Australia’s oldest continuously operating organisation celebrates its 200th anniversary this month.
The Colonial Auxiliary Bible Society of New South Wales—now Bible Society Australia (BSA)—predates the colony’s first bank, the Bank of New South Wales, by one month. It was established on 7 March 1817 by NSW colonial chaplain William Cowper, Elizabeth Macquarie and Rev. Samuel Marsden, under the patronage of Governor Lachlan Macquarie.
Bible Society Australia CEO Dr Greg Clarke said the organisation’s bicentenary theme was ‘After 200 years, we’re here for good’, saying its primary mission was to translate, publish, promote and distribute the Bible.
“Its target audience remains the 60% of the Australian population who declare an affiliation with a Christian religion, but may not necessarily be committed Christians,” he said.
BSA currently funds more than 30 international mission projects. These include translation, Bible production and distribution, literacy and advocacy.
Locally, producing the Bible in Aboriginal languages has been a major focus for more than half a century.
The first full Bible in an Indigenous language was the Kriol Bible, published in 2007. The Gospel of Luke in Nyoongar was published in 2014 and the organisation is supporting the completion of the Pitjantjatjara Bible.
Dr Clarke said that technology changes, even though the word of God does not. “The words of the Bible are now being widely distributed on mobile phone apps,” he said.
“The Bible app YouVersion has reached a quarter of a billion downloads worldwide since its inception nine years ago. The app has also seen higher engagement with Scripture this year, with users reading and listening to more than 13 billion Bible chapters.”
Technology has also enabled the translation of the Bible into deaf sign languages. Working with the hearing impaired, the Bible Society in Australia pioneered advanced digital techniques for recording the Bible in AUSLAN (Australian Sign Language). The Bible Society’s AUSLAN Bible project is now a world-leading program, widely regarded as setting the standard for deaf sign projects everywhere.
However, Dr Clarke said there was still strong demand for the written text. BSA shipped more than 100,000 Bibles overseas in 2016. In recent years, BSA acquired Eternity newspaper,the Centre for Public Christianity and Koorong, Australia’s leading retailer of Christian books and resources.
A reception at will be held at Government House, Sydney, on 7 March, and later in the month an Indigenous art book Our Mob, God’s Story will be released to mark the anniversary.