Substance abuse is a health problem, not a welfare problem

UnitingCare Australia urges the Government once again to abandon the flawed Drug Testing Bill before Parliament today.

Those unfortunate enough to be battling addiction need support services and counselling, not humiliation and welfare quarantining.

There is a consensus of voices from across the organisations who work with the most vulnerable people in Australia demanding a preventive, evidence-based approach.Continue Reading

Religious leaders arrested at Adani mine site

Three religious leaders, including a Uniting Church minister, and three lay people were arrested on Thursday September 5 at the site of Adani’s proposed Coal Mine in Central Queensland. Reverend Alex Sangster, Dharmacari Tejopala and Dharmacari Aryadharma refused a ‘move on order’ by police, along with Christians, Mark Delaney, James Thom and Angela Merriam.

Six other Christians joined them blocking work at the site and called on Gautam Adani to abandon the project. The group held a religious ritual of prayer and song in the direct route of Adani contractors preventing them from entering the workers’ camp.Continue Reading

Ministry Expo excitement

Friday 30 August promised to be stormy and yet, the evening was remarkably clear given a week of passing rainfalls.

After much activity in terms of advertising via radio, social media, the Uniting church WA website, posters in the windows at St Andrew’s Uniting Church, the Uniting Church WA Ministry Expo was set up and ready to go.

Some local congregation members arrived first, and slowly the building filled with 42 adults and 12 children.Continue Reading

Community gathers to hear experts on WA Gas and its Climate Impacts

Wednesday 28 August saw approximately 60 people gather at Nedlands Uniting Church to hear from key experts on WA Gas and its Climate Impacts. The event was co-hosted by the newly formed WA Chapter of Australian Religious Response to Climate Change (ARRCC) and Doctors for the Environment Australia (DEA).

Both groups are committed to advocating for climate action in a non-partisan manner, with a focus on evidence and ethical practice. The focus of the evening was on Western Australia’s contribution to global climate change, and the unique role our state can play in reducing greenhouse emissions. Continue Reading

Wesley College wins Boarding School of the Year

Wesley College, a Uniting Church WA school, received the prestigious Australian Education Award for Boarding School of the Year on Friday 16 August in Sydney.

The Australian Education Awards celebrate the outstanding achievements of the country’s top performing schools.

“It is often said, the health and heart of a school is measured by its boarding community. This award reflects the wonderful work that happens in our boarding house, but also acknowledges the innovative facilities of the College as a whole,” said Ross Barron, Headmaster of Wesley College.

“To be named as one of Australia’s best schools is a magnificent honour and a tribute to our staff and their commitment to every student.”

St Margaret’s Anglican Girls School (Brisbane) was co-winner of the Boarding School of the Year Award.

The award recognises the most outstanding boarding school in Australia based on a range of criteria including:

  • Consistently high standards of teaching and learning
  • Academic and other achievements
  • Rigorous professional learning to improve teaching and curriculum delivery
  • Strong communication links with students, parents, teachers and the wider community
  • Effective management of facilities, finances and human resources
  • Demonstrated commitment to innovation and continuous improvement
  • Provision of a supportive home environment focused on student wellbeing.

Rodney Steer, Head of Boarding at Wesley College, joined Wesley in January 2019 and said he was not surprised to see the college receive this award.

“Having worked for most of my adult life in boarding schools across the country, it is my view that Wesley boarding is the finest in Australia,” he said. “Our focus is not only academic excellence, but each boy’s personal growth and wellbeing, in a nurturing environment that understands the importance of community and relationships.”

Wesley College was also a finalist in the 2019 Australian Education Awards including Best School Strategic Plan, Department Head of the Year (Claire Leong) and Innovation in Learning Environment. And in 2018, Wesley College was named as an Innovative School by the Educator, the leading Australian resource for senior educational professionals.

Being a safe church is everyone’s business

Rev John Cox is the inaugural Director of the Uniting Church in Australia’s National Safe Church Unit. John previously served as Executive Officer of the National Royal Commission Response and Engagement Task Group, the group that guided the Uniting Church’s national response to the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse.

He shares some thoughts on his new role.

What is the background to the National Safe Church Unit?

The Uniting Church took a proactive stance to engaging with the Royal Commission and the work of the national task group was to make sure that the commission had what they needed from the church, and that the church learned from the commission.

In the last year of the commission’s work the national task group transitioned to be more forward facing—asking itself the question, how do we implement what we’ve learned in and through the life of the church?

The idea of a national safe church unit grew out of that. It’s a unique collaboration between all of the synods and the Assembly, so it is owned by the councils of the church, which gives it a level of responsibility to drive change in and through the life of the church.

What can we expect from the unit?

The new body is about cultural enhancement in the life of the church; how do we understand ourselves as church, what does safety mean and how do we live that out?

Our role is to resource the church to provide safe contexts in which people are nurtured and can engage the possibilities of faith in Christ. This is the call to be a Christian community. The unit’s work is intended to sit right across the church, not just the congregational life but also the agency and the school life of the church.

So, this work is about supporting the church to be who we are called to be through the creation of strong evidence-based policy frameworks and resources, further collaboration across the church to create consistency in processes and enhance our education and training, and sharing information to create the checks and balances the church needs to ensure safety.

Do most Uniting Church members accept the reality of abuse in our churches?

I think across the life of the church we have people in congregations, lay and ordained, whose experience and understanding is that this could never happen here.

The Royal Commission said one of the biggest hurdles to adequate reporting on child sexual abuse was the belief that the person working at the next desk could never do something like that.

That’s a challenge for the church, as we understand people of faith to be people of integrity as we know them in a particular sphere.

My experience is that it’s not so much the looking back and saying, ‘I don’t believe that’. The struggle I think is here and now—yes, we accept that that happened there and then—but that would never happen now!

The checks and balances certainly help, but in my view safe church culture rests with every member of the church owning a responsibility to ensure that it’s a safe space.

Helping the church to understand that a percentage of abuse is perpetrated by people intent on undertaking that behaviour but there’s also abuse that happens when boundaries are lax, when opportunities are presented—is going to help us to be that safe community.

What drives you to continue working in this difficult space?

The dissonance between what I heard and experienced at the commission and what I understand the church to be called to be—this is what drives me. You hear stories and you think to yourself, ‘how on Earth could we allow ourselves to not be who we were called to be, to allow that to happen?’

I understand some of the contextual differences that contributed to abuse, the power and position of leaders, the place of children… so I understand functionally how that happened. However, this has not magically stopped… and this is not who we are.

We have moved a long way since some of the stories I’ve heard—but I strongly believe that following Jesus involves being a community of Christ in which people are nurtured and loved by God and by each other, and that being a safe church is one significant part.

Top image: Rev John Cox, Director of the Uniting Church in Australia’s National Safe Church Unit

This article originally appeared in Journey, the publication for the Uniting Church QLD.

 

Ministry Expo set to inspire new ministry leaders

Are you feeling a call to ministry but haven’t quite made the leap?

The Ministry Expo will be a great place to get that conversation going.

Held on Friday 30 August, the Ministry Expo is a chance for people to explore the different types of ministry in the Uniting Church WA, how they can prepare themselves for ministry, and where it could lead them.

Rev Dr Anne Wright, Director of Education and Formation at the Uniting Church WA, said the Ministry Expo is an opportunity for our next generation of ministry agents to learn more about the process and begin the journey.Continue Reading