Email Humpty Doo Bush Church is where broken men come to pray and box ABC Radio Darwin By Jesse Thompson
Updated March 27, 2019 10:45:35
Photo: Brad Kylie was crushed in a freak accident. To heal, he turned to the Bush Church Boxing Club. (ABC Radio Darwin: Jesse Thompson) Map: Darwin 0800
Brad Kylie was working when a crane collapsed his chest and pinned his legs.
The father of three who longed to box survived, but the incident left him with an incessant, shooting pain.
In the years that followed, Mr Kylie cycled through cocktails of pain-relieving drugs, "endone and all that".
Then, he strapped on a pair of boxing gloves, raised his fists and found a path forward.
Now he's one of dozens of troubled youths and broken men who gather at the Bush Church Boxing Club each week, recite the Lord's Prayer, and fight.
Inside the Bush Church
Photo: This statue of a boxing crocodile is perhaps Humpty Doo's most famous landmark. (ABC Radio Darwin: Jesse Thompson)
Forty minutes down the highway from Darwin, Humpty Doo may as well be hours away from a major city.
Outsiders may know it as the location of a metres-high statue of a boxing crocodile or a good place to top up on the way to Kakadu.
But just off one of its wide, rural streets is an unlikely union of religion and boxing, where men delve into their feelings through their fists.
The church began with pastor Sharon Crook handing out food to locals in need.
Someone quipped that if the service was a church, they'd come along to it.
That was more than 15 years ago, and the community quickly gathered round to literally build the place from the ground up.
"The land was cleared for a carton of beer, which is sort of like a Territory thing," she said.
"And then it's actually been the community that have built this place."
The first service was delivered on a clear block of land, the faithful sitting on a dirt floor in the unrelenting Top End heat.
Photo: Sharon Crook is the Humpty Doo Bush Church pastor. (ABC Radio Darwin: Jesse Thompson)
Right, right, left
Finding redemption in boxing
Welcome to the Bush Church Boxing Club in the rural town of Humpty Doo — it's where men address their feelings through their fists.
The boxing club didn't come until later, but its unique formula stuck.
When star boxer Stephen Tipungwuti turned up about 12 years ago, he sparred within a rope tied around four poles.
Aged five, the Tiwi boxer was outpaced by the older blokes in attendance.
But since then he's trained and fought his way up to a podium finish at the national boxing titles.
The boxing club has grown alongside him, and as today's session begins the sweat is flying as late-afternoon rain rises off warm, darkened bitumen.
Then, a calm focus descends throughout the shed as boxers lay into each other — right, right, left.
Photo: Ketch Crook is a boxing trainer with the church. (ABC Radio Darwin: Jesse Thompson)
"Fighting's such a great way to break them down," Ketch Crook, Sharon's son and an agile trainer, explained.
"They come to us quite aggressive and they've got underlying issues.
"Over time they start to soften and they start to open up, and that's really where we get the chance to have a talk to them.
"Before and after the fights we like to pray, and that gives them that little bit of extra hope that they may not have to begin with."
Photo: The men warm up before taking to the ring. (ABC Radio Darwin: Jesse Thompson)
'They let it out on the bags'
The most recent census found that people were turning away from religion in droves.
In the religion section, the most common response was "no religion" — about a third of respondents and an increase of 2.2 million people from the snapshot in 2011.
(Humpty Doo's "no religion" respondents totalled 36.1 per cent.)
In that context, the boxing club has managed to get believers and atheists alike to show up at church.
Photo: Participants train on Wednesdays and Fridays. (ABC Radio Darwin: Jesse Thompson)
People have come to the club lamenting the loss of a loved one; others have brought children troubled by their parents' divorce.
"Boxing and church go together because it's a physical side of things — the physical and spiritual," Ms Crook said.
"They get on the bags; they let it all out, and over time you see the anger go."
Photo: Sweat flies through the humid Top End heat as the boxers train. (ABC Radio Darwin: Jesse Thompson)
"Instead of going home and having a beer or so, they can come down to training and do something a bit better for them," Ketch Crook added.
"The biggest point is there's not much in the community of Humpty Doo to start with."
Boxing helps the boys
There's little comfort to be found vigorously moving in air so thick you could almost swim in it.
So what keeps these people coming to church each week?
Mr Crook said the club stopped him from running amok in his younger years and he's passing that on to attendees now, setting them on the right path.
Photo: The teenager has already fought his way to an NT title. (ABC Radio Darwin: Jesse Thompson)
"I used to have anger-management issues, but now that I'm in control of my anger, I don't really get that angry any more," Mr Tipungwuti said.
"I hold it until I get into the ring."
With a string of podium finishes under his belt, his sights are set on competing at the 2022 Commonwealth Games.
He hopes to one day put the town in his rear-vision mirror, head south and become a prize fighter.
For Mr Kylie, the benefits run in the family. His son recently began attending church.
Photo: Stephen Tipungwuti has been attending since he was five. (ABC Radio Darwin: Jesse Thompson)
"It keeps him good in the mind, too, because he suffers a bit of depression, a bit of anxiety," he said.
"And just doing this, the boxing just helps me heaps and I think it helps all the boys.
"It mightn't look a million flash dollars, but it's what's inside that counts."
Topics: religion-and-beliefs, boxing, mental-health, health, exercise-and-fitness, people, human-interest, depression, men-religious, men, mens-health, darwin-0800, humpty-doo-0836
First posted March 27, 2019 09:30:42
Contact Jesse Thompson
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