Renewed Micah Australia Brings Voices for Justice Back to Canberra
From 10-13 October nearly 200 Christians converged on Canberra for the annual Voices for Justice conference. Over the four days, they trained, attended workshops, and lobbied more than 100 parliamentarians, calling on them reverse cuts to Australia’s international aid program.
Voices participants called for parliament to increase current aid spending to 0.3 percent of Gross National Income (GNI) during the next term (2016-2019). This would involve halting proposed cuts that would see Australia’s contribution fall to 0.22 percent of GNI by 2016-17, the lowest ever level as a proportion of overall spending.
Formerly known as Micah Challenge, the coalition responsible for Voices for Justice has unveiled new branding as Micah Australia.
The new name comes with a shift in focus. In September, various governments agreed to the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). As part of its commitment, Australia agreed to increase spending on international aid to 0.7 percent of GNI by 2030.
The previous Millennium Development Goals, agreed to in 2000, aimed to halve extreme poverty by 2015.
Micah Australia’s National Coordinator, Ben Thurleigh, flagged that the new phase of campaigning phase would include engagement with companies, in addition to its usual focus on politicians and churches.
The coordinator of Voices for Justice, Pip Berglund, said that participants were being resourced to continue campaigning in their own local contexts. “If we’re only Voices for Justice in Canberra, we’re not (really) doing our job,” she said.
Pacific Voices Heard At Parliamentary Forum
On Monday, 12 October, Voices for Justice delegates attended a forum devoted to Australia’s engagement in the Pacific.
Uniting World’s Reverend Seforosa Carrol told the forum that women in the Pacific were especially affected by climate change, due to the nature of their work.
“Research has shown that women more than men bear the brunt of climate change impact” Rev. Carrol said.
Women’s voices therefore needed to be heard in discussions regarding how to respond to climate change.
Rev. Carrol said that, given the “integral” role the church played in the role of pacific island people, theology would play an important role in how pacific island people adapted to the effects of climate change. “We need to address theology,” she said. “We need to address interpretation.”
The new Minister for International Development and the Pacific, Steve Ciabo, told the forum that the creation of his role showed that the Turnbull Liberal Government took aid seriously. He said, however, that Australia could not help other nations in the Pacific “if we impoverished ourselves”
Labor shadow parliamentary secretary for the Pacific, Matt Thistlewaite, argued, however, that Pacific nations knew that Australia had a “selfish” climate change policy.
“Pacific nations don’t create climate change, but feel the effects more than anywhere else in the world” he said.
(Pictured) Former Uniting Church President Gregor Henderson lead prayers at a Voices for Justice Prayer Vigil outside Parliament House