Australian Baha’is look back in gratitude to the founders of the Baha’i Faith in Australia, Clara and Hyde Dunn. As the Baha’i community grew in numbers during the twentieth century, the Baha’is recognised the tremendous courage of the Dunns, their tenacity and love for everyone who crossed their path. They became known as Mother and Father Dunn.
Mother and Father Dunn landed in Sydney on 10 April 1920. At the time of their arrival from the United States, Hyde was aged 64 and Clara 51. They were not wealthy, and knew no-one in Australia. The qualities of courage, faith, persistence and audacity sustained them.
Establishing a livelihood in a new country and at such an advanced age was not easy. Initially Clara took secretarial work until Hyde Dunn found employment as a travelling salesman for the Bacchus Marsh Milk Company, soon acquired by Nestle. His work took him across the country, travelling mainly by train, and by 1923 he had visited 225 towns. He worked for Nestle for nearly 12 years, travelling to every state and major city and town in Australia. Clara Dunn often accompanied her husband in his travels, hosting guests and giving public talks herself. She also engaged in charity work.
Gradually they found like-minded people and the Baha’i Faith started to grow in Australia. The new Baha’is in the 1920s learned more about the Baha’i teachings and started to form local Baha’i governing organisations to help manage the affairs of the Faith.
In 1932 Clara Dunn travelled to the Holy Land on pilgrimage, where she met head of the Baha’i Faith at the time, Shoghi Effendi. On her return, he wrote:
The services which both of you have rendered, and are still rendering, to the Faith, are engraved upon the tablet of my heart. Nothing can efface their trace or dim their memory.
Following the passing of Hyde Dunn in 1941, Clara continued to serve the growing Baha’i community with great vigour, travelling frequently to visit and encourage Baha’is across the country.
Both Clara and Hyde Dunn were designated as Hands of the Cause, the highest honour that could be bestowed on an individual Baha’i. Clara was appointed a Hand of the Cause on 28th February, 1952 and Hyde was appointed posthumously on 26 April, 1952.