Our Church’s firm commitment to social justice is long-standing, ingrained and widespread.
As a key part of this, Insights is highlighting the work of the Social Justice Forum within the Uniting Church in Australia, Synod of NSW and the ACT. In the first of five articles, we give you the lowdown on the Forum, as well as what it is campaigning for.
Peel back the layers and what we discover at the heart of our Church is a firm commitment to social justice. It is ingrained in our DNA and represents an important part of our self-identity. Powerful words of social justice are inscribed in the 1977 Statement to the Nation at the first Assembly: ‘A Christian responsibility to society has always been regarded as fundamental to the mission of the Church. In the Uniting Church, our response to the Christian gospel will continue to involve us in social and national affairs.’
Since our union, we have forged a proud history of advocating for social justice: protecting human rights and the dignity of people; defending the integrity of creation; seeking peaceful outcomes to terrorism and conflict; and supporting the vulnerable, impoverished and disadvantaged — both at home, and abroad.
The Social Justice Forum is one way our commitment to social justice continues, within the Uniting Church in Australia, Synod of NSW and the ACT.
It all starts with a great idea
Established in 2009, the Forum was the brainchild of Harry Herbert, the former Executive Director of Uniting-Care NSW/ACT. Its founding objective was to strengthen the focus upon, and relationship with, social-justice work, by the Church (and its service divisions).
The Forum is the platform and voice through which the Church expresses its concerns for justice and community issues. It has representatives from across the Synod, including UnitingCare, the Synod Standing Committee, and Uniting Mission and Education. Being an open forum means all aspects of the Church — mission, ministry, education and services — are reflected in the voicing and showing of our concerns for social justice.
The Forum has 3 main purposes:
1. Recommend priorities for social justice action and advocacy across UnitingCare, as well as the Uniting Church in Australia, Synod of NSW and the ACT.
2. Enhance the capacity of the Uniting Church in Australia, Synod of NSW and the ACT, to promote and act for social justice, as an integral part of its life and mission.
3. Facilitate the sharing of information about social-justice work being undertaken by the Uniting Church in Australia, Synod of NSW and the ACT, as well as the promoting the celebrating of that work throughout the Church and wider community.
These are brought to life through campaigns, capacity-building, and communications.
Campaigning for a brighter future
Gabe Kavanagh is the Social Justice Campaign Coordinator for the Social Justice Forum. Together with Social Justice Advocacy Coordinator Jon O’Brien, she helps resource and support the Forum’s work. “One of the roles of the Forum is to hear all the voices from across the Church and then develop and deliver initiatives that meet the needs of all of those people,” says Gabe. “We then create campaigns to facilitate meaningful action for people in Congregations.
“The main challenge is identifying where you’re going to have most impact — there are so many issues we could be focusing on. So, in 2013, we ran some consultations with the Synod Standing Committee and the two key issues that spoke to us, as the Forum, were asylum seekers and affordable housing.”