Arts & Culture

Bali 9 Chaplain coming to Bega with a message about life and death

Ian Campbell 1 July 2019

Christie Buckingham. Photo: Bayside Church

Pastor Christie Buckingham from Melbourne’s Bayside Church ministered to Bali 9 prisoner Myuran Sukumaran, who was executed with Andrew Chan in 2015.

The short film, ‘Execution Island’, released earlier this year, is a dramatisation of the experience Christie shared with Mr Sukumaran as they walked together on his last night on Nusakambangan Island, Indonesia, four years ago.

Christie is coming to Bega for the Festival of Open Minds in September with a deep commitment to the power of forgiveness, redemption and the human spirit and a real fear that more Australian’s will face the firing squad in Indonesia.

‘Execution Island’ runs 12 minutes and will be shown at the Festival of Open Minds.

Since 1994, Christie and her husband Rob have been Senior Ministers of Bayside Church, with campuses in Cheltenham and Frankston.

Christie desires to see people set free and reach their full potential. She is a gifted leader who has worked tirelessly in mobilising groups of young adults and adults to act and relieve injustice.

She has helped establish the Bayside Forever Home in South Africa, a home that cares for children that have been abandoned; she has assisted prisoners in Kerobokan to find purpose and meaning through supporting computer and craft programs and remains a spiritual advisor for prisoners on death row.

Christie campaigns alongside other organisations such as Reprieve and Amnesty to see a global moratorium on the death penalty, a message she will bring to the Festival of Open Minds.

In speaking of witnessing the execution of Mr Sukumaran and Mr Chan, Christie told Studio 10,”I was just blown away at their bravery and courage. Whilst it was a scene of horror it also became a very holy place to me because I saw these boys living and dying with values that I only dream of.”

“He [Sukumaran] had redeemed his life, started out not so well but finished strong.”

Christie came to Australia from Ireland in 1986 and worked at Youth Alive Australia. During that time she witnessed their youth conferences grow from a few hundred to well over 10,000.

She understands the pressures of juggling roles of being a mother to three growing girls, Senior Pastor of a thriving dynamic church and a speaker.

Christie and Rob have three daughters, Georgia-Grace, Paris and Trinity.

Christie is passionate about empowering people to relieve injustice – lookout Festival of Open Minds!


The theme for Open Minds in 2019 is ‘People With Oomph’ inspired by Bega Valley song man Damon Davis and his song of the same name.

“People with oomph – they’re not lyin down. People with oomph – spread the good life. People with oomph – keep their own style. People with oomph – walk mile after mile,” Damon sings.

The 2019 Festival of Open Minds line up includes:

  • Tim Costello, Chief Advocate, World Vision;
  • Nas Campanella, blind Triple J newsreader;
  • Pastor Christie Buckingham, spiritual counselor to executed Bali 9 drug smuggler Myuran Sukumaran;
  • Aly Khalifa, entrepreneur focused on harvesting plastic waste from our oceans;
  • Emma Booth, para-equestrian competitor, represented Australia at the 2016 Rio Paralympics;
  • Alasdair Tremblay-Birchall, comedian, joke writer, grew up in Tathra;
  • Sassi Nuyum, AKA Meaghan Holt, rising Aboriginal writer, performer;
  • Corrine Gibbons, songstress and choir director;
  • Jonathan Kenna, Australia’s Ambassador to Sweden;
  • Captain Phil Holliday, Sydney, Port Kembla and Eden Harbour Master;
  • Damon Davis, long time singer-songwriter and the original man of oopmh;
  • A local panel of leaders including Erica Dibden – Tilba Milk, Louise Brand – road safety campaigner, Kate Toyer – Eurobodalla vet and transgender advocate,  Warren Foster Jr – Aboriginal artist and leader, Darren Jones – Band Together, and Hannah Doole – climate change activist.

The night before this day of discussion, we launch the festival with a FREE community celebration – Parklight in the heart of Bega. Littleton Gardens will light up with magical occurrences and happenings, a celebration of our community with a focus on the contribution and talent of youth and Indigenous culture.

Adult tickets for Saturday’s program are on sale now, including lunch option, people 12 to 19 years get in FREE, but you do need to reserve your place. Students there on the day will also be in the running to win $500 to put towards a science education experience of their choice thanks to The Sapphire Coast Regional Science Hub and Inspiring Australia.

Rush to Eventbrite now to claim your place at the Festival of Open Minds.

Thank you to our Festival partners – 

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