took four days as the ship had to avoid Japanese submarines which had sunk Australian vessels.

One night while serving in the war, Harold woke to find a lost Japanese soldier standing in his tent, rummaging for food. There was a rifle at his bedhead.

No confrontation occurred between the opposing soldiers, though, as Harold’s stirring caused the Japanese soldier to flee into the forest. Harold has no idea what became of him.

That memorable experience had an impact on Harold, leading him to begin pursuing the life and death claims of Jesus Christ. Harold attended a church service in PNG during WWII – and even saw some soldiers baptised in water-filled trenches.

A meeting with a church group and chaplain during the fighting in PNG led Harold to accepting Jesus into his life. This radical change inspired him to dedicate his life to helping others.

“My father said he would pray to God, ‘If you get me home from the war, I’ll serve you for the rest of my life’ – and he kept that promise,” said Harold’s son Mark Kleinschmidt.

Harold founded Aboriginal Inland Mission Church in western Brisbane in 1970.

After returning home from the war, Harold was a foundation student of the Queensland Bible Institute (now Brisbane School of Theology). In 1949, he was its first full-time residential graduate.

Harold’s life passion was working with Aboriginal people. With the support of his wife Audrey, he served as a missionary with Aborigines Inland Mission in Woorabinda and later served communities in Moree and Townsville. He also provided ministry in Charters Towers and Palm Island.

‘Aunty’ Jean Phillips, who did missionary work with the Kleinschmidts, says Harold has done “wonderful work” with Indigenous Australians over many decades. “God’s really blessed those who have worked amongst the Aboriginal people and they are wonderful people who have been around Australia.

“These Aboriginals have gone on to achieve a lot in their lives, and missionaries like Harold have been a big part of that,” Jean says.

For 30 years, Harold worked at Aboriginal Inland Mission Church at Inala in western Brisbane, which he founded in 1970. He was also a prison pastor, counselling Indigenous people and assisting them to contact their loved ones.

Harold and Audrey now live at Carinity Brookfield where they enjoy church- based activities and concerts, while Harold loves watching cricket, tennis and football – and saying “grace” at meal times.

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