5 December 2017

Welcome to this our twelfth 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 people, especially the disadvantaged.

During 2016/17, we have continued to develop our commentary on a wide range of social justice concerns. Our digital newsletter enjoys a strong and increasing circulation. Our Facebook page posts new content daily and the number of ‘friends’ continues to climb steadily. We are in the process of linking this with Twitter as well.

Speakers at our public forums in recent months have included:
Bill Armstrong AO on ‘Aid/Welfare cannot be a proxy for development’
Race Mathews and Paul Smyth on Race’s new book, Of Labour & Liberty: Distributism in Victoria 1891-1966
Louise Byrne and Revd. Peter Woods on ‘What future for West Papua?’
Lawrence Chong, ‘Towards an Economy of Communion’, the Focolare proposal for a new business model
Bruce Duncan and Paul Smyth on ’50 years of Integral Human Development’, with Catholic Social Services
and Professor Paul Smyth on ‘Wiring social justice into the economy: Towards inclusive & sustainable development. New directions for social policy after the collapse of the neoliberal framework.’

SPC also organised the launch of projects of the Yarra Institute for Religion and Social Policy:
 the new biography of Bishop Hilton Deakin by Drs Jim and Therese D’Orsa, Bonded through Tragedy, United in Hope: the Catholic Church and East Timor’s Struggle for Independence (Garratt Publishing) in June;
 Russell Broadbent MP launched Tony Ward’s Bridging Troubled Waters: Australia & Asylum Seekers (Australian Scholarly Publishing) in September.

Two further research projects are currently nearing completion, including a memoir of Fr Kevin Mogg AO and the founding of Catholic social services in Victoria.

Each month the SPC newsletter on Mailchimp carries six or seven substantial articles which are all contributed pro bono, and explore important current social concerns. We also include articles highlighting the intimate interweaving of social values embedded in Christian social thinking and history.

Pope Francis has assumed a prominent role in advancing ecumenical and indeed inter-faith collaboration on the overarching issues of climate change and environment, as well as on the need for a renewed moral framework in global economics to address gross inequality and poverty.

SPC has 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
 Responses to President Trump’s election and his policies
 The housing crisis and homelessness
 Issues in taxation and welfare reform
 Wage rates, poverty and inequality
 Prisons and juvenile justice
 Indigenous issues
 Globalisation and multinationals
 Treatment of asylum seekers and refugees
 The Palestine questions
 Immigration matters
 Regional issues, East Timor, North Korea
 The morality of war and torture
 Australia’s military involvements, Iraq, militarism
 Climate change and global warming
 Religions and world peace, disarmament
 Islam and the threat from extremist groups, and
 the UN Sustainable Development Goals.

This wide scope indicates that there is a critical role for a body like Social Policy Connections, and that there many competent contributors who believe in the importance of carrying a Christian insight to these myriad issues.

Thanks to Board members

As you are aware, belonging to a Board involves time, travel and effort, and I wish to thank the continuing Board members for their contributions during the year: Jenny Begent, Bruce Duncan, Tony French, Danusia Kaska, Chris Mulherin. We also thank outgoing Board members, Frances Pennington, Michael Walter and Jamie Pearce. A special thanks is due to Jamie as he has been a Board member since our inception and his insights, energy and commitment have been instrumental in making Social Policy Connections into what it is today.

The Yarra Institute for Religion and Social Policy and the new Centre for Research of the University of Divinity

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

In negotiation with the University of Divinity, the Yarra Institute has been winding down in favour of the University’s Centre for Research in Religion and Social Policy of the University. With the strong support of the Yarra Institute, the Centre began operations this year, with Revd. Dr Gordon Preece appointed the Research Director. The Yarra Institute will continue into early next year while the final projects are completed.

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. Our administration has been again ably managed by Susy Herlihy. Also I would like to acknowledge the assistance of Matthew Howard who assists in our digital communications, especially videoing talks.

As with any small organisation like ours, there is much done by volunteers, including Siobhan Foster with our books. I would like to acknowledge not only the great contribution they make to our endeavour but also the generous nature with which they do so. We would be remiss also in not acknowledging Yarra Theological Union for hosting our office and events here, 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 the SPC efforts in 2017, through either or both your financial support or your presence at our various functions. It is much appreciated by those who work within SPC.
Thank you all for attending the AGM.

Peter Whiting, President,
5 December 2017

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