This week Geelong celebrates another AFL victory with a decisive win over Essendon. Earlier in the week a quiet victory for Geelong was played out on the veranda of the Queensland Parliament building.
Back in April when the Federal Budget announcement was filling the media a previously unknown Queensland politician made headlines in Geelong.
Responding to a Budget promise to build a fast rail link between Geelong and Melbourne, Queensland Government Minister, Cameron Dick suggested the money would be better spent in his state.
Unfortunately Minister Dick chose to expand on his proposal by telling the Queensland Parliament “Geelong is a place that no-one wants to visit . Even people from Geelong don’t want a fast rail to Geelong — except perhaps for one person — Sarah Henderson, who is Josh Frydenberg’s factional ally sitting on a wafer-thin margin of 3 per cent.”
Despite an attempt to explain his perspective to 3AW’s Tom Elliott Cameron Dick was kicked “out of bounds” by a tirade of emails and social media commentary. As a Geelong born Queenslander I added my voice to the defense of my birth city.
I challenged Cameron Dick to at least honour the city with a photo shoot taken with a true blue Pivotonian. Minister Dick not only agreed to this conciliatory suggestion, he also offered to eat some “humble pie” in response to the public outcry from Corio Bay.
The last week of October 2015 was spent at the the historic Woodlands estate just outside suburbia in Brisbane. Its history is a rich tableaux of family, religion and education on the land of the First Nations Peoples of Australia. It’s walls and grounds hold the stories of private families and public institutions.
I joined a group colleagues from the Queensland Community Alliance who came together to develop skills as social change activists with power brokers on the public stage. Our participants included representatives from Trade Unions, Churches and Community organisations such as mine, Micah Projects Inc
The QCA works to establish a community organising alliance in south east Queensland to forge a better community. QCA aims to be an alliance of faith groups coming together with charities, unions, community organisations and ethnic associations to work together for the common good This alliance will be based around the personal relations we will build across organisations in our local area. We will identify and train people to become leaders in community organising, who will decide our priorities for action together, through a process of listening to stories of pressures that our members face and witness.
The 6 Day National Training is a program for people committed to understanding the craft of community organising – who want to play a key role in leading the activities of the Alliance inside their organisation and acting as a bridge between our member organisations.
The residential course builds a close community of leaders across participating civil society organisations that represent the diversity our communities in Sydney and Queensland. The 6 Day National Training is also open to those seeding new Alliances across Australia.
Leaders are equipped with the tools they need to be more strategic and effective and to build and strengthen their organisations in the process. The course focuses on power, organisations, relationships and leadership.
The core process of the program builds around our understanding of power and relationships. The prepatory work included writing a personal biography and some pretty in depth analysis of a slab of good old fashioned Greek tragedy, the Melian DialogueOther resources for this training include the work of Michael Gecan.
Founded in 1940, the Industrial Areas Foundation is the largest and longest-standing network of local faith and community-based organizations in the USA.
The IAF partners with religious congregations and civic organizations at the local level to build broad-based organizing projects, which create new capacity in a community for leadership development, citizen-led action and relationships across the lines that often divide our communities.
The IAF created the modern model of faith- and broad-based organizing and is widely recognized as having the strongest track record in the the USA for citizen leadership development and for helping congregations and other civic organizations act on their missions to achieve lasting change in the world.
Tools that we explored for our work in social change
1. Relational Conversations are conversations that have intentional direction to build relationships for action in the public domain. There is a framework in these conversations that builds on sharing common commitment to action for social change and a civil community. The relational conversation develops a skill in deep listening.
2 Public actions are opportunities to invite people into a new model of leadership and political engagement. Some public actions are free flowing such as rallies. Others have a structure to achieve a reaction from decision makers with whom we engage. This process comes from a relational culture of organising.
3 Listening: facilitated group listening in our context is usually described as “Table Talk” This allows a diversity of stories to be heard so that a common thread can be teased out for action.
So, what did I take away from six intensive days of engagement with this process? The main learning comes from the Alinsky model of the distinction between the private and the public sphere. Click here for a good critique of this model.As this is the model adopted by members of the Alliance here in Queensland we now face the challenge of adapting it to our local situation as a tool of social change and effective political engagement.
I found the program somewhat challenging from a cultural perspective. It has a very “American” cheer leader feel to it i have described it as a cross between going to an Amway meeting and watching TV evangelists.The public events of the alliance are proscribed and scripted to an extent previously unknown in the Australian political theatre. There is a lot of work needed to give the Alliance a home grown feel Downunder.
Living with a group of people even for such a short time can build relationships that we want to nurture and continue.This is the strength of the Alliance which creates a new space for collaboration and political outcomes
Our anthem is sung from small school assemblies to footy finals. Most know the first verse and are even surprised to discover the second verse with its lines that challenge Government refugee policy of recent times:
For those who come across the seas We’ve boundless plans to share
It is a subtle presentation of the facts about refugees and asylum seekers in our world and local community.It is also a challenge and an invitation to action.
We all have a role to play
What can we do as individuals and a community to help our brothers and sisters and work for a conversion in our nation? The task is not easy, but there are many things that we can do.
We can work within our parishes to ensure that they are welcoming places. Creating social events, organising or joining support networks, introducing refugees and hearing their stories: all these are ways in which we can recognise the humanity of those who have come in need of protection.
Politicians need to know that we feel passionately about this issue, and not just at the ballot box, when we cast our vote. Writing to local members and ministers does have an effect, and can give encouragement to those in Parliament who also seek a better way.
Papal Encyclicals are always pretty “heady” reading.No images, just page after page of text followed by lists of references. This is not the stuff you give as a gift even if it was published in hard cover.
With Laudato Si, Pope Francis takes up the cry of the poor and the earth:
“This sister now cries out to us because of the harm we have inflicted on her by our irresponsible use and abuse of the goods with which God has endowed her. We have come to see ourselves as her lords and masters, entitled to plunder her at will. The violence present in our hearts, wounded by sin, is also reflected in the symptoms of sickness evident in the soil, in the water, in the air and in all forms of life. This is why the earth herself, burdened and laid waste, is among the most abandoned and maltreated of our poor; she “groans in travail” (Rom 8:22). We have forgotten that we ourselves are dust of the earth (cf. Gen2:7); our very bodies are made up of her elements, we breathe her air and we receive life and refreshment from her waters.”
I really wish Papa Francis had taken advantage of new technology and given us a “Vatican’s Got Talent” type performance on this one.The press conference comes close and is worth viewing.
This is not just for the pew nodders who will do “what Father says”. This is a ground breaking piece of contemporary theology that engages with our dreams and hopes for the global village.
The last papal encyclical that really got Catholics jumping and twirling hoops was Humanae Vitae back in 1968. This one will also drive the Abbott of Canberra and his cabinet into a frenzy of dissidence. Can’t wait to where George the Great Skeptic lines this piece up on his shelf of readings.
The climate has changed in the Vatican, Slowly and surely the red glaciers are losing their gloss and now the green blade riseth, piercing the walls of infallible opinion..
May the cry “Laudato Si” rise from our lips and may our hearts be warmed by this call to relationship with our Mother Earth. May we who in the Land Downunder recognize this call as the ancient life blood of the First People of this land. May we begin our journey of healing of the earth with Dadirri,
Dadirri means inner, deep listening and quiet, still awareness. It is a ‘tuning in’ experience with the specific aim to come to a deeper understanding of the beauty of nature. Dadirri recognises the inner spirit that calls us to reflection and contemplation of the wonders of all God’s creation.#LaudatoSi
–Sister Helen Prejean, C.S.J.
Used with permission
God of Compassion,
You let your rain fall on the just and the unjust.
Expand and deepen our hearts
so that we may love as You love,
even those among us
who have caused the greatest pain by taking life.
For there is in our land a great cry for vengeance
as we fill up death rows and kill the killers
in the name of justice, in the name of peace.
Jesus, our brother,
you suffered execution at the hands of the state
but you did not let hatred overcome you.
Help us to reach out to victims of violence
so that our enduing love may help them heal.
Holy Spirit of God,
You strengthen us in the struggle for justice.
Help us to work tirelessly
for the abolition of state-sanctioned death
and to renew our society in its very heart
so that violence will be no more. Amen.
Our cries of “Hosanna” must echo the cries for freedom and liberation of those detained because they seek refuge and asylum in our land.
This week will not be Holy unless we refuse to crucify the innocent.
This week will not be Holy unless we break bread and drink wine with the poor and abandoned of our community.
This week will not be Holy unless we walk the passion of the earth.
This week will be Holy if we commit to act justly, love tenderly and walk humbly with all that is sacred.