Our Fair Trade Journey at Bangalow Byron Bay Uniting Church

Our Fair Trade Journey at Bangalow Byron Bay Uniting Church

As part of Fair Trade Fortnight Bangalow Bryon Bay Uniting shares their Fair Trade journey with Insights.

For Bangalow Byron Bay Uniting Church, the connection with Fair Trade started about eighteen years ago. Rev. Tim Jensen was the minister at Bangalow Byron Bay and his wife Danina had a passion for Fair Trade. Her annual stalls in both towns were very successful and had quite a local following, plus Danina is a ferocious saleswoman who could sell coal in Newcastle!

The time came for Tim and Danina to move on and the remaining Fair Trade stock was left with me since I had room to store it. So, by default, I became the organiser of the yearly stalls. My interest grew and the more I found out about Fair Trade the more I realised that everyone needed to know about it! It seemed like a logical step to organise stalls at local school, pre schools, at my home even. And, everywhere that I took it, Fair Trade was well supported.

Time to expand! The Fair Trade Fair at Bangalow began to serve Fair Trade tea and coffee too. We became an endorsed Fair Trade Faith Community with the Fair Trade Association of Australia and New Zealand. We talked the local Anglicans into becoming one too! Then, a delegation approached the Chamber of Commerce in Bangalow and with their support we applied to become a Fair Trade Town. Bangalow is a town with many residents who care about social justice and sustainability and so there was an appetite for this and many of the shops were already stocking a few Fair Trade products.

With that under our belts (and a matching Facebook page: Bangalow Fairtrade), the church’s Fair Trade stall grew into a fair. We invited Fair Traders from a radius of about 3 hours drive away and the resulting event filled our car park with a wonderful array of Fair Trade gifts, homewares, jewellery, bags, coffee, chocolate and lots more!

We have connections with two local primary schools where we run Fair Trade Mothers and Fathers Day stalls for them and have organised to go in and speak about Fair Trade, run competitions and provide educational resources to promote Fair Trade. With one teacher in particular very keen on climate change issues it was easy to persuade them that Fair Trade is the answer to conducting trade more sustainably whilst supporting underprivileged producers as well as conserving the earth’s resources. Another aspect of Fair Trade which is always timely at Easter is modern day slavery and child labour, with a focus on children and slaves who work in cocoa production. These were all excellent subjects that fitted well within the schools’ ethos and curriculum.

But it’s about way more than just providing ethical purchasing opportunities for locals.

The advent of Covid 19 stymied our efforts somewhat on a community level, however we engaged in a series of Fair Trade themed services over Lent. The excellent Lent resources were prepared by retired Uniting Church minister John Martin and are provided on the FTAANZ website. We have also held several services where we have explored aspects of Fair Trade by playing games and introducing some interactive activities to engage children in the conversation.

Fair Trade is a such a great fit with Christian values and the teachings of Jesus. Micah (6:8) exorts us  “To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God.” And what better way to do that than to support a movement which does not give charity but supports and advocates for a fairer way to do trade in the world where both planet and people are valued and respected and slavery and child labour are abhorred.

We at Bangalow Byron Bay think it’s a ‘no-brainer’ and would urge other congregations to consider getting on board. The Fair Trade Association of Australia and New Zealand (FTAANZ) has people who are keen to help you with ideas and resources to get you started, and can assist you in becoming a Fair Trade Faith Community.

I am one of those people, as two years ago I joined the Executive Committee of FTAANZ. I work mainly with faith groups and would love to talk to any congregation that is interested in knowing more.

We at FTAANZ also have it in mind to share ideas and resources across faith groups to make it easier for everyone. This might be via a Zoom meet up or in a facebook group. We are open to ideas!

Interested? Believe me, this is one initiative that your church could do this year with minimal effort which would have a big impact on the lives of thousands of grass roots producers and artisans in developing countries.

Bangalow Byron Bay did it, we have enjoyed the journey enormously, and you can get involved too!

For more information on Fairtrade Fortnight go to their website.

Corinne Nash, Church Council Secretary of Bangalow Byron Bay UCA and “Fairtrade Advocate”

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1 thought on “Our Fair Trade Journey at Bangalow Byron Bay Uniting Church”

  1. This is a wonderful initiative that encourages both community and faith groups to think more deeply about what we buy on a day-to-day basis. Corinne, Phil and the Bangalow team have worked so hard, particularly after the Covid pressures, to bring Fairtrade into the common consciousness. #proudtobeUnitingChurch

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