How does one sum up a life of 82 years in a few words? by Margaret Campbell
Heather Peerman 1931 – 2014
Heather Margaret Keep was born on December 4, 1931 at East Malvern and was educated at Lloyd Street Central School and Stratherne Presbyterian Girls’ College in Hawthorn.
She was a member of Ewing Memorial Presbyterian Church in East Malvern where she was active in youth and children’s programmes. Her mother was a nurse, a cousin had served as a nurse with the Australian Inland Mission (AIM) and Ewing Memorial’s Minister, the Rev Chris Goy had been a Patrol Padre with ‘Flynn of the Inland’. These folk influenced her and she enrolled in nursing at the Alfred Hospital in May 1953. She then graduated in Midwifery at the Women’s Hospital in June 1954.
In 1957 Heather met theological student Alexander Robert Peerman at a Presbyterian Fellowship Australia youth camp and they married in November 1955. Their first son, Andrew was born in 1957 in Melbourne. On December 6, 1957 the Rev Alex Peerman was ordained and inducted as District Missionary to Aulua, Malekula in the New Hebrides (now Vanuatu.)
Alex, Heather and Andrew arrived in Vanuatu in 1958 where they worked with the presbytery and congregations developing church life and witness and the education system, developing village primary schools and Aulua District School. Heather returned to Melbourne for Duncan’s birth in 1959, but went to Paton Memorial Hospital in Vila for Margaret’s delivery in 1961. Heather worked with the women and children while raising her own three children on Malekula and in Vila. she promoted education for village girls and encouraged leaders of the Presbyterian Women’s Misionary Union (PWMU).
Australia and Vanuatu
In 1966 the Peermans returned to Australia bringing with them Meto Nganga of Mele and JonbiI Lerongen of Tanna to attend Haileybury College. Jonbil later became the Deputy Commissioner of Police in Vanuatu. Meto completed a University degree in accountancy and business management in PNG and is now Presbyterian Church of Vanuatu (PCV) Assembly Finance Officer. Heather said that she and Alex always believed that ‘education was the key to their future’.
The Peermans then served in Presbyterian and UCA Parishes in Hampton, Geelong, Coatesville and Sunraysia where Heather was active in the PWMU and the Ladies’ Guild. After Union she became a founding member of the Barwon Presbytery Committee of the UCAF. Alex retired from the ministry in 1989 on the ground of ill health and he and Heather move to Anglesea where they continued their active involvement in the life of the local churches, the UCAF and in welfare programs; including the churches ‘Concern’ welfare agency in Geelong and Vanuatu projects.
In 1991 they taught for thee months at Talau Ministry Training Centre while the Principal was absent. Later when Alex was Assistant Pastor at Paton Memorial Church, Vila, Heather was again active in PWMU as well as sharing in evangelistic campaigns on Efate.
Alex and Heather accommodated Pastor Paiaporou and Susanna Antfalo from Santo during their visit to the Synod of Victoria in 2005. With financial and practical support of Surf Coast Congregations and Geelong Rotary clubs, they arranged for material to be sent to Santo to complete the PWMU Women’s Centre in Luganville. In 2006 they visited Santo to give advice on the building of the Centre, which now has a conference room and accommodation to support women in lifeskills, health and employment training. They also arranged for shipping containers of materials for Lambumbu Bible College and supported the Skinner-Ritchie house for women and girls in Vila. Heather was on the Synod Council of the Uniting Church Adult Fellowship for many years and a member of committees of the Division of Ecumenical Mission in the Synod of Victoria. In 2008 she and Alex received the ‘Event of theYear Award’ from the SurfCoast Shire for helping to arrange holidays for over 60 people from drought-stricken rural areas.
Heather was associated with Vanuatu for 56 years and continued to serve the Lord, the church and wider community until her death. Alec died on January 13, 2013 and Heather died on September 13, 2014.
As printed in the February 2015 edition of Network