Social Justice Forum

18 Dec 2018 by Janise Wood in: Presbytery News

Affordable housing + energy assembly: we need YOU to get our leaders in the room

The evidence mounts for the urgency of affordable housing. Recent research shows: almost half (and growing) Sydney’s suburbs have a majority of renters; the recent dip in prices has NOT flowed through to lower-income renters; to even regain 1996 affordable housing percentages, NSW must build around 15,000 homes a year for the next ten years (half social housing and half “affordable” in the market); housing is the number 1 issue of NSW voter concern – the community supports the right to affordable secure rental and wants governments to do more.

Despite all this, our Federal and NSW political leaders are yet to commit to attending our March Assembly in Sydney on affordable and secure housing and household energy. This will be the biggest public assembly on these issues ever held in Australia. It will be on the evening of March 14 at Sydney Town Hall.

We need to let them know what their community expects. There are 2100 seats in Sydney Town Hall – we’d like to fill 1000 of them by December 30. Can you help us - register to attend today? It’ll be hard for leaders to say no to 1000 people who’ve registered for an event three months out! Imagine if our politicians actually felt pressure to deliver on the top priorities of millions: affordable housinghousehold energy and fair renting laws.

Be part of the biggest gathering of people calling for action on housing and power ever held in NSW. We’ll call for clear commitments from NSW and Federal Governments and Oppositions on social and affordable rental targets, ending unfair evictions, reducing homelessness, and fair access to household solar energy.

Don't miss out! Don’t go on holidays without first registering! Contact Stafford at SJF if you’d like to help with organisation of this landmark event. More at our housing campaign webpage and this feature in Synod’s Insights.

What our Affordable Housing campaign achieved in 2018:

  • First-ever NSW government commitment to affordable housing targets for new developments – and planning laws since extended to all councils in NSW
  • Adoption or improvement of affordability policies by several Sydney councils
  • Community surveys in Penrith and Parramatta show strong support for better affordability and security
  • Strong church and community turnout at our forums in Penrith, Ryde, Hornsby and Parramatta
  • Minor reforms of NSW residential laws improve protection of renters 


Christmas Voucher Appeal gives hope to people seeking asylum

This Christmas, the Social Justice Forum is calling on members of the Uniting Church and the community to share love and generosity with people seeking asylum through the 2018 Christmas Voucher Appeal.
For these people in our community, Christmas can be an incredibly isolating and difficult time. They receive minimal financial support while trying to find employment, participate in the community and take care of their children. Others are being cut off from the essential services they need – such as access to trauma and torture counselling and casework support. These people also experience ongoing uncertainty about their safety and protection in Australia causing them to suffer immense anxiety.
That’s why we’re running our 2018 Christmas Voucher Appeal. All vouchers donated will go to key agencies working on the ground: Jesuit Refugee Service, House of Welcome and the Asylum Seekers Centre. To those who have already contributed so generously this year – thank you so much!
 To get involved:

  1. Purchase a gift card or voucher to the amount of your choice. It could be a supermarket or department store voucher or even a gift card for a pharmacy, cinema or sports store.
  2. Send the voucher/s to: Give Hope Team, PO Box 7137, Silverwater NSW 2128
  3. Spread the word about the appeal with your friends, family, colleagues, congregation and community. Visit our website for more information.

We’re also looking for people to be appeal organisers to coordinate donations from their congregation, group or workplace – if this is something you’re able to do, get in contact with us. We'll be running this appeal in the lead up to Christmas and into the new year!
More at our Give Hope campaign webpage or contact Alex at the SJF Give Hope team. Also, see here for our latest stories in Insights Magazine and South Sydney Herald!

What our Give Hope Campaign achieved in 2018:

  • We were part of the campaign in Canterbury-Bankstown which succeeded in getting access to early childhood education and care to local children of people seeking asylum.
  • Uniting Church members were part of meetings with 10 Federal MPs and Senators to support permanent protection for refugees, fair process for people seeking asylum and a larger, more responsive humanitarian intake program. We’ve since seen the ALP renew its commitment to permanent protection to people found to be refugees, and to reverse the cruel ‘Fast Track Process.
  • We heard our Moderator, Rev Simon Hansford, speak at the Palm Sunday Rally before marching with thousands of other people to Victoria Park in Sydney.
  • We delivered Community Action Workshops to 150+ people in congregations in South West Sydney, the Hunter, and Wagga Wagga.
  • Over 80 people came together in Western Sydney to learn about how they can practically help people seeking asylum struggling in the community as a result of SRSS cuts.

Uniting Earth Ministry wishes you a merry Green Christmas!

Wishing you a very Green Christmas! Celebrating can be a very resource intensive activity - so please do what you can this Christmas to eat sustainably, reduce waste, give ethical gifts and give the planet a break this Christmas.
For some great ideas on where to start, check out this article by our friend Marcus Campbell from Uniting World.
Also, if you're planning a seafood feast this year, please check the Australian Sustainable Seafood Guide to help with your choices. 

What our Uniting Earth campaign achieved in 2018:

  • Moved into Uniting and joined the Social Justice Forum
  • Taught the THL211 Eco theology Course
  • Ran Uniting Earth Radio with a monthly panel and interviews
  • Attended the Uniting Church in Australia National Assembly and are part of the Assembly’s ‘Working for Justice Circle’
  • We led the Hope in Action E-Conference. Catch the podcasts and videos from the E-Conference and Season of Creation on our webpage.
  • Provided ongoing support of congregational advocacy, action and environment themed worship
  • Participated in Climate marches and protests
  • Created Season of Creation resources and celebrations
  • Supported the 'Inspiracy 2: A Climate for Change' Sustainability Festival at Adamstown and Merewether Uniting Churches in Newcastle
  • Helped develop environmental partnerships between Uniting agencies and Uniting Church congregations
  • Hosted volunteers from the Knox Prep Compassion in Action projects
  • Shared inspiring stories about what churches are doing for the environment
  • Ran Zero Waste and Beeswax Wrap (a plastic alternative) making workshops in Queanbeyan, Berry, Springwood, Quakers Hill, Paddington and Maroubra

A launch, a long walk and lots of exciting next steps for the Fair Treatment Campaign

This year has seen great strides in the Fair Treatment campaign, initiated by an SJF proposal to the Uniting Church Synod in 2016, and led by Uniting. The campaign aims to reform drug policy based on facts and not fear, treating drug dependency as a social and health issue rather than one for police, courts and prisons.
The two Synod resolutions remain the core of our campaign: to increase investment in treatment (currently half of all people seeking treatment are unable to access it) and to work for decriminalisation of personal possession and use of illicit drugs.

What the Fair Treatment campaign achieved in 2018:

  • Manuel Cardoso – one of the main architects of drug law reform in Portugal – joined us for an event at St Stephens Uniting Church in June, where 700 people turned up on a wet and cold Tuesday evening
  • October 12 campaign launch at Sydney Town Hall with guests including Sir Richard Branson, Dr Marianne Jauncey and Dr Khalid Tinasti. 2000 people attended, which was the largest for a drug law reform event ever held in Australia, and watched compelling video stories of people affected by illicit drugs and their call for a better way
  • Our Long Walk to Treatment from Dubbo to Sydney highlighted the need for greater investment in treatment, especially for women with children and people in rural areas. Hundreds of walkers shared the journey – stopping off at Uniting Church congregations and holding other gatherings along the way to share the call for more treatment services. Stops and gatherings were at Wongarbon, Wellington, Cumnock, Molong, Orange, Lewis Ponds, Bathurst, Tarana, Lithgow, Springwood, Bidwill, Parramatta and Sydney CBD. The walk ended with our Moderator, Rev. Simon Hansford, handing the baton containing our call for action to supportive crossbench MPs at NSW Parliament on November 2. Pics on the Fair Treatment Facebook page.
  • A documentary of the Long Walk is being produced, telling the stories of some of those who walked and have personal experience and others - family, health experts - appealing for change.
  • A lecture series in Canberra highlighting relevant issues featuring best-selling author Johann Hari and Dr Nuno Capaz from Portugal; plus local information forums in Sydney.
  • Continued expansion of our Fair Treatment partners – we’ve now enlisted 58 medical, legal, health, community, religious and other organisations who support the Synod resolutions and our Fair Treatment mandate. This provides wonderful broad-based support for the next stages of the campaign.

Where to from here?
Planning is underway for the next campaign phase – continuing to work on the two core aims. In our letter to NSW Parliament, the Moderator called for a new drug treatment summit for NSW. Unlike previous summits, this would focus for the first time on what effective treatments are needed. Recently St Vincent’s Health Australia has called for major investment in drug treatment – we’re exploring how we can support this initiative as well. See this story in the SMH from this morning!
Our call for decriminalisation will need careful thought. While the case for law reform is compelling, the detail of how that best proceeds can be complex and controversial. We need to develop our model in consultation with experts, people with direct experience and our partners and supporters. Developing a preferred model will take some time but will increase the prospect of genuine progress and positive change.
Mobilising the wider church and our partners in support of the Synod mandate will be a crucial part of the next phase. We’ll continue to build church and wider community momentum for positive change. The Long Walk to Treatment documentary – due for release next year - will help to inform and inspire people on this issue. Watch this space for info on the documentary’s release! Other plans will be developed into the New Year – we’ll keep you informed as they take shape.

How to make your advocacy count

Want to campaign effectively on important issues in your area? We may be able to help. Uniting SJF team offers campaign advocacy training resources, including a presentation on how to win meetings with your local MP – and get results from them. Contact Stafford if you’d like us to present on this to your presbytery or congregation.

Make your voice heard!

SHARE IDEAS: Please share social justice activities in your community that might encourage or give good ideas to others.  Email your event to us with ideas on how others elsewhere might use it - we’ll do our best to share it.
SEND US YOUR FEEDBACK: How can we improve our newsletter to better serve your social justice needs? Email  or call us on (02) 9407 3204 - or contact us via Facebook or Twitter (below).
STAY IN TOUCH: To receive our monthly newsletter and action alerts, click here – and share with others who might be interested. Please Like and Share our Give Hope Facebook page and SJF Facebook page … follow our Give Hope Twitter and SJF Twitter… and check our campaign webpages on the Synod site.

Thanks so much for all your support in 2018, and we look forward to working with you again in 2019.
We wish you a Merry Christmas and hope you all have a lovely and relaxing holiday season!
The Uniting Social Justice Forum team:
Alex Hogan, Jason John, Jess Morthorpe, Jon O’Brien and Stafford Sanders