Rick and Margaret Milligan
Former serial offender Rick Milligan tells why he was ready for a new life
Beginning his criminal career thieving from homes and shops, nine-year-old
Rick Milligan did not have a reason to rebel from a generally happy home, but
his misdemeanours lead to boys’ homes from ages twelve to fifteen and an
eventual ten years in jail.
“I ran away from all of these homes until, at age fifteen, I was locked
up for the first time in a youth prison or ‘borstal’ in New
Zealand where I was born,” Rick recalls.
Rick continued his life of offending, adding to his rap-sheet fraud, false
pretences, breaking and entering, burglaries, car stealing and drugs,
including marijuana (“weed”) and amphetamines
Arriving in Australia in 1968, he was shortly sentenced to Long Bay Jail and
Bathurst Prisons, before being deported to New Zealand to serve time for
earlier crimes. When his hearing came up, the magistrate put him on a good
behaviour bond because of the time served in Australia.
However, Rick continued committing crimes, and was sentenced to Mt Eden Prison
for three years where he finally discovered there was a way to change his life
and gain a good conscience before God.
“While there a Christian prisoner gave me a book entitled ‘The
Cross and the Switchblade’,” Rick remembers.
This true story concerned a violent young gang leader named Nicky Cruz whose
life was transformed after he surrendered his life to Jesus Christ. Nicky
believed that Jesus is God the Son who became a man to give His life as an
atoning sacrifice for his sin against God.
Suddenly in his basic prison cell it dawned on Rick that if this happened for
Nicky and his mates it could happen for him too.
“I knelt in my cell asking Christ into my life to help me to change.
There were no sudden blinding lights or audible voices or anything really,
just an inner voice saying ‘just believe by faith as in the book’
and so I did.”
In the following weeks, Rick says he felt an inner peace and awareness of what
he later realised was the Holy Spirit living in him just as Jesus promised
would happen in John chapter 14.
“I had never known any experience like this before, so I read the Bible
and other books of a spiritual nature, including books by the preacher Billy
At the prison chapel he met an ‘outside’ Christian group who kept
contact with him by letter, sharing from the Bible, and encouraging him in his
“When I was released from prison I went straight to the pub to enjoy a
few drinks or more. I was waiting for the bartender and looking around I saw
the people around me as totally lost and going nowhere, and suddenly it hit me
that I did not want this life anymore.
“I wanted the One that I had given myself to in prison when I felt so
right! So I left the hotel without a drink! The next day I joined up with the
Christian group that had come to the prison and started to learn how to be a
“I began to see the reality and love of Jesus Christ in many of my new
brothers’ and sisters’ lives and they helped me to keep my life on
track as I learned the very different way of applying the Bible to my life
|“I was in prison and you came to me” |
Rick freely admits becoming a Christian did not make him perfect, but God kept
His promise that every born-again child of God will not continue in a sinful
lifestyle (see 1 John 5, verse 18).
“I am ashamed to admit that I did not obey God wholeheartedly and, after
an empty time as a Gold Coast entertainer, I experienced a broken marriage
that hurt six wonderful children.
“In the Bible divorce is not acceptable and when I came back to God I
asked for His forgiveness as in 1 John chapter 1, verse 9, and He proved so
faithful despite my unfaithfulness and rescued me from a ‘middle of the
road’ existence. I was glad to return the One who had caused me to feel
Rick and his wife Margaret now do pastoral and liaison work with prisoners and
ex-offenders through Prison Fellowship.
“Jesus said in the Bible, ‘I was in prison and you came to
me’, so Margaret and I volunteered with Prison Fellowship for many
years, leading teams into prisons and sharing with the men and women.
“Now, as PF staff members, we liaise between prisoners who have a desire
to change, and churches, and assist where possible with employment,
accommodation to help them get to the life that is ‘so right!’
More about Prison Fellowship at
www.pfi.org.au or call their
national office in Toongabbie, NSW, on (02) 9896 1244.