19 July 2024

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Melbourne vicar becomes Canberra bishop

Vicar the Venerable Vanessa Bennett. Picture: Elspeth Kernebone 

Hannah Felsbourg

17 June 2024

A Melbourne vicar aims to inspire women to embrace church leadership as she becomes an Assistant Bishop in Canberra and Goulburn. 

The Venerable Vanessa Bennett said her goal was for the communities of her new diocese to know the hope of Jesus in a troubled world. 

Mrs Bennett said she would support Canberra and Goulburn Bishop Mark Short to enable parishes to share the love and truth of Christ and nurture people’s faith. 

She said she wanted hope in Jesus to encourage the communities amidst disillusionment with everyday experiences.  

Mrs Bennett was convinced by the evidence for Christianity as a teenager. She decided that if God was real, he deserved her full commitment. 

She was ordained as a deacon in Sydney, but as a woman was not able to be priested until she later became rector of the parish of West Goulburn.  

Mrs Bennett served as St Thomas’ Moonee Ponds vicar for the past eight and a half years, and Essendon archdeacon for the past five.  

She attributes God’s provision to her transition from being unable to serve in broader leadership roles in Sydney to now becoming a bishop.  

Read more: The archbishop is retiring. What happens next? Explainer

“It will be good to be able to encourage women to use the gift that God has given them across the whole spectrum of opportunities of service and leadership,” she said.  

Mrs Bennett said it was difficult having to move and say farewell to people she has built relationships with through her ministry. 

However, a benefit of engaging with different church communities over her career was being able to learn from their unique styles and gifts.  

Mrs Bennett is an avid squash player and has competed in world championships against some of the top players in the world.  

She said squash was a great way to stay grounded, connect with people outside the church, and share her faith in a relatable way. 

Mrs Bennett said she would miss going to the MCG for the Boxing Day Test in Melbourne but looks forward to following the Manly Sea Eagles in the NRL in Canberra. 

Mrs Bennett’s consecration will take place on Saturday 24 August 2024 11am at St Saviour’s Cathedral in Goulburn. 

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