A three-day conference was called by the National Mission and Evangelism Body of the Assembly of the Uniting Church in June 1987. It is a part of its responsibility to look after the ministry and the general welfare of the Ethnic Congregations of the Uniting Church. This was the beginning of the meeting of the Tongan National Conference which continues to meet annually over the Queen's Birthday weekend in June every year in Sydney. This move was a great affirmation to the Uniting Church National Assembly declaring itself as a Multicultural Church at its meeting in 1985. In fact this year (2015) The National Assembly meeting in Perth will celebrate 30 years of this important and historical declaration.
The purpose of the Conference is “to help the Leaders (Ministers and Elders) of the Tongan Congregations in Australia to understand and participate in the life of the Uniting Church.” This will take into account some of the difficulties that Tongan Ministers and Church Members face in trying to relate to a strange new culture and a Church which is related to the homeland Church in Tonga, and yet is significantly different in some of its practices.
As the years progressed, the attendance increased and the Tongan retreat was renamed the “Tongan National Conference – Uniting Church in Australia”, to challenge the "opportunity for the Tongans and those who minister to Tongan Congregations: to have fellowship, to share issues that concern them, and to nurture each other along the way of Jesus” (Agenda, 2007). As a result, the Tongans in the Uniting Church come together as a single unit, unified under the Tongan National Conference (TNC) to provide an integrated approach to meet the churches’ changing needs, in living, working and witnessing together. “The Church is not ours, but it’s God’s.” (Rev Henderson, TNC Minutes, 2007).
Asking where does the National Conference fit into the structure of the Uniting Church? The now 12 National Conferences are recognised under the Assembly National Director of Multicultural Cross-Cultural Ministry and its National Reference Committee responsibilities. The TNC reports to the National Director and its Reference Committee, whose members are elected at every meeting of the Assembly every three years.
The TNC is the biggest in all 12 National Conferences of the Uniting Church in Australia. Previously the TNC has been held in Marrickville, The Newington College Stanmore and Merroo Christian Conference Centre, Kurrajong, NSW. Now the TNC is held at Katoomba Christian Conference Centre in Katoomba NSW over the weekend in late September - October. Since moving to Katoomba, the attendance has been increasing each year with over a thousand attendees last year.