Alastair and Jillian MacGillivray

Alumni of the year leave Pacific island legacy

Friday, August 24, 2018
Career missionaries define sacrificial and humble service

Alastair and Jillian Macgillivray will be shocked when they realise Avondale Alumni is recognising their life work in the presentation of the Alumnus and Alumna of the Year awards. But what else would we expect? The couple have lived lives of self-effacing service, much of it as volunteers in the Pacific islands, relying on God to open doors, provide food and resources and show the way.

As a teenager, Jillian Hay gave her heart to God and promised Him a life of service. Attending Avondale College in 1969 and a posting to Carmel College provided a setting for her to fall in love with Alastair Macgillivray, a handsome young teacher with a soft Scottish brogue.

If a young Jesus had decided to enrol at Avondale in the 1960s, we may wonder which course He would have chosen? Probably, there would have been only one: building construction. Carpentry is the only recognisable skill He had acquired. He would have probably blended into the background at Avondale, so humble and redolent of wood shavings and sawdust, that it would have been easy to overlook Him. The same may be said of Alastair, who prayed and worked hard to graduate, in 1968, as an applied arts teacher specialising in woodwork.

Jill and Alastair married in 1972 and their hearts drew them to the Pacific islands. Eleven years of service in Samoa and Tonga established Alastair as a definitive craftsman with skill in almost any area of practical work—allied to a perfectionist streak.

Avondale Alumni honours the life and work of Alastair and Jillian Macgillivray as being living examples of Avondale College of Higher Education’s motto, “A Greater Vision of World Needs.”Dr John Hammond, Alumnus, Avondale College of Higher Education, and second cousin to Alastair Macgillivray.
A return to Australia did little to quench their missionary desires. A call to Aore Adventist Academy on Santo in Vanuatu followed. While serving at Aore, Alastair and Jill caught a vision that would enable the local community to develop life skills in furniture making, boat building, mechanics and domestic needs. In his own words, Alastair envisaged “a practical ministry which not only shares the message of Jesus, but through imparting a broad range of practical skills, we will bring a level of security and stability to the lives of these wonderful people.”

Talk about commitment. Alastair invested his inheritance from his father to establish the Listair Institute in 2002. It would become an accredited self-supporting institution of practical learning in Vanuatu. Indebted students wanted to name it the Alastair Institute but he demurred, finally accepting Listair.

Jill would expand upon her already considerable knowledge of the workings of sewing machines, sourcing, repairing and distributing thousands of them for the women of Vanuatu. She has lived out her childhood dreams inspired by the mission stories she heard as a girl in Sabbath school. At the same time, she has learned that mission life for a wife and mother can be challenging, taxing, unpredictable, requiring total dependence on God when faced with the impossible. Alastair has never flinched in his desire to model the life of his Saviour by putting other people first. His final triumph has been the completion of a five-tonne catamaran that is now being used in outer island mission service. Those close to him acknowledge he has never thought of using his advanced skills to make a personal fortune. Their sole fundraising strategy has been to trust in God as their chief executive officer.

Well past retirement age, Alastair and Jill now live in the Mildura district to be closer to their six children and 16 grandchildren. Choosing a life of simple trust, with minimal earthly possessions, they have experienced riches in a way that cannot be readily measured, leaving a legacy of skilled Pacific tradesmen, well-constructed churches and Adopt a Clinics that stand strongly against cyclones.

Avondale Alumni honours the life and work of Alastair and Jillian Macgillivray as being living examples of Avondale College of Higher Education’s motto, “A Greater Vision of World Needs.” Their lives surely reflect the words of the prophet Micah, who wrote, “He has shown you, O mortal, what is good. And what does the Lord require of you? To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God” (Micah 6:8, NIV).


Register for Homecoming, the largest Avondale Alumni event of the year. All alumni and friends of Avondale, and their families, from all years and classes are welcome. The heart of Homecoming: the reunions for those in the honour years.



John Hammond

John Hammond

Dr John Hammond is an Avondale College of Higher Education alumnus and a former Director of Adventist Schools Australia.

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