South Pacific Division of Seventh-day Adventists

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South Pacific Division of Seventh-day Adventists
TypeReligious / Non-Profit
HeadquartersWahroonga, Australia
Region served
American Samoa, Australia, Cook Islands, Fiji, French Polynesia, New Caledonia, New Zealand, Niue, Papua New Guinea, Pitcairn Islands, Samoa, Solomon Islands, Tokelau Islands, Tonga, Tuvalu and Vanuatu
Glenn C. Townend[1]
Parent organization
General Conference of Seventh-day Adventists

The South Pacific Division (SPD) of Seventh-day Adventists is a sub-entity of the General Conference of Seventh-day Adventists, which oversees the Church's work in the South Pacific nations of Australia, New Zealand, Papua New Guinea and the islands of the South Pacific.[2] Its headquarters is in Wahroonga, Australia.

It is made up of four regional offices. They are the Australian Union Conference (headquarters in Melbourne), New Zealand Pacific Union Conference (headquarters in Auckland), Papua New Guinea Union Mission (headquarters in Lae) and Trans-Pacific Union Mission (headquarters in Suva, Fiji). The Division membership as of June 30, 2018 is 522,523.[1]

Sub Fields[edit]

The South Pacific Division is divided into two Union Conferences and two Union Missions. These are divided into local Conferences; Fields; Regions & Field Stations.[3]

  • Australian Union Conference
    • Greater Sydney Conference
    • North New South Wales Conference
    • Northern Australian Conference
    • South Australian Conference
    • South New South Wales Conference
    • South Queensland Conference
    • Tasmanian Conference
    • Victorian Conference
    • Western Australian Conference
  • New Zealand Pacific Union Conference
    • Cook Islands Mission
    • French Polynesia Mission
    • New Caledonia Mission
    • Pitcairn Field Station
    • North New Zealand Conference
    • South New Zealand Conference
  • Papua New Guinea Union Mission
    • Bougainville Mission
    • Central Papua Conference
    • Eastern Highlands Simbu Mission
    • Madang Manus Mission
    • Morobe Mission
    • New Britain New Ireland Mission
    • Northern and Milne Bay Mission
    • Sepik Mission
    • South West Papua Mission
    • Western Highlands Mission
  • Trans Pacific Union Mission
    • American Samoa Region
    • Fiji Mission
    • Kiribati Mission
    • Niue Field Station
    • Samoas-Tokelau Mission
    • Solomon Islands Mission
    • Tonga Mission
    • Tuvalu Region
    • Vanuatu Mission


From left-to-right: Israel, Haskell and Corliss. Some of the first pioneers of the Adventist Church in the South Pacific.


On May 10, 1885, 11 Americans set sail on the Australia from San Francisco with hopes to “open up a mission in Australia”.

The following people became the pioneers of the Seventh-day Adventist Church in the South Pacific:

  • Pastor Stephen Haskell
  • Pastor Mendel Israel, accompanied by his wife and two daughters
  • Pastor John Corliss, accompanied by his wife and two children
  • Henry Scott, a printer from Pacific Press
  • William Arnold, an Adventist bookseller

They arrived in Sydney on June 6, 1885. While Haskell and Israel stayed in Sydney, the others went on a three-day ride in a small coastal steamer to Melbourne, the city selected to be the base for the Church’s Australian activities.

The first Seventh-day Adventist church in Australia was the Melbourne Seventh-day Adventist Church, which formed on January 10, 1886, with 29 members.[4]

New Zealand[edit]

Pastor Stephen N. Haskell, one of the pioneer missionaries to Australia, was also keen to spread the message throughout New Zealand, which he had visited briefly on his initial voyage to Australia. He returned to Auckland four months later to begin marketing the soon-to-be-released religious paper, The Bible Echo and Signs of the Times, now the Signs of the Times (Australian version).

Reports of Haskell's early success in New Zealand caused the leaders of the Seventh-day Adventist Church in America to delegate A. G. Daniells, an evangelist and former school teacher, along with his wife to travel to New Zealand to develop the work further in that country.

Daniells had astounding success through his dynamic preaching and on October 15, 1887, he opened the first Seventh-day Adventist church in New Zealand at Ponsonby. Daniells would eventually go on to become the world president of the Seventh-day Adventist Church.[5]

(See In and Out of the World: Seventh-day Adventists in New Zealand, ed. Harry Ballis, 1985.)

Cook Islands[edit]

John Tay, an American, was the first Seventh-day Adventist to visit the Cook Islands. During his visit in 1886 Tay sold Adventist literature to the people there.

Another missionary voyage to the Pitcairn Islands provided a second opportunity to sell literature and offer medical services to the Cook Islanders. Dr Joseph Caldwell and his wife Julia accepted a request to stay on the island as permanent doctor. Julia, a schoolteacher, opened an English-language school. Along with them remained Dudley and Sarah Owen and Maud Young, a Pitcairner who came as a student nurse.

The five Adventists worshipped regularly with the London Missionary Society believers in their church in Avarua. The services were conducted in English, but many islanders attended as well.[6]


The first Adventist contact in Fiji was the arrival of the ship the Pitcairn in 1891. The Pitcairn missionaries began to conduct meetings for the Fijians. Two of the missionaries, John and Hannah Tay, remained in Suva while the others journeyed to neighbouring islands to sell books to the Fijians.[7] After six months in Fiji John Tay died, bringing his contribution to Adventist evangelism in the Pacific to a premature end.

By 1895, more Adventist missionaries arrived to deliver the Advent message, these included John Fulton and family, and Pastor John Cole and his wife.[7] During Fulton's effort to translate books into Fijian, Pauliasi (a Methodist minister) became convinced of the accuracy of the Seventh-day Sabbath, and later became the first ordained Adventist minister. In those days, Seventh-day Adventists were often referred to by Fijian locals as "lotu savasava" or the "clean church".[8] This was based on the Adventist doctrine emphasising healthy living which includes a ban on the consumption of pork, alcohol, tobacco, caffeine, etc.

Four Adventist schools were established to reach the different ethnic and religious divisions of Fiji. Fulton College was founded when three of these schools combined. Its mission was to provide "pastoral training, teacher training and technical instruction, it also included Indian and Fijian primary schools".[9]

According to the 1996 census around 2.9% of Fijians identify themselves as Adventist.

Papua New Guinea[edit]

Seventh-day Adventists first sent religious literature to Papua New Guinea in 1891 on the London Missionary Society boat. In 1895, church leaders decided to send a missionary family to New Guinea, a decision they abandoned when they heard news of cannibals murdering and eating several missionaries of the London Missionary Society.

A few Adventist church leaders made short visits to safe native villages of New Guinea from 1902 to 1905. These visits further convinced them of the need to send missionaries to live on the island. They thought Fijian missionary trainees would adapt more easily to the humid climate, local food and leafy houses of New Guinea. Septimus and Edith Carr, who had previously worked in Fiji, and their Fijian assistant, Benisimani (Beni) Tavondi, arrived at Port Moresby on June 25, 1908.

The missionaries rented a house and began making contact with the government officials, other European and national missionaries and planters. They became familiar with the local area, visited native feasts and gave out salt to befriend the villagers.

The new site was used as a plantation. Soon more missionaries came to help. The missionaries officially started a church on the island on July 11, 1910.[10]


In June 1891, E. H. Gates and A. J. Read visited Tonga (Friendly Islands) on the fourth journey of the ship Pitcairn, and left without any new Adventist converts.[11] On August 30, 1895, Edward Hilliard, his wife Ida, and daughter Alta arrived in Tonga on the schooner Pitcairn as the first Seventh-day Adventist missionaries. The Hilliards established the first Adventist school in the Kingdom at their home, which was later closed due to little assistance.

In 1896, more Adventist missionaries arrived in Tonga including Sarah and Maria Young (two nursing trainees), and Edwin Butz with his wife Florence and daughter Alma.[12] Maria Young was also known to participate in assisting Queen Lavinia in giving birth to Salote (the 3rd King of Tonga).[13] She (Maria) was later married to the first Adventist convert in Tonga (an English man), Charles Edwards;[14] whereas, Timote Mafi was the first Tongan Adventist convert.[14]

In 1904, Miss Ella Boyd reopened the Adventist primary school at Nukuʻalofa (now known as Mangaia or Hilliard). The school began to grow in size and, 20 years later, secondary school grades were introduced to Beulah. In 1937 the school was finally recognised as Beulah Adventist College after a great outcome in Government public exams.[11]

Today, the Seventh-day Adventist in Tonga has a small number of members in comparison to other dominant Christian churches in Tonga. There are a total of four Seventh-day Adventist schools in Tonga, with one primary school (Beulah Primary School), two integrated primary and middle schools (Hilliard and Mizpah), and one secondary school (Beulah Adventist College). Out of these Adventist schools, Beulah College has a known and recognised Brass Band in the Kingdom and throughout the Pacific.

Organisational history[edit]

The South Pacific Division was organised in 1894 as the Australasian Union Conference, and consisted of just Australia and New Zealand. In 1901, the South Pacific islands were added to the structure. In 1905, Singapore and Sumatra were added, with Java and the Philippines added in 1906. New Guinea was added in 1908. In 1910, Singapore and the Philippines were moved to the Asiatic Division, followed by Java and Sumatra in 1911.[2]

In 1915, the Australasian Union Conference joined the Asiatic Division, but separated again in 1919 as the Australasia Union. In 1922 it was organised as the Australasian Division, although it also retained its former name, Australasian Union Conference.[2]

In 1949, it became the Australasian Inter-Union Conference, after splitting into two union conferences and two union missions. In 1956, the name was changed to Australasian Division, and, in 1958, to Australasian Division of the Seventh-day Adventist Church.[2]

In 1953, the Bismarck-Solomons Union Mission split off from the Coral Sea Union Mission due to rapidly increasing membership. However, in 1972, these were recombined as the Papua New Guinea Union Mission. The remaining territories became the Western Pacific Union Mission. Later Tuvalu rejoined the Central Pacific Union.[2]

In 1985, the Australasian Division became known as the South Pacific Division.[2]


Seventh-day Adventists in the South Pacific believe in communicating their faith through programs and events that meet spiritual, physical and social needs.

This can be seen through their involvement in various areas.


The Adventist Church runs one of the largest Christian education systems in the world. In the South Pacific, the Adventist Church operates four Tertiary Institutions (Avondale College in Australia, Fulton College in Fiji, and Pacific Adventist University and Sonoma Adventist College in Papua New Guinea), and more than 370 primary and secondary schools, with a total enrolment of about 72,076 in 2015. They also have four Vocation Training Institutions (Mamarapha College in Western Australia, and Afatura, Batuna and Atoifi Nursing Training College in Solomon Islands). The Adventist educational program is comprehensive, encompassing "mental, physical, social, and spiritual health" with "intellectual growth and service to humanity".

(See also Education in the South Pacific.)

Health and lifestyle[edit]

Throughout the world, the Church runs a wide network of hospitals, clinics, and sanitariums. These play a role in the Church's health message and worldwide missions outreach.

The Adventist Church operates two hospitals, Sydney Adventist Hospital and Atoifi Adventist Hospital, in the South Pacific and more than 80 clinics in remote communities. Sydney Adventist Hospital, or better known as the San, is one of the largest and most comprehensive private hospitals in Australia.

Adventists also run the Heel'n'Toe walking club, vegetarian-cooking demonstrations and stop smoking programs to help people achieve a better sense of wellbeing. (See their community health projects.)

Established in 1898 by the Seventh-day Adventist Church, the Sanitarium Health Food Company is now the leading health food manufacturer in Australia and New Zealand. Sanitarium offers a wide range of healthy food and nutritional advice.

The Church also operates 18 aged-care facilities called Adventist Retirement Villages in Australia and New Zealand.

Social and community issues[edit]

The Seventh-day Adventist Church in the South Pacific operates a number of counselling services such as the Adventist Counselling Services in Sydney.

Christian Services for the Blind and Hearing Impaired (CSFBHI) has been set up by the Seventh-day Adventist Church in the South Pacific to address the needs of those who are aurally or visually impaired. Their audio library has over 1,000 audio books available for loan. There are over 400 members registered to CSFBHI's Audio Library.[15]

Free correspondence courses on topic such as health and spirituality and free home viewing of videos such as "Who is Jesus?", "Eating Smart" and "The Search" are also available through the Adventist Discovery Centre.

Humanitarian aid and development[edit]

The Adventist Development and Relief Agency (ADRA) is the international charity of the Seventh-day Adventist Church. ADRA works as a non-sectarian relief agency in 125 countries and areas of the world. Its primary aim is to develop communities to be economically independent and self-sufficient through community-owned projects both nationally and internationally including disaster relief. ADRA Australia’s domestic organisation operates op-shops, drop-in centres and numerous other local community projects.

Adventist Media headquarters in Wahroonga, New South Wales.


Adventist Media began operations in Australia on July 1, 2006, and is the first communication and media network of the Seventh-day Adventist Church.

It is responsible for all communication and media needs of the Adventist Church in the South Pacific. These include media ministries, public relations, marketing, design, news dissemination and the production of resources such as books and DVDs.

Adventist Media is the result of a merger of the Adventist Media Centre, the communication and public relations department of the Church in the South Pacific, and Signs Publishing Company. It is situated at two locations: Warburton, Victoria (Signs Publishing Company) and Wahroonga, New South Wales (Adventist Media headquarters).

Adventist Media publishes a fortnightly news-magazine called Adventist Record for church members and a monthly lifestyle magazine called Signs of the Times (Australian version) for the general public.[16]


List of presidents:

Australasian Union Conference:

Australasian Division:

South Pacific Division:

Further reading[edit]

  • Gary Krause (1990). "White, Ellen Gould (1827 - 1915)". Australian Dictionary of Biography. 12. Melbourne University Press. pp. 465–466.
  • M. F. Krause, The Seventh-Day Adventist Church in Australia 1885-1900 (M.A. thesis, University of Sydney, 1968).
  • Arthur J. Ferch, ed., Symposium on Adventist History in the South Pacific: 1885–1918. Sydney: South Pacific Division, 1986. One review is Jonathan M. Butler, Church History 58:4 (1989), p545–546.
  • Arthur Patrick, Ellen Gould White and the Australian Women, 1891-1900 (M.Litt. thesis, University of New England, 1984).
  • Clapham, Noel et al. "Seventh-day Adventists in the South Pacific 1885-1985" Signs Publishing, Warburton, Victoria, Australia, 1985.
  • General Conference Archives – for official church publications.
  • "Seventh-day Adventists in the South Pacific: A Review of Sources" by Arthur Patrick. Journal of Religious History 14 (June 1987): 307–26.
  • Hilary M. Carey (February 2000). "Introduction: Millennium: A View from Australia". Journal of Religious History. 24 (1): 1. doi:10.1111/1467-9809.00097.
  • Journal of Pacific Adventist History, also known as Pacific Adventist Heritage, ed. David Hay. Published twice yearly, it began in 1991. Covers mission in the South Pacific Islands. Available freely online.
  • "Church — and how it works" by Barry Oliver. Record 114:8 (March 7, 2009), p10–11; first in a series of articles on Adventist church structure in the South Pacific Division.


  1. ^ a b "South Pacific Division". Adventist Yearbook. Retrieved 2019-10-23.
  2. ^ a b c d e f g Seventh-day Adventist Encyclopedia Vol. 11, p.653-57
  3. ^ "South Pacific Division-Organizational Units". Adventist Organizational Directory. Retrieved 2019-10-23.
  4. ^ Seventh-day Adventist Church South Pacific | Australia Archived 2011-07-19 at the Wayback Machine
  5. ^ Seventh-day Adventist Church South Pacific | New Zealand Archived 2012-03-21 at the Wayback Machine
  6. ^ Seventh-day Adventist Church South Pacific | Cook Islands
  7. ^ a b Seventh-day Adventist Church South Pacific | Fiji
  8. ^ Hare, Eric B. Fulton's Footprints In Fiji. Washington D.C.: Review and Herald, 1969
  9. ^ untitled
  10. ^ Seventh-day Adventist Church South Pacific | Papua New Guinea
  11. ^ a b Tonga on the 'NET - Tonga Schools - Piula College Archived 2011-07-18 at the Wayback Machine
  12. ^ Seventh-day Adventist Church South Pacific | Tonga & Niue Archived 2008-01-21 at the Wayback Machine
  13. ^ Ferch, Arthur J., ed. Symposium on Adventist History in the South Pacific: 1885-1918. Warburton, Australia: Sign Pub. Co., 1986.
  14. ^ a b Maxwell, Arthur S. Under the Southern Cross. Nashville, TN: Southern Publishing Association, 1966.
  15. ^ Seventh-day Adventist Church South Pacific | Sight & Hearing Impaired
  16. ^ Seventh-day Adventist Church South Pacific | Publications Archived 2007-04-04 at the Wayback Machine
  17. ^ News Release 20 November 1997
  18. ^
  19. ^

External links[edit]