The Fourth Annual General Meeting of  Social Policy Connections

25 NOVEMBER, 2009

Report by Mr Peter Whiting SPC President. 

Social Policy Connections has been operating from this location in Box Hill since August 2008. As we had hoped in making the move, it has proven to be an ideal arrangement allowing SPC to collaborate more effectively with the Yarra Institute for Religion and Social Policy, as well as to draw some inspiration from being located at YTU.

The scope of SPC interests can be appreciated from the range of topics covered in our submissions and events during the year. On our behalf, Mr Bill Frilay made a Submission to the Joint Standing Committee on Treaties – Inquiry into Nuclear Non-Proliferation and Disarmamen.

We have organised a number of significant public forums, with

  • Prof. Brian Johnstone  on “Moral Reflections on the Iraq War”.
  • Prof. John Fox  on “Making taxation more equitable”
  • Drs Geoff Lacey and Stephen Ames on “A response to global warming”
  • Dr John Langmore on “The GFC – Opportunity for Transformation.”
  • Archbishop Philip Freier, Julie Edwards and Rufus Black – A forum on the recent papal encyclical Caritas in Veritate, which has been recorded by the ABC for an Encounter program
  • and Dr Hugh Jackson tonight.
  • We have also had appearances on the ABC Sunday Nights with John  Cleary with Drs Bruce Duncan and Stephen Ames.

We were also pleased to be associated with the Yarra Institute in its official launch on 23 April, 2009 when the former Deputy Prime Minister, Professor Brian Howe, gave a very stimulating address on the topic of “ The churches and public policy – past and future.”

SPC has continued to support the development of the Yarra Institute, including by hosting its events on the SPC site. The Yarra Institute has been developing its own site, which will be launched in early 2010. This will be the opportunity to rework the SPC site, which has continued to attract a steady stream of traffic. It has also published a number of reports and articles by members, as well as providing a wider audience for our forums and events. Various talks are available for downloading, either as audio or by excerpts on Youtube.

We have enjoyed the support of MacKillop Family Services in allowing the SPC website to run from their website. MacKillop will changing its website systems, and SPC will shortly run as a stand-alone site.

We are very appreciative of the written contributions of members to our website, especially by Mr Bill Frilay with his very considered articles and reports, as well as by Dr Brian Lewis, Dr Cal Ledsham, Dr Arthur Gibbs, and Prof. John Pilgrow, among others.

We are also most grateful to the Redemptorists for their financial support for SPC, and for making available to SPC the services of Matthew Howard, their communications officer, who has helped record events for us, and developed our facilities for ipods, RSS feeds, iTunes, Facebook and Youtube. Shortly SPC will have more interactive features for forums and feedback, and when ready, SPC will publicise its site more widely.

Your Committee of Management, which meets monthly, has been planning how to make SPC a more effective voice on the Australian scene. We have recognised the limitations of a wholly volunteer effort and during recent months set out to attract a part-time Executive Officer who could provide greater effort and continuity to our endeavours. Our first advertisement failed to attract a candidate that fully met our identified needs, and we will make a new approach early in 2010.

We recognise that we are unlikely in the near future to be funded to the point where we could achieve the level of penetration we aspire to. That means amongst other things, that we need to be more effective in using the resources we have. We have identified that we need to better engage with the members of SPC both to be sure that we are reflecting your interests, but also to provide the opportunity for members to contribute their expertise. This is a theme we will be working on in 2010.

It would be improper of me to finalise this report for 2009 and not acknowledge the contributions generously made by the volunteers behind SPC. You will all have received communications from Joe Annetts who works in our office as a volunteer administrator. Joe, thanks for your very welcome contributions.

Of course I should acknowledge my fellow Board members who stalwartly advance the interests of the organisation. In this regard, I would particularly like to acknowledge Mr Frank Webber, who as a very early supporter of SPC has generously given of his time and talents on the Board. Frank retires at this AGM as Board Member and Treasurer. Frank’s contributions have been rendered without fuss and in typical humility. Frank, be assured you take with you our thanks for your efforts and our appreciation of your calm, sensible application to SPC affairs.

We have also welcomed on to the Board in recent months Ms Judy Benson who has a long involvement with concerns about justice and peace, and Mr Mark Walsh from the Edmund Rice network. We look forward to working with them in the coming year.

2009 has been a year when we have struggled to get the “lift off” we had planned … we look forward to seeing in 2010 a year in which SPC moves closer to its desired position of being a credible ecumenical voice in the public policy domain.

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