In 2015 our Social Justice efforts focused on three issues: asylum seekers, marriage equality, and poverty alleviation.
At least five community demonstrations and vigils in support of human rights for refugees were supported by Unitarians, with our representation at such events ranging from five to sixteen people. T-shirts, placards and a new banner with the UU social justice message ‘Standing on the Side of Love’ were on display at most of these events. Within days of one of these events, which was replicated nationally, the Australian Government announced that it was almost doubling Australia’s refugee intake for the year. It has been reported that in arriving at this decision, three Ministers in Cabinet pointed to those vigils as evidence that the community wanted to do more.
A petition written by Daphne Treloar and circulated among members in May was sent to the Australian Prime Minister calling on his government to recognise the inherent worth and dignity of every human being and adjust his government’s asylum seeker policies accordingly. In summer our Meeting House displayed the refugee portrait exhibition coordinated by Kirsty Treloar, which many individuals and the Committee of Management had supported financially the year before. Later in the year these portraits were displayed by the City of Adelaide as large banners flying from light posts through the centre of the city to mark Refugee Week.
Dr. Eran Binenbaum continued to follow and update us on the circumstances of the persecuted Rohingya minority in Myanmar. He initiated correspondence and petitions to our local Federal MP, the Foreign Minister’s Office, DFAT and the Burmese consulate.
We had a guest speaker at a themed service on asylum seekers in June: local artist Peter Drew discussed his nation-wide public art project in support of the humanity of refugees.
During July and August Unitarians participated in two rallies through the streets of Adelaide calling for marriage equality.
In summer over $1000 was raised from generous members towards the Red Cross fund to fight Ebola in Africa.
Following the devastating cyclone in Vanuatu in March, over thirty households within the church community contributed to a total donation of just under $3000 which allowed us to send three ShelterBoxes to Vanuatu, each of which can sustain ten people in the aftermath of a natural disaster.
In the days following the Nepal earthquake in April, over twenty-four households collectively donated $2390 to the Red Cross emergency appeal. Thanks to Sandy Johns for coordinating this effort.
Building on from a similar event last year, a fundraiser for girls’ education in Sierra Leone was led by Sandy Johns. $4,209 was raised, which was several times last year’s total, and will fund the education of fourteen girls.
We had two themed services with guest speakers on the topic of poverty alleviation. In June, local activist Pas Forgione discussed his work in defence of the dignity and rights of welfare recipients. Then, in Anti-Poverty Week in October, Pas returned with Kerry Arch from the United Sole Parents Network. Through the theme of welfare justice they advocated passionately and persuasively for the worth and dignity of every human being.
The local branch of Amnesty International has begun using our venue to screen some of their regular series of ‘Meaningful Movies’ which present a range of social justice issues through the big screen.