Sydney History

Written by Torben Ebbesen, Former pastor of the Danish Church.
Following information from eg. Sigurd Sjøquist and at the sight of archived documents.
Updated February 2012 by Peter Madvig, former chairman.
The vast and vast continent – Australia – has attracted emigrants ever since it was discovered. The first Danish emigrants came mainly in groups from the part of Denmark that became German after the war in 1864.
In early 1874, these Danes, primarily in Queensland, made use of lay preachers and German-speaking priests. Later from 1901-1907 the Lutheran Church in New Zealand sent Pastor Bjelke-Petersen to Australia to the growing Danish group of emigrants.
In 1915, a Danish priest, PC Ligaard, was sent from the Lutheran seminary in the United States. Pastor Ligaard was born in Denmark and had done his studies in the United States. Ligaard bought himself a motorcycle for his few means of reaching the many remote farms and cattle stations.
It was a hard and tiring job to be a priest for the many Danes. A church was built in Brisbane. But the money was few in a pioneer society.
Pastor Ligaard therefore traveled to Denmark in 1923 to obtain support from the Danish Church abroad. During his absence, the church in 1923-24 was closed for financial reasons.
When Pastor Ligaard returned to Queensland, he continued the pioneering work of the Danes in Queensland in difficult economic conditions.
In 1940 it was decided to move the Danish church to Sydney because of the increasing immigration to Denmark. Here, in a difficult transition phase, the connection to DKU was lost due to World War II, and Pastor Ligaard and his family suffered greatly financially and physically. Gradually, work in Sydney got underway despite the difficult years. Pastor Ligaard rented a church in the middle of the city and continued the church work there with the help of his grown daughters.
In 1960, Pastor Ligaard passed away at the age of 80, and the Danes began holding services at the Norwegian Seamen’s Church, where the Scandinavians worked together on congregational life and operation until 1978, when the Seamen’s church was closed down.
The Danes then decided together with the other resident Scandinavians to form the Scandinavian Church in Sydney. Monthly Scandinavian worship services were planned with visiting priests from, among others, the Swedish Sailor Church in Melbourne. The services were held at the Flying Angel House, which was a building owned and operated by The Australian Mission to Seamen.
Nevertheless, they wrote to the Danish Church abroad, which had for many years been connected with the Danish colony in Sydney and Melbourne. With Sigurd Sjøquist in the lead, a Danish priest continued to request assistance and possible appointment for a longer period.
After several years, in the early eighties DKU agreed to send out priests for one year at a time to explore the possibilities of supporting Danish church work.
The first Danish priest to return to Sydney was Provst Emeritus Viggo Herlufsen and his wife, missionary Karen Herlufsen, who was working in India at that time. Herlufsen was positive towards DKU’s support for the work in Australia.
Despite hard work among the Scandinavian congregation in collaboration with the following two pastors, Pastor Schiøler and Pastor Ohl, there seemed to be no basis for a long-term Scandinavian church that DKU could support by sending a priest to Australia with financial backing.
But the congregation did not give up. Herlufsen was invited back in 1986. In the Garrison Church near Observatory Hill, several services were held. one that goes into history. It was the worship service on February 1, 1987 with a visit from the royal house in Denmark. Queen Margrethe, Prince Henrik and Prince Joachim were participants in a Danish worship service which received all Danes from houses in Sydney and surrounding areas.
An anonymous donation of DKK 1 million, as well as the congregation’s own funds and commitments for support from DKU, made it possible in 1988 to acquire a parsonage with a church room in West Ryde. The support from DKU was conditional on the Danes establishing their own church. It came to be called the Danish Church in Sydney, although it also regularly served the Danish communities in Melbourne and Brisbane, and other major cities especially at Christmas time.
The clergy Folmer and Else Johansen were sent for four years in Sydney. These were followed by the True family and then the Ebbesen family. The priesthood was the framework for the Danish church and church life for 14 years. After Garrison Church, North Epping Lutheran Church was rented once a month.
For a long time the congregation had a natural desire for better places for worship, ecclesiastical acts, meetings, and thus also room for a rising level of activity. With the support of both DKU and the Sailor’s Church, this was finally achieved in 2002 by the acquisition of the church in Pennant Hills, where on the same ground a rectory was erected. With church furniture from Virklund, Velux at the roof, Frigate Jutland as a church ship, Danish altar silver, and sounding Danish hymns, a good, small piece of Denmark has been established here.
During 2002 – 2004, preparations were made to merge the two organizations Danish Church Abroad and Danish Seaman’s Church in Foreign Ports. January 1, 2004, the organization, Danish Seamen’s and International Churches (DSUK), became a reality, and it is now our home organization.
The Ebbesen family was succeeded in 2005 by the Engholm family, and the current clergy, with Bente Holgaard at the helm, took office in November 2012. Not forgetting temporary positions for the position in two rounds, Lars Skjødt-Jakobsen in 2005 and Frede Tramm in 2012 – necessary for to avoid interruption in the important church life.
The church in Sydney has been the venue for several major events, ranging from the 2000 Olympics, to the inauguration of the church in Pennant Hills in 2002 and the visit of the Crown Prince Couple in 2005, to the ‘Frederick’s Church’ being named by the Crown Prince in 2009.
The congregation has grown in number and strength. Over the past few years, there has been a steady stream of expatriate Danes to Australia, just as many Danes are getting married to Australians, thereby joining the Danish congregation. We are also a church for the Danes who emigrated previously and those who still come here as emigrants.
The connection to the Danish is albeit more important now than before, as many do not emigrate for life, but often move around as present-day nomads in the business world, but with a strong desire to end their lives in the fatherland. Traveling tourists and back-packers also come, and many are happy to visit the church on their journey.

One great whole: a pastor, a youth assistant, volunteers who, together with the church for worship services and friendly get-togethers, are the Danish church – Welcome here. 

DSUK has produced a podcast series called “Far Away, But Not Alone”. Section 3 is about our former chairman Peter Madvig, who happily tells about his life including the establishment of Frederikskirken. You can listen to it here:
Photo Ministers Year Notes
mimg Various lay preachers and German speaking ministers 1874 – 1901 Danish emigration to Australia begins – mainly from the area of South of Jutland, which became German Territory after the War in 1864.
The first Danish Congregations are formed in Poowong East in Victoria and in Queensland.
mimg Pastor Bjelke-Petersen 1901 – 1907 Sent to Australia by the Lutheran Church in New Zealand.
mimg P. C. Ligaard 1915 – 1923 Sent from the Lutheran Seminary in the United States. The Church is built in Brisbane, but is closed in 1923-24 for financial reasons. Ligaard goes to Denmark to get support.
mimg P. C. Ligaard 1924 – 1960 The work in Queensland continues.
1940: The Church is moved to Sydney (a rented Church in the middle of town).
1956: Toorak House in Melbourne is purchased by the Swedish Church.
mimg Visiting ministers from among others, the Swedish Seamen’s Church in Melbourne 1960 – 1978 The Services are held at the Norwegian Seamans Church until it closes in 1978.
mimg Visiting ministers from among others, the Swedish Seamen’s Church in Melbourne Ca. 1978 – 1988 The Scandinavian Church.
The Services are held at Flying Angel House.
mimg Viggo Herlufsen 1981 – 1982 The first minister sent by DKU.
mimg Aage Schiøler 1983  
mimg Bjørn Ohl 1984  
mimg Viggo Herlufsen 1986 – 1987 The Services are held at Garnisons Church in Observatory Hill.
Celebratory Service on the 1st of February 1987 for the Danish Queen.
mimg Folmer Johansen 1988 – 1992 1988: A Minister’s House with a Church room is acquired in West Ryde.
28th of August 1988: The Danish Church is adopted.
3rd of September 1989: The Chief of the Girl Scouts and Princess Benedikte attend the Service at the Garnisons Church.
Started to visit regulary Melbourne and Brisbane
mimg Henrik True June 1992 – December 1996
mimg Torben Ebbesen April 1997 – February 2005 2000: The Olympics / Paralympics, Services and Cafe Scandinavia
2002: The Church in Pennant Hills is acquired.
6th of October 2002: Celebratory Service and the inauguration.
2004: DSUK is created during the merging of the Danish Church abroad and the Danish Seamans Church in foreign Harbours.
mimg Lars Skjødt-Jakobsen February 2005 – May 2005 Substitute
6th of March: Celebratory Service for the Crown prince couple.
mimg Jesper Engholm July 2005 – December 2011 14th of October 2009: The Church in Pennant Hills is named: “Frederikskirken” by the Crown Prince.
mimg Frede Tramm January 2012 – October 2012 Substitute
mimg Bente Holdgaard November 2012 – October 2019 The Danish Church’s 25th birthday on the 28th of August is celebrated on the 1st of September 2013.
mimg Anja Grønne Mathiassen September 2019 – December 2019 Substitute
mimg Anja Grønne Mathiassen January 2020 - 2022: The Danish Church had a complete renovation of “Frederikskirken”, the Church Hall, and the office.
2023: New roof on the Craft room.