When Christmas is blue

Christmas is such a joyous time. The kids are excited, the tree is glowing, and friends and family come together to share gifts and food to celebrate the season.

But as we go through life, it’s inevitable that each of us will suffer grief, loneliness or sadness. Christmas can be a painful reminder of those times.

Christmas can bring back memories that are hard to live with; for some it’s a reminder of the physical distance between loved ones, others may be separated from their children as they spend a happy Christmas with their other parent, or maybe it is a reminder that a friend or family member is no longer with them to celebrate the season.Continue Reading

A heart for encouragement

Priya Cooper is a Paralympian World Champion Swimmer who also earned the title of Young Australian of the Year for Sport in 1999. She won an amazing nine gold medals spanning Paralympic Games in Barcelona in 1992, Atlanta in 1996, and Sydney in 2000. She’s also competed in a range of other sporting events, winning medals and breaking world records across the globe.

Since her time on the swimming circuit, Priya has become an inspiring leader in disability services, having sat on a number of high profile boards and as an Ambassador for various organisations. She is currently Deputy Chair of the Disability Services Commission, part of this role has been working with the National Disability Insurance Scheme (NDIS); President of WA Disabled Sports Association; and on the Board of the Ability Centre.

She is also a Perth suburban mum of two with a heart for encouraging mothers to live their best lives.

Born with Cerebral Palsy, Priya has had limited use of her legs for her whole life. Cerbral Palsy is a neurological disorder which affects a person’s movement. It can affect people in many different ways and there are also many different types of the disorder.Continue Reading

God’s love breaking confines of the church

The 2016 Australian Principal Occupational Health, Safety and Wellbeing Survey, which released its  findings in February this year, found that Australian school principals are increasingly under stress due to their workloads. YouthCARE, a WA organisation providing chaplaincy in our public schools, is looking to address this problem through its new pilot program aimed at providing chaplaincy to principals.

There are currently two School Principal’s Chaplains employed in this program, both in regional areas of WA. Jill Clements is one such chaplain, working in the mid-west region; the other is based in the Great Southern. The pilot program began in term three of 2016 and will run until the end of2017, when it will be reassessed.Continue Reading

Surviving on Newstart: life below the poverty line

When we think of poverty, often images of global crisis, starvation and sleeping rough on the streets come to mind. For many of us here in Australia these images are of the ‘other’ – people elsewhere in the world. But poverty is a lot closer than we think. Poverty can look like having to choose between paying the mortgage or the kids’ much needed school uniform; paying the electricity bill or doing a full week’s worth of food shopping.

In Australia, 13.3% of people and 17.4% of children are living in poverty. This equates to nearly three million people Australia wide, according to the 2016 Australian Council of Social Services (ACOSS) Poverty in Australia report. The report found that 57.4% of those living in poverty relied on social security payments as their main income and 32% received wages as their main income.

It is probably not surprising to many of us that Centrelink’s Newstart payment, a fortnightly payment described as a ‘jobseeker allowance,’ is levelled at well below Australia’s poverty line. A single  adult with no dependent children can receive a maximum of $535.60 a fortnight on Newstart; a single adult with dependent children can receive $579.30. ACOSS reports that an Australian single adult earning less than $426.30 per week, or $852.60 a fortnight, is living under the poverty line. Continue Reading

Fashion forward: people over profit

In April 2013, the western world was shocked as images of the Rana Plaza building collapse began to circulate. Over 1 100 people died and around 2 500 people were injured in the tragedy. The building, in Bangladesh, mostly housed garment workers, and the collapse highlighted just how bad western greed in the fashion industry has become.

While here in the west we can enjoy $10 jeans, people – men, women and children – are being exploited in a range of ways in the countries that produce them, from the women who construct the garment, right down to cotton farmers. Lack of occupational safety, unliveable wages, long hours and high-burden contracts are just some of the ways our fashion is hurting some of our most  vulnerable neighbours.

The Rana Plaza collapse inspired a number of global initiatives to try and change the system. One of them is the Baptist World Aid Ethical Fashion Report. The fourth report was released in April, and claims that a number of companies have stepped up their game to do more towards providing fairness for workers in the fashion industry.

Gershon Nimbalker, one of the authors of the report, said that they look at four pillars for each company they research: policies; knowing suppliers and transparency; auditing and supplier relationships; and worker empowerment, which includes whether workers receive a living wage. Continue Reading

Imagine a rainbow

According to Rabbi Dovid Freilich, ‘tolerance’ is a bad word.

“There’s been so much conflict, sadly, in the world because of religion. The world creates something in order to stop this conflict: a word being ‘tolerance’,” he said. “Tolerance means agreeing to sit together; you really can’t stand the fellow you’re sitting with, but you’ll tolerate them. It’s not a good word.”

For 30 years, Rabbi Freilich has been the Chief Rabbi of the Perth Hebrew Congregation, a Jewish Synagogue in Menora, Perth. He has also been the Chief Rabbi of WA and one of the Presidents  of the Council of Christians and Jews WA. Preferring not to use the term ‘retire’, Rabbi Freilich left the Rabbinate in July to take-up other interests after 45 years of service.

The Rabbi believes that rather than tolerance, respect should be our priority.

“We should respect each other,” he continued. “Respect involves two things. One definition of respect is you actually feel happy in another person’s happiness. So, respect implies that even though you might be one religion and you see somebody happy and contented in another religion, you’re happy for them. Continue Reading

Making a bold statement

It is forty years this month since the Uniting Church in Australia was formed. The coming together, on 22 June 1977, of three denominations (Congregational, Methodist, and Presbyterian) was  the culmination of many years of prayer and hard work. Rev Dr John Squires, Director of Education and Formation at the Uniting Church WA, celebrates this union and explores some of the Uniting Church’s founding documents.

The Congregational, Methodist and Presbyterian Churches joined together as one Uniting Church in response to the prayer of Jesus, which is reported biblically in John 17: “May they be one.” There, Jesus prays for his earliest disciples, and then he prays for those followers who come after them, “that they may become completely one, so that the world may know that you have sent me  and have loved them even as you have loved me.”

The unity of the church gives expression to this final prayer of Jesus and bears witness, to all people, of God’s love for the world. This prayer is also important for the international ecumenical  movement around the world. Not only was the Uniting Church formed in Australia in 1977, but last century also saw the formation of the United Church of Canada (1925), then the Church of   South India (1947) and the Church of North India (1970), the Church of Pakistan (1970), the United Reformed Church in the UK (1972) and the Indonesian Christian Church (1988).

The worldwide umbrella organisation for churches, the World Council of Churches (WCC), was formed in 1948, and this body includes churches from the Anglican Communion, many Orthodox  churches, the Lutheran Church and many other Protestant Churches (including the Uniting Church). The Roman Catholic Church is not an official member, but sends observers to each meeting of  the WCC.Continue Reading