a poem arising from her visit:
One of the many disguises of God
Great Western Woodlands, Australia
In wide expanse
of open woodland
mallee fowl is
as close as found feather
as far as followed footprints
is melded into landscape
is hidden in plain sight.
Wow, what a blessed week I had! Thank you so much for your gift of hospitality, friendship and “spirit of the land”. It was truly amazing for me as a first time in the outback of Australia and it made a deep impression on me. God is good and to see our beautiful creation with a different lens has been deeply impacting for me. I also enjoyed your teamwork and how you both completed each other in honest and beautiful ways. Bless you both and your ministry and a very big “Danke Schön”!
Thank you so much for being such gracious hosts. Being at Koora was certainly the highlight for me in all of the things we did in WA! Your sensitivities to the land and the way it speaks and holds visitors like us in such a generous and hospitable way was just a stunning and memorable experience. I hope it is not too long before I can come again.
Koora’s vast desert landscapes, austere beauties, starry canopies and blazing campfires walk you to the edge of eternal time. You will never have a more vivid sense of the Spirit of the land that sustains all being and which the indigenous owners intuitively grasped and reverenced for thousands of years. The experience can be deepened by joining hosts Anna and Peter in their daily round of liturgy and prayer and sharing in their merry mealtimes and warm hospitality.
Alice_Anne and Tim
“Feeling depleted, my time of retreat enabled rejuvenation in just the right mix of silence, fellowship and worship. Through meditative contemplation the desert revealed personal truths - contemplating tiny plants nourished by water run off from a rocky outcrop in the midst of desert dry, I felt encouraged to go on. Blessings.”
“Dear friends, I have recently experienced Koora retreat for the first time. On the practical side, it is simple, comfortable accommodation, great hot showers, deliciously wholesome food, and Anna and Peter are excellent hosts - available but not "in your face". The retreat offered me the chance to be quiet, to worship in a grounded way and to reflect on my ministry and my life - with no distractions! The peaceful setting, bird life, wildflowers and wonderful bush walks was such a tonic. If you can get away, you will be rewarded and your ministry will be strengthened.”
“I find that the 'wilderness experience' starts just outside Southern Cross on the way to Koora. The countryside changes and there is a feeling of leaving behind cares and responsibilities, allowing time to appreciate God's presence in the surroundings and my life. Koora provides an opportunity to look at how I see my own ministry as it is and how I feel I want it to be. It is also a time of connecting with fellow clergy. The accommodation is very comfortable, the meals great and the worship and campfire gatherings are special. I leave Koora each time refreshed and encouraged.”
“I went on one of those retreats and it did me a lot of good. After it I could take better care of my health. My husband and I bought a house. I got a job. It changed the way I live my life. I felt a lot better about myself. I did a painting that I gave to Koora Retreat because I was grateful for the experience. It was a painting of our time on the retreat. I said to them, 'Thank you for showing me my country.’ On the retreat there was 16 women, 14 whites and two local indigenous women. We all met at Koora and then we went out bush and we camped, and we walked each day. I was the fire monitor and we had good campfire cooking and hot showers, and good company. At first I was a bit unsure about some of the women, but as we got to know each other, we became friends. I had special names in my head to describe each one, an animal or a bird, or whatever, according to their personality. It was a good time. I would come again, if I could afford it.”
“The experience of the wilderness at Koora assisted me. As I was assisted by the organizers to manage the undoubtedly harsh terrain and sometime very difficult conditions, it gave me a confidence to tackle the many challenging practical tasks that lay ahead of me, as well as an emotional strength that was severely tested over the next few months. The facilitated discussions with other women gave me insights into my own situation and assisted to clarify my direction and to begin the task of re-building my life. As a woman from a remote rural area in Western Australia, I found that Koora offers meaningful support in a practical and powerful way.”
“As a single female who wanted to go to the desert/woodlands area of Western Australia, it was very hard to find a suitable place to go. Many of the women in the group I attended had not been in remote areas before and were at the start well out of their comfort zone. As the week progressed, they relaxed in the environment you provided. The daily meditations on the readings that you provided gave a strong focus for self reflection, followed by discussion of these issues. You provided an atmosphere where it was safe to explore idea and concerns. Many of the ideas and reflections were not discussed in normal life, and the group grew in confidence daily.
We all had tasks to do around the camp. Mine was to keep the fire stoked and the laughter and sharing that the group gave me in doing this made me feel special. Others had different duties, very different from home life and the help and support grew. On the walks, we started close to camp and gradually explored further away. There was no pressure to walk fast; in fact plenty of rests were taken. The joy on the faces of the slowest walkers when we arrived at our destination was fabulous to see. There was a great sense of achievement for the group. I am not particularly religious and you never pressured me to join in religious activities, but we all partook of them because of the reflection meditation and then camaraderie, especially on the rock at sunset. I appreciated the library provided to explore books on the desert experience. I was thrilled by the space and also the activities you provided. The afternoons were very special when we were quiet and I cold listen to the birdlife on my own and reflect.”
“I have been on a number of retreats at Koora and beyond with Anna Killigrew. In fact I first went on a Women's Walking Retreat because I told Anna that I had never had an opportunity to go camping let alone experience time in the wilderness. These retreats have become a beacon for me shining light on hidden depths and strengths. Anna's leadership skills and depth of spirituality have made a significant impact on myself and many other women known to me. I have appreciated an opportunity to meet Indigenous women and share a common experience of connection with the land with them. I have learnt practical skills and found peace in being brought back to living in the moment apart from everyday demands I normally experience.”
“I just wanted to thank you for organising and coordinating the retreat at Koora. I think it will be hard to improve upon any aspect of the camp. As I said to my spouse, it wasn't what I expected but it was better! Over the retreat days, I have absorbed a great deal of "something" and I anticipate it will take some time to digest just a small part of it. The "something" really permeates deep inside. I can't begin to describe it but it feels like a strong, guiding energy that is stored for when it is needed. I most certainly would go again but Peter had better remained unchanged in all aspects. I mentioned this to Anna and we both had a good laugh.”
“Being a Catholic city slicker, I was a little apprehensive when I turned up at the Koora Retreat Centre for a few days of prayerful isolation in the bush. Anna armed me with a compass, food supplies and a bible and took me out to an isolated caravan leaving me on my own for three days. Peter wished me well and assured me that everyone returns from the John the Baptist experience all the better for it. It was wonderful – night skies like you could never imagine, desert flora of infinite variety, and the gentle breeze after the midday sun to keep you company. Then back to the main campsite for great tucker and robust spiritual conversation. Anna and Peter well know the bush where they reverence God, and they generously share that knowledge and that place of the crushed reed and the wavering flame. Thanks for a wonderful, blessed few days with you, and the whole cosmos really.”
Fr Frank Brennan SJ
“Here in the desert/bush is where the Holy Mystery, the nameless one for whom no word, image or state of mind is adequate, can come to us, can impinge upon our consciousness and draw us into something deeper than love or prayer – a transcendence which is the purest form of worship and it is all of God’s doing. The is-ness of the landscape, the network of life – trees, birds, insects, flowers, wind, sun, rain, cold starry nights and the morning sun’s vital warming speak eloquently of a patient, ever-present God who rejoices in all that is, and when we are still enough, invites us to rejoice too! Paying attention is prayer.”
"Having visited Koora for a men's retreat and also for family time away on holiday, I find Koora to be a place where I can relax, reflect, be just me, and spend time closer to nature and closer to God. The desert location helps me disconnect with the frenetic pace of life and run at a slower pace, something important to me.”
"Koora's a great place to get away from the city and get some perspective.Peter and Anna offer great hospitality and are flexible enough to allow you to make a retreat work for you including staying in a comfortable 'donger' units, through to taking a swag or tent into the bush for some serious silence. And if you need to be more active there are plenty of jobs to help with around the place. Give it a go. It's an amazing experience."
"Koora met me where I was and introduced me to the outback. It was a gentle introduction to wilderness. Spartan comfort, plenty of tea and time to just 'be' settled me quickly into a gentle retreat rhythm. Tiny flowers and insects seemed as meaningful as the vast sunsets and starscapes - with me held between. Anna and Peter are consummate chaplains of their centre, 'lurking with intent' to bring Christ to bear in their hospitality, wisdom and warmth. I treasure the hearty meals, easy laughs, and those times of thoughtful contemplation by the campfire. Eucharist was a revelation with the incense of Xanthorrhoea gum whispering ancient wisdom. I do so hope I can return soon.”
"I arrived at Koora a broken man. For two days Anna and I walked, talked, cried and tried to get closer to my Maker… I started to feel better: awesome food, lots of laughs. I then spent two days working with Pete, chain-sawing, lifting heavy things. I was feeling good. Mobile phone off helps. It is now Friday and time to face the world again. Peter and Anna have done all they can do to restore my mind, body, soul… It is now between me and my Maker to sort it. So thanks to Peter and Anna, great servants of the Lord!”
“I've experienced 'retreat' at Koora on a number of occasions, and on each, have been engaged by the simple, earthy, wilderness environment and the people running the place. The important things - tucker, showers, beds - are excellent. The other important things - yarning around the firepit (in season), swimming in the dam, walking in the bush and over majestic - awe-inspiring- rock formations and being spiritually directed by the wilderness (the best director) are as useful (if not more) to my soul. I know why Jesus went bush on occasions. It is THE place to find God in the centre of your own soul, in the simple timelessness of creation, in the absence of distractions, in the stillness and silence of the great, open bush, under the great southern sky. Koora provides plenty of time and space to do and be whatever is right for you wherever you are on your journey.”
“Koora offers escape and being found, all in the one place. Escape from whatever it is that is chasing you (or you are chasing - maybe your tail?), and finding that there is another way to balance the pressures of relationships, work and play, a way that is uniquely the best for you. Give it a shot.”
Rick (58 and still learning)
“I’ve been to Koora several times, four I think, and I’ll happily go again and again. What does this ‘on the face of it’ ramshackle, recycled place have to offer. It offers access to one of the greatest needs of our society and our own psyche today-SILENCE. There are few places where this precious commodity is available in such unlimited quantities. The modern world is plagued by noise, often pointless and inconsequential noise. Despite being along side one of the world’s great engineering feats, the Goldfields Pipe Line, it is set in an environment of untouched virgin bush. There one can wander, alone or in company, to experience the wonders of wildflowers, of the ever changing shapes of scudding clouds, of the calling of birds, of the sunsets and sunrises, and at night the wondrous glory of the everlasting stars; where you can come face to face, heart to heart and soul and spirit, with God’s Creation in a way that cannot be matched anywhere else I know of. And there you can put away the cares of the day and rediscover in the still small voice of the wilderness, the ‘you’ that is you. And you can do it with the comfort of a comfortable bed, cuisine par excellence, and fellowship around the campfire. You can put the world behind you for a few days and return to the humdrum and hurly-burly of your day to day life refreshed and ready to face whatever the world has to throw at you. Join me at Koora sometime and find out for yourself.”
"I found Koora to be a place of secure isolation. There is no pretence at a silent retreat it, if you want silence you go a couple of hundred meters in any direction and the silence engulfs you. This can be quite 'scary' especially when you are seeking your own spiritual connections with God and nature. The guidance and support that I received from Anna and Peter allowed me to let go of the material things. The phrase we used was 'getting naked with God', you can only do this if you allow the beauty of the area fill your senses. Letting go of your 'security blankets' can and does allow you to be open to hear the call of the Holy Spirit. This I believe we often lose in the business of today's world. Sometimes we need to stop and let go of everything, Koora allows you to do just that.”
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