24 November 2011
Report by Peter Whiting SPC President.
Welcome to this our sixth AGM. It provides an excellent opportunity for the Committee to review with its members the progress made during the past year. You may well recall that, with your input, we committed in 2010-11 to focus on four key areas:
- Immigration & Refugee Policy
- Climate Change response
- Overseas Aid provided byAustralia
- Indigenous Welfare Policy
Our forum series for 2010-11 reflected this focus. Some excellent presentations were provided by:
- Professor John Warhurst speaking on Religion, politics and social issues in the 2010 election
- Ms Caz Coleman, on What now for asylum seekers?
- Professor Tilman Ruff (ICAN) and Rev Harry Kerr (Pax Christi) on progress towards nuclear disarmament
- Hon Alastair Nicholson on the federal intervention in theNorthern Territory
- Phil Glendenning (Edmund Rice Centre, Sydney) on releasing children from detention.
The presentation following the AGM tonight by Geoff Lacey continues our focus on the topics identified as of particular interest to members, this time on climate change matters.
Collaboration with like-minded organisations bore fruit with the public forum in June 2011 on Human Trafficking which involved speakers from ACRATH, the Good Shepherd Mission & Justice Unit, and the Anti-Slavery Project based in Sydney.
In July, SPC organised a major conference on The Churches and Public Policy, with keynote speakers Robert Fitzgerald and John Falzon from the national St Vincent de Paul Society, and other leaders from church social agencies inVictoria.
In August, Marc Purcell, Executive Director of the Australian Council for International Development (ACFID), talked to our forum on the increasing scope and refinement inAustralia’s overseas aid program.
In October, SPC collaborated with St Vincent de Paul and the Public Interest Law Clearing House (PILCH) for a forum on Poverty and Human Rights. The keynote speaker was Cassandra Goldie, president of ACOSS, with respondents Michaela Guthridge (Good Shepherd Australia New Zealand) and Lucy Adams (PILCH).
We continue to leverage the reach of our lectures and publications with our website offering access to these through podcasts, Youtube and Facebook. We remain very encouraged by the numbers accessing these presentations, and I express my thanks toMatthew Howardfor his work in keeping us up-to-date in this area.
At the end of the financial year, our Executive Officer, Audra Kunciunas, moved to live in regionalVictoria. We were of course very sorry to see Audra go. Her networking with like-minded organisations has been very beneficial to SPC, and though she is gone, her legacy will continue to aid us in our growth aspirations. For the time being, we have not replaced her, but this is a matter the Committee has under review for 2012. Our administration has been ably managed bySusy Herlihy, and many of you will have encountered Susy if not in person, certainly in her email communications!
As with any small organisation like ours, there is much done by volunteers, and without naming them individually here, I would like publicly to acknowledge not only the great contribution they make to our endeavour, but also the generous way they do so. It is through their contributions as well as through those of the Committee that we manage, even with the fairly lean budget available to us.
I would also like to acknowledge my colleagues on the Committee, including Arthur Gibbs, Jamie Pearce, and Bruce Duncan. We became a very different committee, with a number of new appointments at our last AGM providing us with increased breadth of representation reflecting improved gender, age, and ecumenical balance. We were joined by Livia Carusi from St Vincent de Paul, Michaela Guthridge (Good Shepherd Australia New Zealand),Maddie Marson, and more recentlyEddie Chapman(UnitingCare Community Options). These changes have brought great benefit to SPC during 2011, and I thank my colleagues for their commitment and drive. We remain committed to extending representation on the Committee during 2012.
We are already working on the focus and program for 2012, and next week have a meeting set aside for that purpose. Our intention is to continue to extend SPC’s presence and contribution, in collaboration with our current and some new partners. We look forward to a busy year in 2012.