The Australian District
Who are we?
The Siasi Uesiliana Tau’atāina ‘o Tonga ‘i ‘Aositelēlia (The Methodist Church of Tonga in Australia), known simply as the ‘Vahefonua ‘Aositelēlia’ (The Australian District), is a network of Tongan Wesleyan churches spread throughout the vast Australian continent. We trace our spiritual and ecclesial heritage to the mission and ministry of the Wesley brothers and their co-labourers in the Faith, who wrought mighty deeds as God’s instruments for Christian revival in 18th century Great Britain, and to the early work of the Methodist missionaries who brought the Gospel to the isles of Tonga.
The work of the Vahefonua ‘Aositelēlia
Today, we carry on the work of our forerunners in preaching the Gospel of Jesus Christ and salvation by grace through faith alone, manifesting in holiness of heart and conduct according to the Scriptures. Our pastoral ministry focuses on the Tongan migrant community in Australia, although we have commenced outreach toward our Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander brethren, which is made easier by our shared values and similar modes of cultural expression. In regards to the legality of the Vahefonua 'Aositelēlia, we are accountable to the Methodist Church in Tonga, adopting its Constitution and submitting to the direction and standing orders of its Annual General Conference.
Migration to Australia
The formation of the Siasi Uesiliana Tau’atāina ‘o Tonga ‘i ‘Aositelēlia was preceded by increased immigration to Australia of Tongan migrants from the South Pacific. Seeking the familiarity of religious and social life at home, Tongan expatriates were content to join the fellowship of the Methodist Church in Australia, and it was not until the formation of the Uniting Church through union of the Methodist, Presbyterian and Congregational Churches in 1977, that necessitated the founding of a fellowship where the Wesleyan charism and practice could be preserved. A temporary solution to the issue was the establishment of the Tonga Parish, a pastoral unit for Tongans within the Uniting Church in Australia.
The occasional arrival of Tongan missionaries and their families called to serve among the Indigenous communities of Australia provided rudimentary spiritual comfort to the expatriate congregations, with the Reverend Mr. Savinata Mahe and his wife Ane being the first couple officially called by the Tongan Conference to shepherd the newly formed Tonga Parish.
Establishment of the District
Attempts to address the increasingly liberal stance within the Uniting Church pushed some to consider appealing to the Tongan Conference for the planting of an entirely separate fellowship that was accountable to the latter and independent of the former. Thus, in 1991, the Free Wesleyan Church of Tonga in Australia was incorporated, with the Reverend Maka Tu’akoi called from Tonga to be its first Superintendent Minister. Listed below are the men who have served as Superintendent Ministers of the Vahefonua 'Aositelelia since its conception:
Rev. Mr. Maka Tu'akoi (1991 - 1996)
Rev. Mr. 'Olioni Kupu (1996 - 2000)
Rev. Mr. Viliami Tu'akoi (2000 - 2012)
Rev. Mr. Matafonua Fotofili (2012 - 2015)
Rev. Dr. Siotame Havea (2015 - current)