Voices for Justice 2016
In mid-November, Social Justice Team members Rebecca Percival and Matt Cairns joined with 200 other Christians in Canberra to learn about advocating in the political sphere. Joining Bec and Matt were Emma, Damon, and Elise from Tuggeranong Corps, and Southern Territory Social Justice members Amanda and Simone. The three days, from November 19th to 21st, culminated in a day at Parliament house, where the Voices for Justice delegates met with over 100 Members of Parliament to discuss how Australia can be a better neighbour.
The theme of this year’s conference was “Australia: A Good Neighbour?” with a focus on how climate change and Australia’s reduced Aid Budget is harming our neighbours in the Asia-Pacific region. With guest speakers from Fiji, Samoa, and Kiribati, we heard how climate change and its results such as rising sea levels are affecting our poorest neighbours right now.
One example shared was about the tiny Island nation of Kiribati, where the main hospital now floods multiple times each year due to storm surges and king tides.
Other sessions outlined how successive Australian Governments have reduced Foreign Aid and especially how the portion of the Aid Budget which targets Disaster Risk Reduction has been slashed. This vital aspect of our Aid Budget was assisting our neighbours to prepare for natural disasters, which are increasing in intensity as a result of climate change, and to mitigate the damage from these terrible events.
A key part of the weekend was meeting in lobby groups to learn about how to engage with politicians. These groups of 5-6 people also provided the opportunity to network with other like-minded justice people from your area. Rebecca and Matt were partnered up with Steve, Jess, Tanya, and Mariana, all from various parts of Sydney.
Over the Saturday and Sunday this group planned how it would present the Voices for Justice policy requests to its allotted politicians and spent time in prayer that each politician would be open and receptive to the important messages they were presenting.
Monday morning began at 8am with a gathering on the front grounds of Parliament House where speeches were given, prayers shared, and politicians encouraged to take a stand on behalf of our poorest neighbours. Following this time all the lobby groups descended on Parliament House to meet with the Members of Parliament.
Rebecca and Matt’s lobby group first met with The Honourable Justine Keay, Member for Braddon TAS. Ms Keay was very warm in her welcome to the group and shared Voices for Justice’s concerns regarding climate change and our Aid Budget. Their next meeting was with the Deputy Leader of the Opposition, The Honourable Tanya Plibersek. Ms Plibersek encouraged the group to continue promoting efforts to encourage the Government to address climate change. Lastly the group had a meeting with The Honourable Linda Burney, Member for Barton, who supported the groups calls for more action on environmental issues and shared their concerns regarding the reduction of the Aid Budget and particularly the Disaster Risk Reduction portion.
Overall the reception was positive and Voices for Justice was a great weekend of learning and advocating on behalf of those whose voices are not heard. We encourage you to check out the Micah Australia website to see how you can TAKE ACTION too!