Checking our empathy

When I bought my first car, I was encouraged to do regular checks on key components of the car. Checking the water, oil and tyres is standard practice to maintaining a healthy functioning car.

Just as my car needs regular attention, so do other aspects of my life. I try and go to the doctor and the dentist at regular intervals, so that my physical and dental health is in good shape. In more recent months, I have been thinking about how I check my levels of empathy. Continue Reading

Policy change cut Ministers’ retirement incomes

“I remember being taught that if you did something wrong, you should admit it and try to make it right again,” says Rev Neil Wilkinson. “But will politicians follow this rule?”

Neil is referring to the unfair treatment of Uniting Church Ministers whose retirement incomes were slashed by Scott Morrison as Minister for Social Services in the Abbott government in 2015.  The move was touted as reining in “public service fat-cats” who enjoyed generous superannuation as well as some aged pension. The policy change affected the way in which ‘defined benefit’ superannuation pensions were assessed for Centrelink purposes.Continue Reading

Life is sacred, be it short or long

Living can be a full time preoccupation these days.

Alex is anxious about the kids’ lunches, torn school uniform and the rash on the cat. Teenage Roy is torn between sporting practice, hanging out with mates and updating his new My e-Health Record. Jace is juggling part-time jobs with uni studies and keeping up with friends.

Elena and Jorge are busy juggling work rosters (one FIFO), paying off the mortgage, keeping up with a parent in hospital and finishing off a gardening project. Laurie is battling telecommunication hiccups between his new NBN connection and an ageing computer that keeps hanging – whilst trying to juggle medical appointments and an aching body. Continue Reading

Review: Outspoken: The life and work of the man behind those signs

By Father Rod Bower, Penguin Books, 2018.

Born to a young unmarried mother through to his adoption, Father Rod Bower shares his struggles to establish his identity in the midst of bullying and his stepfather’s early death. He finds acceptance within Anglo-Catholicism, eventually going to seminary, ordination and appointment to the Gosford Parish with a deep passion for social justice.

His theology of billboard signs reveals a deep empathy for Jesus’ mission to the marginalised which in the modern context involves challenging attitudes towards ‘illegal’ asylum seekers, Islam, LGBTQ and climate change. Fr Rod Bower demonstrates how billboards gives the church a platform for sharing the Gospel in the public square, exposing the ethical failings of Parliament. Continue Reading

Review: Burke and Wills: The triumph and tragedy of Australia’s most famous explorers

By Peter FitzSimons, Hatchette Australia, 2018

When the Murray-Darling River system is news, raising questions about how well we know our own environment, Peter FitzSimons’ Burke and Wills has particular relevance. FitzSimons tells of their expedition from Melbourne to the Gulf of Carpentaria in 1860–1861. He makes it possible to have an empathetic response to the participants, with their strengths and weaknesses, hubris and  blindness.

Australia is a very urbanised nation, despite traditions about the ‘bush’. Part of the romance of the bush is that others go there and we did not have to learn the hard lessons about the  environment they faced. Europeans also mostly had closed minds to what Indigenous Australians could teach them. It remains so.

Given the jealousies and characters of the participants, it is amazing that the expedition managed to achieve its goal. The party had separated and established a base camp at Cooper’s Creek, so a  smaller group could travel faster and reach the goal. It was tragic to miss the rendezvous (by hours) which led to the deaths of Burke and Wills. They were so close. Continue Reading