The Cross at Australia's heart needs you

The place where heaven meets earth

This Easter weekend, a monument like no other will be launched in the Northern Territory. For the local First Nations people, and for many others, this Cross is key to uniting our nation around Jesus.

Six hours north of Uluru, lies another landmark of great spiritual significance to local First Nations people: Memory Mountain.

Rising from the red earth, this monolith is nestled among the awesome West MacDonnell Ranges.

“When you sit on top of that mountain, it’s one of the most spectacular views in the whole of Australia,” enthuses Australian landscape photographer Ken Duncan. “From it, you can see three of the highest mountains in the Northern Territory: Mount Zeil, Mount Sonder and Haasts Bluff, which are also some of the highest mountains west of the Great Divide. And you can see them all from Memory Mountain. You’ve got views for 360 degrees.”

For the Ikuntji community at Haasts Bluff – situated 230 kilometres west of Alice Springs – the mountain holds far more importance than its physical appearance. Unlike Uluru, this mountain is sacred to many local Aboriginal peoples because of its Christian heritage.

At the base of the mountain is a memorial, erected in 1923, to four Indigenous evangelists who first spread the gospel in this region.

Memory Mountain is the place where local Aboriginal people believe God instructed them to build a massive Cross.

It is also a place where Aboriginal Christians from around the region have met together for the past 40 years at Easter celebrations known as sing-alongs, where they come together to “sing songs to Jesus” for many days at a time.

“Hundreds of Aboriginals have been baptised in the creek there since the sing-alongs began in 1982,” Duncan tells Eternity.

And Memory Mountain is the place where local Aboriginal people believe God instructed them to build a massive Cross – like a beacon that draws people from all over Australia, from different beliefs and walks of life, and unites them in this sacred place.

For these Christians, this Cross – which their ancestors had dreams and visions about decades ago – is a key to true, God-ordained reconciliation in our nation.

The Cross becomes a reality

It’s taken over a decade, several million dollars, and lots of prayer and patience, but construction of a 20-metre-high Cross on top of Memory Mountain was completed late last year.

“God’s timing is perfect!” says Duncan, who was asked by local Aboriginal community members to help spearhead the Cross’s construction. After years of grappling with council approvals and engineering logistics, Duncan notes that the timing of its completion, like many aspects of this project, is uncannily supernatural.

When the Cross is officially launched this Easter weekend, it will be 100 years since the monument to the evangelists was built at Memory Mountain. At this dedication, the solar-powered LED lights lining the massive steel Cross will be switched on for the first time, illuminating it for all to see, even at night.

But, as Duncan notes, the vision is not about the Cross itself; rather, it’s about “lifting up the name of Jesus over the nation. It’s about getting people united around Jesus.”

This idea of the Cross as a meeting place – a place of prayer, contemplation and worship, where everyone is welcome – is expressed by local Aboriginal elder Douglas Multa.

“The Cross is important to everyone – not just me. It’s for everybody, [to] bring everyone to united – to one,” he says.

Multa is one of many in the community whose ancestors had a vision of a giant Cross on top of Memory Mountain. The vision first came to his uncle, Nebo Jugadai, one night at an Easter celebration at the base of the mountain.

“We believe it’s a place where people would be really touched by God.”

It was at one of these sing-alongs 14 years ago when local elders approached Duncan to ask if he might help them turn the vision of the Cross into a reality. Duncan was known in the Ikuntji community, having created a creative arts training centre there to equip Indigenous youth through his Walk a While Foundation, established in 2010.

Duncan recalls the conversations at that sing-along: “The kids were coming up to me and saying, ‘Ken, we’ve been seeing a Cross on top of that hill there.’ And then some of the senior women said to me, ‘You know, children are having dreams of a Cross up on top of that mountain. There’s a ladder going from the top, right up into the clouds and there’s angels going up and down …’

“Then quite a few of the male elders, individually, came up to me and said, ‘Ken, can you help us build a Cross? I think we need to build a Cross up there.'”

Duncan admits that, at first, he was reluctant to get drawn into helping. “So I said, ‘Well, why do you want to build a Cross?’

“And they said, ‘Well, we want to build a Cross to let people know that our hope is in Jesus and that the mountain is a place of prayer where all can come, no matter what their faith or belief. We believe it’s a place where people would be really touched by God.'”

That’s certainly been the case for those involved in the Cross’s construction. Duncan tells the story of his construction manager friend who is not a Christian but who said after spending time at the Cross on the mountaintop, “You know, I really believe this is a connection between heaven and earth.”

Another man who conducts tours of sacred places around the world described it as “one of the most holy places I’ve ever been to anywhere in the world.”

“We’re getting contacted by prophets all around the world who believe that this is part of a Holy Spirit revival strategy,” says Duncan. “Time will tell, but you know, there’s definitely something happening out there.”

The Cross on Memory Mountain

The Cross on Memory Mountain. Image supplied. Ken Duncan/ Walk a While Foundation

The next phase of the Cross project

Now, Duncan is calling on the Church to help with the next phase of this monumental project.

“A lot of people are going to want to come to this mountain, but we need to start putting in camping facilities and toilets, glamping facilities. That’s going to make it a lot easier for people to come out here.”

Crucially, this will also create jobs for local Aboriginal people to work on their land and to share their culture.

“We have been struggling for many years to get job opportunities for the young people, so that Cross is going to bring lots of jobs,” Multa told ABC News.

“It will bring tourists in, they will put the money into this community, and whatever money we make will go back into the community.”

A locally Indigenous-led company, Memory Mountain Limited, has been established to own and lead this development, in conjunction with Ken Duncan and his wife, Pam. The organisation will run tours of the Mountain and the surrounding area, as well as cultural activities, such as boomerang carving, kangaroo tail cooking and storytelling by community elders. Uniquely, it will also offer a one-day faith-based experience at the Mountain, to teach about the Christian heritage of the area.

But funds are needed to complete this vision, and Duncan is calling on Christians to help provide. He notes that “God provided miraculously” the millions needed to build the Cross itself through the generosity of private donors.

“A lot of people say, ‘I really want to come out there.’ Well, if you ever want to go out there, help us now to build the facilities so that we can get ready for people coming. Because this is going to grow much bigger,” says Duncan.

He reiterates, “This is all about getting people united around Jesus … Here’s a chance for Christians to show unity – that’s what the world needs to see.”

If you would like to donate to the next stage of the Cross project, visit the Memory Mountain Limited website here.