the Year 2000 one could have been forgiven for thinking that
2001 would shape into a time to unwind and recover from all
that accompanied the millennium hype. Not so. 2001 has proven
to be a significant year both for Australia and for the Earth
Community as a whole, and the Social Action Office (SAO) began
the year in full flight - with a full agenda mapped out. Furthermore,
the events of 2001 demonstrate that the message of the Jubilee
Year continues to be as relevant as ever as the first step
into a new century is taken.
reflecting on this year, three words stand out - Kyoto,
year the Earth Community took another step towards addressing
the impact of climate change via the Kyoto Protocol, against
considerable opposition both here and overseas. Australia
had the opportunity to respond to a global refugee crisis
in a constructive and humane way and, as a nation, we again
fell prey to the lowest common denominator. This revealed
that the shadow of the White Australia Policy is cast across
the nation still. Kyoto and refugees are not
unrelated of course. If we do not take climate change seriously,
it is only a matter of time before environmental refugees
from the small Pacific nations seek refuge here. Are we prepared
for another refugee crisis which will be well and truly of
tragedy that befell the United States of America on 11 September
shocked a world that probably thought it was unshockable.
The audacity of the attack, the carnage, the loss of innocent
human life defied belief. But, as the graffiti artist in
West End reminded the capitalist world, "your economic system
kills people every day". There is no escaping the words
of Pope Paul VI - there can be no peace without justice.
our prayer on the victims of violence everywhere and for authentic
peace on Earth.
year, SAO completes its ninth year of operation. In those
nine years a lot has happened and the SAO has evolved from
small beginnings into an agency with a focused agenda to
be engaged in political ministry. In the last two years
focus has distinguished the SAO's work. This report will
outline the main campaign areas for 2001 as well as other
aspects of the SAO's operation.
edge to the SAO's work in 2001 has been in the development
of the SAO's website and the fortnightly email bulletin SAO
BYTES. This foray into e-activism remains to be assessed
but on current feedback the SAO staff are finding it is becoming
a vital and valued part of the SAO's work.
Changes in 2001
1998, the SAO has been fortunate in securing an annual operational
grant from the Brisbane Archdiocesan Development Fund. This
has covered salaries and recurrent operational costs and will
continue until the end of 2002. Planning for 2001-2002 resulted
in some staff adjustments:
in recognition of the importance of communication in
this work, especially with a growing reliance on information
technologies (IT), Cathy O'Keeffe pbvm now devotes
the equivalent of three days a week to SAO communications
and IT - this is the main focus of Cathy's work in
Annette Arnold rsj works an extra day each week attending
to important administrative tasks such as the finances;
Annette has also continued as the Social Justice Co-ordinator
Coralie Kingston is now the only full-time person and
in 2001-2002 has assumed the role of SAO Co-ordinator.
She continues as the Research and Education Co-ordinator.
Coll sgs has continued as the Eco-justice Co-ordinator and
Deirdre Gardiner rsm as the Reconciliation and Peace Co-ordinator.
at Justice Place
nine years at Justice Place, Action for World Development
(AWD) ceased to operate from 1 July 2001. AWD had operated
overall for nearly thirty years in Queensland. This was the
end of an era for an organisation that had been a significant
influence on the lives of many Christians and others. The
Centre for Justice and Spirituality (CSJ) and the Brisbane
East Timor Development Association will also cease to operate
raises questions for the ongoing operation of the Justice
Place community - after nine years.
comes to an end, the future is not clear and negotiations
with the Sisters of Mercy (Brisbane), the owners of the building,
are beginning. A number of options will be explored before
decisions are made about Justice Place's future.
the future brings, the original decision to dedicate the building
at 84 Park Road to the work of social justice must be commended.
It has enriched this aspect of the Church's life immeasurably.
A debt of appreciation is owed to the Sisters of Mercy and
the Mater Hospital for making this available, refurbishing
the building in 1999 and maintaining the building.
SAO Agenda Areas
advocates policies which foster conservation and enhancement
of global resources and ecosystems now and in the future
in ways that develop a more just, participatory and sustainable
2001 Pauline Coll sgs continued to co-ordinate the eco-justice
agenda. Climate Change negotiations have been the focus of
work in this agenda area and, like many around the world,
the SAO staff were relieved when the Kyoto Protocol came back
from the brink of collapse in Bonn, Germany, in July 2001.
It now remains for the Australian Government to ratify this
in 2002 - another struggle looms! In this campaign, the SAO
has collaborated with environmental groups, notably the Climate
Action Network (CAN), and the Australian Conference of Leaders
of Religious Institutes (ACLRI) in this campaign.
strategy was the composition of a prayer which was sent to
Bonn and actually read outside the room where the negotiations
website was designed to provide information and lobbying
support for people who wished to become involved in this
campaign. This included sample letters to write to key
political players asking them to support the Kyoto Protocol
and to work to make it a strong and effective international
agreement. A workshop was held in May with Noel Ryan from
the Wilderness Society on the topic of "The Politics of Climate Change - Nationally
and Internationally". A summary of the workshop was
put on the website. Further, the newsletter continued to
feature this issue as it unfolded over the year.
the main insights to come from this campaign has been the
need to focus much more on business corporations. Their
power in influencing the USA's decision to withdraw from
global climate change negotiations left no room for doubting
"silent takeover" of public policy and the political
process by capital interests. This is a critical concern
for democracy. Two helpful books that have assisted in clarifying
this analysis have been:
Takeover by Noreena Hertz
Logo by Naomi Klein
John Paul II's call for an ecological conversion remains at
the heart of the SAO's work in this agenda area and the SAO
continues to educate on this aspect of our work.
Social Justice Agenda
Justice has as its core meaning "right relationships".
The four basic elements of social justice are:
a minimum income for all
universal human rights
access and equity
priority for the disadvantaged.
justice agenda has been co-ordinated in 2001 by Annette Arnold
rsj. The focus has been in a campaign, leading up to the Federal
Election, in five marginal seats in Queensland around the
theme of Fair Go Fair Share. This has involved Religious
communities, parishes, community service organisations and
individuals. The aim of the campaign is to lobby the candidates
of the two main political parties in an attempt to make living
standards an issue in the Federal election. The specific focus
is on affordable housing for low-income households, the living
wage and the health gap between the rich and poor.
is indebted to the constituents in the electorates who have
attended meetings, spoken at Masses, distributed leaflets,
written to and visited candidates. This campaign has relied
on such local support and it would not be possible without
Jim D'Arcy cfc was engaged on a part-time basis in July to assist
in the organising of the campaign in the seats of Petrie and
Fair Go Fair Share postcard
used in the campaign
is an ambitious campaign and the SAO is under no illusions
about difficulties inherent in achieving a desired outcome.
Still, it has been gratifying to see such organisations as
the St Vincent de Paul Society raise similar issues in the
public arena and to be able to link in with The National
Coalition Against Poverty and the Australia's Charter
for Government Network which are heading in the same direction
of getting wide coverage of the growing inequality in Australian
Federal election draws closer:
the SAO will be distributing campaign signs and asking
individuals and organisations to display them in public
a leaflet is to be distributed in electorates with the
objective of asking voters to consider these campaign
issues and quiz candidates about their party's policies
in income, health and housing.
Reconciliation and Peace Agenda
seeks the restoration of damaged humanity
by creating space for:
a basis for a better future.
Gardiner rsm co-ordinates the reconciliation and peace agenda
of the SAO.
the focus now on the possibility of a treaty between Indigenous
people and the Australian nation, the SAO developed an
campaign on this subject. This involved (i) seminars with
retired Religious; and (ii) the preparation of a Background
Discussion Paper which canvasses a range of issues about
treaties, including an analysis of experience in other parts
of the world. This paper is now on the SAO website.
continues to monitor developments in relation to Aboriginal
and Torres Strait Islander Reconciliation, Native Title and
issues such as mandatory sentencing.
is gradually getting involved in justice issues around prisons
and imprisonment. To coincide with Holy Week a poster was
designed and distributed linking the arrest and imprisonment
of Jesus with the words of Pope John Paul II in July 2000:
to promote the interests of prisoners
would be to make imprisonment a mere act of vengeance
on the part of society.
is also working on educational material which draws links
between the principles of Catholic Social
Teaching and how prisoners should be treated and how a
prison system should be run. Some of this has appeared in
the SAO newsletter.
is being planned for 2002 in collaboration with the Prison
the Debt, the CHOGM and the WTO
is collaborating with Jubilee Australia on the Drop the
Debt - Debt Kills Campaign. Support for the campaign will
intensify as the CHOGM draws near. As part of this the SAO
is also keeping in touch with and supporting others who are
campaigning on World Trade Organisation (WTO) issues.
Communications and Information Technology
year Cathy O'Keeffe's role in the SAO has been as the Communications/IT
Officer. This developed in recognition of the fact that this
is a vital part of the social action ministry and that more
effort needed to be dedicated to this.
noted earlier, this year the SAO website has become more important
in communicating the SAO's work and a lot of effort and energy
is now put into building and updating various pages on the site.
As well, SAO BYTES goes out each fortnight and keeps people
more regularly connected to the SAO. This is also becoming more
interactive with more people and organisations using this bulletin.
improve and enhance her skills in information technology, Cathy
undertook a TAFE course in the first half of the year in Website
Design Intensives (20 Monday evenings) and more recently
in PowerPoint on two Saturday mornings.
as the website and SAO BYTES, Cathy's role involves maintaining
the five SAO computers, keeping the database up to date and
the preparation of posters, brochures, the SAO newsletter
and other educational and promotional material in collaboration
with the other SAO staff.
Research and Education
Kingston has continued in this role in 2002 as well as being
responsible for the overall co-ordination of the SAO.
year a big focus of this position has been on building the website
with Cathy O'Keeffe and keeping the issues up to date and relevant
to the work of the SAO. As well, preparation of the fortnightly
SAO BYTES has become a regular task.
works closely with the agenda co-ordinators in researching
and writing up the material needed for the various campaigns.
This can vary from a lengthy Briefing Note, to sample lobby
letters, to editing the SAO newsletter and designing and writing
the content for leaflets and posters.
Social Teaching (CST) kit will soon be up on the SAO website
enabling people to easily access material on CST. Dolores
Creevy rsm has assisted with this and the SAO wishes to acknowledge
her contribution. This project was made possible by the support
of the Queensland Presentation Sisters' Promotion of Ministry
only full-time staff member, Coralie has had the responsibility
for co-ordinating the SAO in 2001. This has involved a number
of tasks such as:
with other staff, the planning and preparation of a Work
Plan to cover all aspects of the SAO's operation
liaising with staff on the requirements of each agenda
co-ordinating the preparation of a monthly report to CLRIQ
being the liaison point for CLRIQ
regular reviewing of the Work Plan at SAO staff meetings
liaising with the Communications/IT Officer on a weekly
basis and planning the timing of newsletters and SAO
monitoring with Annette Arnold rsj the SAO finances and
providing CLRIQ with quarterly financial statements.
duties have been undertaken in 2001 by Annette Arnold rsj.
Annette has kept the financial records updated, maintained
office equipment and kept office essentials supplied. This
is a very important part of SAO life and the other staff are
very appreciative of this contribution made by Annette.
spirituality which is the foundation for the Social Action
is centred on Sophia's transformative dream for all creation.
The spirituality has remained
a vital part of the SAO's operation:
in 2001, the Sophia Circles have continued so that, on
a regular basis, people gather to reflect on and ritualise
some aspect of life that touches on the agenda of the
mostly, staff meetings begin with a reflection
supervision is always reflective of the human condition,
the social action focus of the SAO's work and the pursuit,
always, for authenticity, integrity and truth in personal
and work life
the spirituality page on the SAO website is another demonstration
of the value the SAO places on spirituality
reflection days are also organised to focus on aspects
of spirituality for social action
from time to time prayer spaces are created in Justice Place
to enable people to come and pray - in September the space
was created to pray for refugees, especially those on the
continue to reflect upon CST and its application to the issues
taken up by the SAO. The completion of a CST
webpage will be a valuable resource for furthering this
aspect of the SAO's work and, importantly, of sharing that
to spend two days exploring post-modern theory with Sister
Paula Smith rsm was very enriching. It is always good to engage
and be challenged.
Tony Hempenstall cfc continues to provide group supervision
for the SAO staff in 2001. Group supervision provides an opportunity
to step outside the daily routine and reflect on and address
issues that arise - especially in relation to staff dynamics
and in balancing the demands of part-time staffing arrangements
with achieving timely outcomes.
Inter-Congregational Social Action Group (ICSAG)
meetings have continued to be an important and valued feature
of the SAO's operation and there are now three such meetings
held each year - at the beginning, the middle and the end
of the year. These meetings are always a good social occasion.
However, they also provide a point of reflection and reality
testing for SAO staff on the Work Plans that are developed
on a six monthly basis. The gathering of Religious from many
Congregations to reflect, discuss and plan a social action
agenda is a significant ecclesial event - but one which receives
little fanfare and acknowledgement. This is one of the real
strengths of the SAO.
Ministerial Advisory Arrangement (MAA)
Kingston has continued on as the Chairperson of this State
Government Ministerial Advisory Arrangement for the Supported
Accommodation Assistance Program (SAAP) and the Crisis Accommodation
Program (CAP) - reporting to the Minister for Families and
the Minister for Housing. Coralie's appointment as Chairperson
ends in April 2002.
has been another full year and with CHOGM and the Federal
Election on the horizon it will continue to be such.
thanks is due to CLRIQ for continual support and sponsorship
of this social action ministry. The ongoing financial support
of the Brisbane Archdiocesan Development Fund is also gratefully
acknowledged. A special thanks also to all the SAO partners
and friends who collaborate and actually do the campaigning
with the SAO staff. This collaboration is the strength of
the SAO. It is a great privilege to work alongside such fantastic
end, whatever the success or otherwise of this ministry,
the point is to be faithful to this "constitutive dimension
of the preaching of the gospel". The words of a poem
by Adrienne Rich capture the spirit of those who continue
to resist the death dealing of our time and often against
Action Office Staff