Carols for Climate Action – Perth faith groups join criticism of new gas projects.

Members of the WA chapter of the Australian Religious Response to Climate Change (ARRCC) gathered outside the Wesley Uniting Church in the City on Friday 17 December 2021 to sing reworded Christmas carols to highlight the need for stronger climate action.

Geoffrey Bice, President of ARRCC WA said people were keen to get creative with the words of well-known carols as a fun way to make an important point.

“While we may be singing some light-hearted carols today, we hold deep concerns about the lack of action in WA to prevent the worst climate impacts.

“WA has major expansions of the gas industry on the cards, while at the same time the International Energy Agency this year called for no “new fossil fuel supply projects” and the IPCC modelling requires an immediate decline in the use of gas to keep within a 1.5 °C temperature rise.

“How then is it morally responsible to forge ahead with expansions of the gas industry? When will the WA Government draw the line and stop approving new fossil fuel developments?”

The Uniting Church have always held particular concerns about the most vulnerable in the community as well as minimising impacts on the environment.

Susy Thomas, Moderator of the Uniting Church WA said, “How can we justify to our children, to the people of the Pacific, to the vulnerable in our community who will continue to suffer through heatwaves and other weather extremes, that it is morally ok to expand a practice we know is going to cause harm?”

Ann Zubrick, Presiding Clerk of Quakers Australia, said that, “Perth plays host to head offices for some of the biggest polluters in the country. It is disturbing to us and to many Western Australians that, on the back of international climate talks, Woodside have announced their plans to open a huge new gas field.”

The group said they were encouraged by the recent news that the WA Government are soon to set 2030 targets for its own activities, particularly in relation to emissions from the South West Grid. However, the group fears that any gains made in reducing emissions will be simultaneously undermined if approval is also given to open new fossil fuel developments like Woodside’s Scarborough gas proposal.

Ann Zubrick said, “We are here today to show that people of all stripes in our community take the climate crisis really seriously. We are representatives from diverse faith groups and we, along with many Western Australians, want to see our state become a global leader in renewable energy, not a laggard of fossil fuel expansion.

“We have already seen with fires and floods what happens when the science of climate change is not heeded.”

“By contrast, we’ve seen during this pandemic that good outcomes are achieved when scientific advice is followed, but when governments do the wrong thing it’s the poor who are hurt the most.”

Geoffrey Bice

Stolen Generations memorial installed

On Wednesday 24 November Stolen Generations survivors, family and supporters including City of Perth Lord Mayor Basil Zempilas, gathered at Moort ak Waadiny – Wellington Square, East Perth for the ‘soft launch’ of the new Stolen Generations memorial ‘Mia Mias’. Artist Sandra Hill, an Elder and custodian of the Wadandi people, and Stolen Generations survivor herself, was commissioned to create the artwork for the memorial.

She said, “My whole public art career has been moving towards this moment in time. The whole meaning is about bringing them home.”

The artwork features two tail feathers of the Kaarak (Red Tailed cockatoo) which represent the collective loss of the children who were stolen from their families. Surrounding the feathers are five Mia Mias (traditional houses). They signify ‘bringing them home’, honouring the space as a long-held meeting place for Aboriginal people over the years.

Ms Hill said, “The feathers represent the time, and I couldn’t think of a better way to recognise those stolen children than with these feathers. When it lights up, it acts as a beacon to help them find their way home.”

The space will be used for annual Sorry Day gatherings, as well as being an educational, ceremonial space and gathering place for Stolen Generations survivors and family. The memorial will be an important public space for survivors to mourn their loss, and where the truth of the past can be acknowledged.

Mitchell Garlett from the Uniting Aboriginal & Islander Christian Congress (WA) was there for the opening of the memorial and said it was a particularly special occasion.

He said, “This is a really beautiful memorial. It makes this place a kwurt place, a heart place again. I know our old people would be pleased with this. For me this is the beginning of acknowledging the past and what had taken place at a public level, which will only lead to bigger and better things as first and second peoples journey together towards healing, truth and justice for a hurting world in which we live.”

If you want to learn more about the development of this acknowledgement to the Stolen Generations here’s an article from Revive written earlier in the year talking about the significance of the space. A video has also been produced where Sandra Hill tells her story of the creation of this artwork.

We look forward to taking part in Sorry Day next year where the memorial will be a powerful presence as we acknowledge the grief and trauma experienced by members of the Stolen Generations and their families, and celebrate the strength and resilience of survivors.

Wendy Hendry and Geoff Bice, Uniting Church WA Social Justice Unit.

Community groups Hiked 4 Humanity for refugees on temporary visas

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On Saturday 20 November, the Uniting Church Social Justice Unit along with many other community organisations and individuals joined together for a Hike 4 Humanity around the Kent Street Weir Park in Wilson. They are deeply concerned for the ongoing struggles of refugees on temporary visas living in our community with little hope of permanency and family reunion.

People like Salem Askari, a stonemason who has been working in the Perth building industry for the last eight years after fleeing Afghanistan as a refugee.

Salem is one of about 200 refugees on temporary visas who live in the Federal electorate of Swan – one of the main areas of Perth where refugees on temporary visas reside. They are working and living in the WA community but are stuck on temporary visas and can’t get their families to safety.

Salem says it was particularly devastating to see Kabul fall back into the hands of the Taliban when the Allied forces, including Australia, withdrew earlier this year.

“I am so stressed. It is really difficult to feel so helpless when your family are in such danger.”

Salem’s wife remains in Kabul and was working for the Afghan Government as a civil engineer up until the country fell. She is now in hiding, fearing for her life. He wishes he could sponsor her to come to Australia but since the Australian Government will only grant him a temporary visa, he is not permitted to bring her to safety.

“It is immensely frustrating. Eight years ago, I fled the same Taliban that my wife is now in danger from, but we still can’t be together, we can’t both be safe.

“I love living in Perth. Most of us have been here nearly a decade – we work hard, we pay tax, but we still are not allowed to settle. We want to invest in the community, we want to reunite with our family, but we need help to convince the Government to give us a permanent visa,” said Salem

Salem along with other refugees in his situation, and supporters in the WA Refugee and People Seeking Asylum Network (WARPSAN) of which the Uniting Church in WA is a member, have been organising to raise awareness of the difficulties of life on a temporary visa in a campaign called We All Need Our Families. The Hike 4 Humanity was planned as a family-friendly event to help launch the campaign and was successfully attended by approximately 160 people on the sunny Saturday morning.

The hike began with a welcome to Country by Clive Smith and his son Donald, both proud Wadjak Ballardong men, and then Salem shared some of his story along with Dr Hessom Razavi, a former refugee from Iran, now a writer and ophthalmologist based in Perth. Wendy Hendry from the Social Justice Unit was the MC, and gave attendees an overview of the campaign, and encouraged people to get involved, learn more and take action. An enthusiastic group of volunteers helped make it a successful event, marshalling participants around the hike circuit, finishing at the CARAD Fare Go food truck.

Geoff Bice, Executive Officer: Social Justice says “The Uniting Church in Australia is a long-standing advocate of the just treatment of people seeking asylum. We All Need Our Families is a community campaign to help put a spotlight on the cruelty of keeping people on a treadmill of temporary visas. We continue to hear the heartache of refugees and people seeking asylum who have fled the likes of the Taliban but are now powerless to help their direct family escape the same persecution.”

Geoff encouraged people to find out more about the refugees caught in this cycle of uncertainty, and about how to get involved by going to the We All Need Our Families website.

To find out more go to https://weallneedourfamilies.com
To follow them on Facebook – https://www.facebook.com/WeAllNeedOurFamilies
Or Instagram – https://www.instagram.com/weallneedourfamilies/