End PovertySocial Policy Connections emerged out of discussions among people concerned to bring the social traditions of the churches into more vibrant engagement with current issues in social policy, particularly to provide a strong voice in social advocacy.

We considered that church leaders themselves were for a number of reasons often unable or unwilling to contribute to public debates on wider social issues. This at times left the unfortunate impression that the Christian traditions had little to offer social debates.

To help change this, we resolved to spark a more concerted effort at developing social policies in closer relation with the Gospel imperatives of social justice, equity, compassion and solidarity with the oppressed and distressed. These values are of course shared by many others, including secular and non-Christian groups, with whom SPC intends to cooperate whenever possible.

SPC does not claim to speak for the churches, but speaks in its own name as an independent organisation inviting serious collaboration among people inspired by Gospel values.

SPC draws on the extensive traditions of social justice and activism in the churches, including the considerable writings and experience in Catholic social traditions, and the advocacy and commitment of the Anglican, Methodist and non-conformist traditions, especially exemplified in earlier campaigns to abolish slavery and reform industrial conditions. With many other groups, these same Christian traditions are today helping drive the Make Poverty History campaign. SPC’s first public event was to host a forum in November 2006 with John Langmore and Tim Colebatch evaluating the G-20 meeting in Melbourne.

In late 2008 SPC moved from the St Ignatius Centre in Richmond into the new facilities at Yarra Theological Union in Box Hill, Melbourne. With some initial funding from a number of Catholic religious orders and elsewhere, SPC has developed a paid membership and expanded its networking, especially with like-minded groups and social agencies.

We organised a series of five monthly public forums during mid-2007, with

• Prof Imad Moosa and Dr Scott Burchill speaking on scenarios for peace in Iraq;
• Prof Rob Watts and Matthew Ricketson on truth-telling and ‘spin’ in politics;
• Brian Howe and Prof Tony Coady on religion and politics;
• Fr Charles Rue and Penny Evans (with the Stop Global Warming Group) on spirituality
and climate change; and
• Fr Peter Norden SJ and Dr Ray Cleary speaking on fairness in Australia.

After its move to Box Hill, SPC resumed its public events, with Rev Joel Edwards (right), incoming head of Micah Challenge International, speaking on October on the Millennium Development Goals; and Dr Hilary Martin OP, (above) in November speaking on the federal intervention in the Northern Territory.

Social Policy Connections has also initiated a research body within the Melbourne College of Divinity, the Yarra Institute for Religion and Social Policy, which was endorsed by the Council of Yarra Theological Union in November 2008. This new research Institute is also sited in the new facilities at YTU.

While drawing inspiration from the Gospels, we recognise that effective advocacy depends on expertise, good judgement, detailed knowledge of relevant areas, adequate consultation and open communication. SPC welcomes new collaborators in this project, and invites your involvement with your expertise, skills, resources and financial support.

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