News
Monday, 20 September 2004

To answer to terrorism must be peace

In a time of violence Australia must lead the way for peace.

The Uniting Church is concerned that in response to terrorism, defence and security are becoming synonymous with the idea that violence is acceptable.

The President of the Uniting Church, Rev. Dr Dean Drayton, said that the language used by our leaders, of ‘hunting them down’, of ‘long and bloody battles’, is the language of a nation which has lost its way.

“What the Church seeks from the leaders of our nation is a vision which takes us beyond fear and towards hope – the hope that peace is possible,” Rev. Drayton said.

“As Christians, we believe in God who is on the side of all humankind. We must take seriously Jesus’ command to ‘love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you’.

“This is why the Church does not support aggression, retaliation, or people using one violent act to justify other violent acts. Complex issues require considered responses, even when they manifest themselves in dramatic and threatening forms.

“Extending love and prayers to those who treat us badly isn’t always easy. It can be difficult enough to respond with love when our family or friends upset us, let alone when we see extreme injustices or cruelty inflicted on others. The desire to prevent perpetrators of violence from repeating their crimes can make violence appear as the appropriate and necessary response. But violence will never bring an end to violence. Only peacemaking will end violence.

“Peacemaking is hard work. It takes patience and a great deal of courage, but the alternatives currently being offered will only promise further despair, hatred, fear and death,” Rev. Drayton said.

Rev. Elenie Poulos, National Director of UnitingJustice, said that Australia must find ways to break the cycle of violence rather than give in to it.

“An act of terrorism is not only a criminal act but an attack on humanity. Terrorists must be brought to justice, but we should never gloat at their death. It has been shocking to hear our nation’s leaders express delight at someone being shot dead, regardless of who they are, and shocking to hear their support for the death penalty in other countries.

“The methods we use to end terrorism and the society we create in the process will be the legacy we leave to our children. We cannot afford to abandon the hard won systems and institutions of international law and diplomacy.

“Whenever we commit violence in response to terrorist acts, the terrorists win. In setting aside justice and proclaiming the way of peace as too hard we give in to fear and condemn our world to a violent future.

“We must catch the perpetrators of terrorism and bring them to trial for their crimes against humanity. We must certainly work to disempower terrorist groups throughout the world. This work includes building respect and understanding between all peoples and encouraging respect for human rights world-wide. It includes the provision of good and appropriate development aid, focussing especially on education in the communities in which terrorists find fertile ground.

“This election, if our national leaders are serious about ending terrorism, they should stop talking of war and pre-emptive strikes and instead commit to defending and securing Australia’s future by prioritising our support for local peace-building programs throughout the Asia-Pacific region.

“The Uniting Church in Australia is just one institution with experience in such programs. It is the only long-term solution to terrorism and it is the only sure way to peace,” Rev. Poulos said.


Media contacts:
Reverend Dr Dean Drayton, 0400 354 237
Reverend Elenie Poulos, 0417 431 853
Gavin Melvin, Senior Communication Officer, 0417 416 674

 

The Uniting Church believes that it is time for the issue of global poverty to make a splash in this election campaign. “We do our country’s future no good while we continue to play around the edges of ending global poverty,” Uniting Church President, Rev. Dr Dean Drayton said today.

“As a thriving nation, Australia must be a responsible global citizen that looks out for those countries most in need.”

Rev. Drayton said Australia had a good record when it came to overseas aid and development but was in danger of jeopardising it with its response to debt relief and low levels of aid and development funding. He urged politicians to commit to do more, especially in our own region.

“In a world where 1.2 billion people live on less than $1 a day, 113 million children do not attend school and 11 million die prematurely each year, Australia needs to recognise that security cannot be found by blindly pursing our own economic agenda and closing ourselves off from the world’s pain.

“We have a responsibility to use some of our wealth and prosperity to help those countries ravaged by war, natural disaster, endemic poverty and unsustainable levels of foreign debt. It’s appalling that so many impoverished countries are forced to spend more on servicing their foreign debt than they do on services and basic necessities for their own people.

“The Government needs to recognise that there is little point in giving aid and development funds when debt repayments swallow up any revenue and long-term economic benefit generated by that funding.

“We call on all political parties to commit Australia to cancelling the unpayable component of debt in countries like the Solomon Islands, Papua New Guinea, the Philippines, Indonesia, Iraq, Vietnam, Nepal and Bangladesh. These debts cannot be paid without long-term harm to the well being of those nations,” Rev. Drayton said.

Uniting International Mission National Director, Rev. Bill Fischer, said the Church’s decades of experience delivering government aid and privately funded development projects in the Asia-Pacific region has shown the importance of meeting our promises to fight international poverty.

“In September 2000, Australia was one of 191 United Nations members that signed the Millennium Development Goals which outlined specific and achievable ways to eradicate poverty and make development a reality for those in the poorest nations on earth.

“Part of our commitment was a ten-year pledge to commit 0.7 per cent of our Gross Domestic Product to aid and development. The Australian Government has failed to live up to its promise. In 2001 and 2002 only 0.25 per cent was spent and there is no sign of any improvement in the future.

“In the face of the huge need we must rise above our economic self-interest. There can be no security for Australia while so many millions of people continue to live in poverty throughout the world,” Rev. Fischer said.


Media contacts: Reverend Bill Fischer, 0408 448 801
Gavin Melvin, Senior Communication Officer, 0417 416 674

 

Monday, 27 September 2004

The "Forgotten Australians" Report

The Uniting Church today expressed regret and sorrow to the children who suffered neglect and abuse while in institutional care provided by the Uniting Church and its agencies during the last century.

"On behalf of the Uniting Church and our agencies, I apologise unreservedly for any physical, psychological or social harm that might have occurred," National President, Rev. Dr Dean Drayton said.

“I deeply regret that some children were let down while in the care of the Uniting Church and former Methodist, Presbyterian and Congregational Churches.”

Rev. Drayton said the recent Senate Inquiry into Children in Institutional Care highlighted a number of cases where children suffered at the hands of caregivers.

“The Inquiry painted a disturbing picture of life for many young people who lived in institutional care. The Uniting Church through its agencies managed a number of these facilities and sadly, some did not provide the love, nurturing and care that the children in them so rightly deserved.

“The Inquiry highlighted the flaws in institutional care models and the need to ensure they are never repeated,” Rev. Drayton said.

“The Uniting Church, through our family and community services networks, has developed new models for providing care and services to children. The Church is committed to ensuring that children and families receive the best facilities and care possible and we are constantly working to improve them.

“The Senate Inquiry reminds everybody involved in delivering services and care to children that we all need to work together so that the mistakes of the past are not repeated.

“The Uniting Church welcomes the Inquiry and its recommendations – they provide a basis on which Governments at all levels and care providers may move forward together by acknowledging past wrongs and addressing them appropriately. We are committed to working with government to respond to the issues raised during the Inquiry,” Rev. Drayton said.

This statement was endorsed by the National Assembly of the Uniting Church in Australia and the Moderators of the Synods of New South Wales, Queensland, Victoria and Tasmania, Western Australia, South Australia and the Northern Synod.

Rev. Allan Kuchler Mr. Jim Mein Rev. George Woodward
Moderator of Queensland Moderator of NSW Moderator of the Northern Synod

Rev. Dr Graham Humphris Rev. Sue Gormann Rev. Gemmel Sherwood
Moderator of South Australia Moderator of Victoria and Tasmania Moderator of Western Australia


Media contact: Gavin Melvin, Senior Communication Officer, 0417 416 674

Flexible, affordable child care should be a priority of the next Federal Government to ensure all families are able to balance the needs of work and family life.

Uniting Church National President, Rev. Dr Dean Drayton, said the Church wanted to see a child-centred approach to children’s services that focuses on what is in the best interest of children and recognised their developmental, spiritual and social needs.

“Family friendly policies have been a key issue for both major parties during the campaign, yet none have given a real commitment to making child care more accessible.

“Access to child care is a major part of ensuring we have cohesive families. More and more families need to use child care to balance work and family commitments but so far we’ve only had passing commitments from all parties that they will make child care more available,” Rev. Drayton said.

Rev. Drayton said families deserved real answers on how each of the major parties would ensure child care is more affordable, within close proximity, and available to all families at the times they need it.

“Without clear details of how they will make child care more accessible and affordable, promises of extra places are empty promises,” he said.

UnitingCare Australia National Director, Lin Hatfield Dodds said the UnitingCare network has witnessed the growing shortage of centre-based child care places now available to working families.

“While both sides of politics pledge more government funded before and after school places and in-home care this is simply playing at the edges. The real answer must focus on the growing demand from working families for centre-based care, which receives no direct Federal Government operational assistance.

“UnitingCare’s not-for-profit centre-based care providers are facing an on-going battle to recruit and retain staff, pay wage costs – which account for around 80 per cent of our running costs - and keep fees at an affordable level for families.

“The stringent regulatory standards required and our focus on providing quality care means it is imperative our centres recruit professionally trained staff. Unfortunately, the low award wages offered to child care workers have made the profession unattractive and there are now widespread staff shortages.

“We struggle to fill vacancies in existing centres, let alone find the staff needed to consider opening more centres to meet the growing demand for places,” Ms Hatfield Dodds said.

Ms Hatfield Dodds said simply increasing Federal Government rebates or offering free care to families was not the answer.

“Increasing the CCB rebate means parents will get more back after paying their child care fees - it won’t help meet the costs of paying staff wages and it will do nothing to help attract more staff into the sector. The Federal Government needs to consider training and wage subsidies to attract more staff to child care. It is only then that providers will be able to attract the high quality staff that are needed to expand existing centres or open new ones. Without this, the promise of more places will be a very empty one for Australian families.”


Media contacts: Gavin Melvin, Senior Communication Officer, 0417 416 674
Lin Hatfield Dodds, UnitingCare Australia, 0408 402 222

 

Wednesday, 29 September 2004

Education about more than just schools

The Uniting Church today called on political leaders to stop driving a wedge between public and private schools and focus on what really matters in education - quality and lifelong learning.

National President, Rev. Dr Dean Drayton, said both parties had dished out election sweeteners during the last few weeks but neither had recognised the need to support all students in all schools.

“The hand outs being offered by both parties lack a vision for the education of future generations. They focus on funding to particular types of schools and not on how we ensure that a high quality education is available to all children.

“They are driven by short-term political gain and do not address the key question of how we make Australia a progressive and highly educated nation.

“All schools must build positive, creative and passionate young people if our Nation is to flourish. To do this, all schools need adequate funds and resources, and most importantly a vision for the future.

“Our political leaders are doing very little to address the constant arguments between the States and the Commonwealth around funding and administration of our schools.

“At the moment there is no clear vision in education for the future. We have two levels of government with a financial investment in education but no one government is able to implement a vision for a significantly better future. In the meantime, the public is left with promises of more money, but no plan how to deliver a much-needed difference.

“The current debate misses the point that across the entire education sector the funding pot is simply too small and the bureaucracy is too complex,” Rev. Drayton said.

Uniting Education, National Director, John Emmett, said the real issue is not the funding of non-government schools, but the adequate resourcing of the whole sector.

“It’s time to re-visit the two-tier system that exists in both primary and secondary schools which is based on the capacity of people to pay. The focus must shift from that of ‘users pays’ to the basic value that every child deserves the very best education we as a nation can offer.

“There needs to be a major increase in new funding to government schools coupled with a change in policy to allow them the freedom to acquire and accumulate funds,” Mr Emmett said.

“Quality teaching must be supported and strengthened with more funding and resources. Teachers are at the heart of the education system and we need to help them improve their skills.

“Issues to do with University and further education must also be debated. Funding needs to be increased to universities for more places and to ensure lecture and study group sizes do not reach unsustainable levels.

“HECS fees should be held at 2004 levels and governments need to ensure the number of full fee paying places does not blow out and make university attendance dependant on people’s capacity to pay, or repay debt.

“It is time to stop squabbling over far too small a pot of money, dishing out monetary favours and start talking about the real issues in education.”


Media contacts: Gavin Melvin, Senior Communication Officer, 0417 416 674
John Emmett, Uniting Education, 0419 564 351
Dr Drayton is also available for interview on request

The financial, physical and emotional survival of rural and remote Australia requires a commitment to a comprehensive long-term national strategy for economic regeneration in the bush the Uniting Church said today.

Uniting Church President, Rev. Dr Dean Drayton, said the Church’s experience in working in remote Australia called it to speak up to ensure sustainable communities are not just for the 85 per cent of Australians who live in one per cent of our landmass.

“Transforming rural Australian communities into communities of hope requires national investments in health, education and infrastructure. Rural and remote Australia continues to feel the brunt of our harsh climate and of changing economic and social conditions. Poverty in the bush is disproportionately higher than in other parts of the country.”

“We need a national strategy to re-build our rural communities that includes cooperation between Commonwealth, State and Territory Governments across all portfolios,” Rev. Drayton said.

Uniting Church Frontier Services National Director, Rosemary Young, said the agency provides families and individuals living in remote and isolated parts of Australia with health care services, family and children’s support, respite care, counselling, community welfare programs and aged care services

“Our patrol ministers work across 80 per cent of the Australian landmass and we provide over 75 services to more than 15,000 families and individuals with a mix of Government and private funding.

“In this election campaign we need commitments to a national strategy where local communities are consulted about their needs, inputs and outcomes,” she said.

Mrs Young said a national strategy for the bush must also review the funding formulas used in key primary service areas like health, child care and education which do not reflect the real cost of service delivery in the bush.

“The cost of providing residential aged care in Tennant Creek for example is almost twice the national average. The small number of residents, the high care needs of those who do need residential care and the difficulties of recruiting and retaining qualified staff make this an extremely costly undertaking.”

“In too many areas we see funding allocations being made at urban levels for services in remote Australia. This is unrealistic and unsustainable and we need to ensure that governments adequately resource the continued development of innovative and flexible services,” Mrs Young said.


Media contacts: Gavin Melvin, Senior Communication Officer, 0417 416 674
Rosemary Young, Frontier Services, 0427 180 265

 

The Uniting Church today called on Australians to carefully consider their vote before casting it this Saturday to ensure it reflected the values and standards they expected from our politicians.

President, Rev. Dr Dean Drayton, said that throughout the election the Uniting Church has been calling for policies that ensure justice for all.

“The Uniting Church has been asking political leaders and candidates to make sure that the campaign was about more than economic policy and national security. We asked for policies to address issues like poverty and homelessness and ones that committed Australia to being a decent global citizen through increased aid for international development. We also sought policies that made a real commitment to reconciliation and supported religious and social diversity.

“The Uniting Church is not alone in wanting these policies – just like millions of other Australians we share the hope that politicians can dig a little deeper in the policy pot and reignite our hope for a confident, compassionate and generous Australia,” Rev. Drayton said.

“Sadly, many of these areas have been overlooked by political parties rushing to make billions of dollars in promises to influence how people will vote this Saturday.”

Rev. Drayton said this Saturday the Uniting Church is asking all Australians to consider if their vote will be:

  1. A vote for peace (which might mean a vote against increased security)
  2. A vote for the world (which might mean redefining the national interest)
  3. A vote for the environment (which might be a vote for the future of all Australians)
  4. A vote for diversity (which might mean loving others instead of fearing them)
  5. A vote for communities (which might mean the economy serves us not the other way)
  6. A vote for reconciliation (which might mean health spending on more than Medicare)
  7. A vote for the basics (which might mean considering what governments should be
    responsible for)
  8. A vote for those in need (which might be you or might be someone else)
  9. A vote for a lively democracy (which might be undermined by electioneering)
  10. A vote for justice (which might be a vote for security after all)

Media contact: Gavin Melvin, Senior Communication Officer, 0417 416 674
Rev. Drayton is available for interview on request

 

UnitingCare Australia is part of a contingent of Church based service providers that have called on the re-elected Coalition government to make the most of Australia’s economic stability and prosperity by committing to a National Anti-Poverty Plan within its first 100 days of government.

UnitingCare, Anglicare Australia, the Brotherhood of St Laurence, Catholic Welfare Australia and the Australian Council of Social Service called on the government and all politicians returning to Canberra to create a well resourced National Anti-Poverty Plan to help the poorest Australians.

“Access to and affordability of services such as housing, education, health, and employment is already beyond the reach of many Australians. With two million people living in poverty in Australia, we call on this Government to urgently address this matter1. By acting now, we can save ourselves the social and economic costs the poverty will create in the future,” said ACOSS President Andrew McCallum on behalf of the group.

“While many Australians have enjoyed the benefits of economic growth and sizeable budget surpluses, sadly for many the economic ship had sailed past them. It would be a national disgrace not to invest surpluses to reduce the number of people living in poverty – especially when Australia has the fifth highest level of poverty in the OECD,” said Anglicare Australia Executive Director Sue Leppert. (Interviews Tel: 0402 825 282)

“To create a prosperous and inclusive Australia, the Coalition government must invest more in education, full time employment, quality aged care and affordable housing for all Australians. This much needed social investment will help people out of poverty and enable them to benefit from, and contribute to, Australia’s economic growth,” said Brotherhood of St Laurence Executive Director Tony Nicholson. (Tel: 0417 307 716)

“The community service sector is ready to lend its support to a National Anti-Poverty Plan that would put aside political differences and concentrate the energies of the government and non-government sector to find effective and permanent solutions that reduce poverty,” said Catholic Welfare Australia’s Executive Director, Frank Quinlan. (Tel: 0417 220 779)

“What we have seen in countries like Ireland and Britain*, where anti-poverty targets and plans have been introduced, is that reducing poverty is not a pipe dream. A National Anti-Poverty Plan should ensure that the poorest families are given a fair chance and help narrow the gap between rich and poor in Australia,” said Lin Hatfield-Dodds, National Director of UnitingCare. (Tel: 0408 402 222)

*ACOSS has released an Info Paper International Comparisons of Anti-Poverty Plans – Lessons for Australia which is downloadable from www.acoss.org.au This Info Paper examines the British and Irish anti-poverty plans and their relevance for Australia.

1) According to NATSEM research in 2000 there were around 2.5 million people in income poverty (living below the poverty line), including 750,000 children (13% of people and 15% of children).