The Diocese of Tasmania also allowed considerable responsibility to their deaconesses but also, like Gippsland, assigned them to remote, pioneering areas. Such was the case of Tasmanian deaconess, Elvie Fraser, trained in Melbourne, who in 1982 was commissioned as Deaconess of the Furneaux Islands, centred on Flinders Island. Elvie Fraser commented:
I can do all that a priest can do except consecrate the elements at Holy Communion, officiate at weddings (because I cannot pronounce the Blessing) and pronounce the Absolution.... We reserve the Sacrament. As we have to pay the fare across from Tasmania for a priest to consecrate the bread and wine, and that is rather expensive, we try not to run out too often.... Because it is not always easy to get a priest to come when we need one for a wedding, I now have a licence to officiate at weddings.
Deaconess Marie Kingston, a rural dean, who ran seven centres in the isolated Tasmanian parish of Derby-Ringarooma, admitted that in spite of her heavy responsibilities, “my status is no different from that of layreader”.
One of the important functions of Deaconess House in Sydney was to train women for overseas missions as well as for the Australian frontier areas. The missionary course was shorter if the trainee did not wish to graduate as a deaconess. Non-ordained graduates were usually referred to as parish or missionary sisters. According to Judd and Cable, under the sub-heading “The Export of Women” (just as if trained churchwomen were commodities!), between 1892 and 1931, 70% of the Church Missionary Society’s 246 missionaries were women. Deaconess Mary Andrews, while Head Deaconess in Sydney after serving with distinction in China, acknowledged the limitations for deaconesses in the Australian urban situation under the close supervision of male clergy. In her opinion, “for those women who sought a more active church role in the extension of Christ’s Kingdom, there was only one option, missionary work, both overseas or in remote parts of Australia.”
The experience of Jacinth Myles illustrates how irksome service in an urban parish could be. After four years of training in Deaconess House, Sydney, Jacinth Myles was employed as a “parish sister” in a Blue Mountains parish. She recalled:
Jacinth Myles found that it was in Australia’s rural areas that she was accorded more opportunities and recognition. In Armidale, in contrast with Sydney Diocese, she was advised that “the position would involve a fair amount of leading services and preaching”. When handed her weekly programme, she was not expected to adhere to it slavishly but was “completely free to follow whatever ministry the Lord wanted me to have”.
From the start the rector made it clear where I stood. “You are the employee, I am the employer".... My weekly program in that parish was drawn up by the rector and it was not open to negotiation. It did include some adult group work, but it did not include involvement in the services apart from reading the Bible.