SPC 11th Annual General Meeting.scanned-159-mb-new-jpeg

Presidents Report

30 November 2016

Welcome to our eleventh AGM. Our purpose at SPC is to expand awareness of social justice issues in Australia and overseas, and in ecumenical collaboration to influence public policy for the benefit of all, especially the disadvantaged.

During 2015-16, we have commented on many issues of importance in the social justice field. We have done this through SPC News, which enjoys a wide circulation in digital form. Bruce has been working to extend our presence on social media platforms. While still early days, he has been ensuring our Facebook presence is appealing by keeping its content fresh and relevant.

Speakers at our public forums in recent months have included :

  • Mick Pope and Joe Camilleri on Pope Francis’s Laudato Sí.
  • Augustine Doronila on the Paris Agreement and Pope Francis.
  • Peter Mares on Australia’s shift to temporary migration.
  • Tim Colebatch on sensible tax reform
  • Herman Roborgh on Islam in our world today.
  • Josh Cullinan on Returning penalty rates to the lowest paid.

Contributors to the monthly newsletter, along with speakers at our presentations, have covered many important issues. Each month, the newsletter carries seven or eight substantial articles on topical issues. A central focus has been on themes highlighted by Pope Francis in his encyclical Laudato Si’ on climate change and environment, but also on a somewhat neglected aspect of his encyclical, the crisis in neoliberal economics, growing inequality, and global poverty.

We have worked in collaboration with other groups, including Anti-Poverty Week, Pax Christi, church and other welfare organisations, and social justice agencies.

Topics covered in our publications range through :

  • The churches and social justice, particularly with Pope Francis with his ecumenical and inter-religious outreach
  • Australian politics and elections
  • The housing crisis and homelessness
  • Issues in taxation and welfare reform
  • Wage rates, poverty, and inequality
  • Indigenous issues
  • Globalisation and multinationals
  • Prisons and juvenile detention
  • Treatment of asylum seekers and refugees
  • Immigration matters
  • Regional issues, East Timor
  • The morality of war and torture
  • Climate change and global warming
  • Religions and world peace
  • Islam and the threat from extremist groups
  • The UN Sustainable Development Goals.

The scope alone indicates the critical role of a body like Social Policy Connections, and the variety of topics indicate many competent contributors who believe in the importance of carrying a Christian insight to such issues.

During 2016, we asked SPC members and others accessing the website to complete a simple survey to assist us in ensuring content is relevant to their interest and concerns. The response was not as great as we had hoped, but the fairly consistent theme indicates continuing interest in informed comment on contemporary social justice issues. The Board was reassured by this, and will continue to seek out informed commentary on a diverse range of matters.

Thanks to Board members

As you are aware, belonging to a Board involves time, travel, and effort, and I wish to thank current Board members for their contributions during the year: Jenny Begent, Bruce Duncan, Brendan Byrne, Tony French, Danusia Kaska, Chris Mulherin, Jamie Pearce, Michael Walter, and, during the year, we also coopted David Leary. David had bee intending to nominate for Board membership, but has been posted by his Franciscan Order to NSW – a loss for SPC. But our thanks to David for your contribution thus far.

Progress for the Yarra Institute for Religion & Social Policy

I would like to take this opportunity to update you on developments in our sister organisation, the Yarra Institute for Religion & Social Policy, originally an initiative of SPC. The SPC Board recognised the need for research capacity, and set up the Yarra Institute in 2008 to achieve this end.

The Yarra Institute Board has for some years been in negotiation with the University of Divinity to transform the Institute into the first Centre for Research in Religion & Social Policy of the University. This has now come to fruition. The Centre has commenced operations, with Gordon Preece appointed as interim Centre Director. We are delighted at this outcome, and wish Gordon and the Centre well. The Yarra Institute will continue in caretaker mode for a few further months while some final projects are completed, and then will wind up formally.

We are also most grateful for the financial support of our SPC members and supporters. A special mention of the Redemptorists is warranted for their continuing generous support. I particularly want to acknowledge the work of Bruce’s Redemptorist colleague Dr Michael Mason in helping to repair our SPC computer most recently. Newsletter production and office coordination has again been ably managed by Susy Herlihy. I would also like to acknowledge the invaluable assistance of Matthew Howard, who assists in our digital communications.

As with any small organisation like ours, there is much done by volunteers, including Siobhan Foster who manages our social justice library. I would like to acknowledge not only the great contribution volunteers make to our endeavour, but also the generous nature with which they do so. We would be remiss also if we did not acknowledge Yarra Theological Union for hosting our office and events, and the YTU staff in supporting SPC in many day-by-day ways.

Finally, a vote of thanks to our members who have continued to support SPC efforts in 2016, either through your financial support or through your presence at our various functions. You are much appreciated by those who work within SPC.

Thank you all for attending the AGM.

Peter Whiting

30 November 2016

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