Four representatives of the Adventist Development and Relief Agency (ADRA) Australia gathered in Canberra from November 30 to December 3 to meet with politicians to campaign for Australian Aid.
As part of the Voices for Justice Conference hosted by Micah Australia, the representatives were joined by 230 Australian Christians and 15 Pacific Church leaders to discuss what the Pacific Step Up means for Pacific people.
The first two days in Canberra were spent inspiring, training and equipping the delegates to speak with federal politicians on issues like poverty and social justice, before meetings began on Monday.
The week began on Monday morning with Prime Minister Scott Morison launching a new parliamentary initiative called “friends of our Pacific family”. The event, attended by almost 40 MPs and senators, set the tone for two positive days of lobbying the government to increase Australian Aid.
The delegation for Voices for Justice was in Canberra on the back of news there will be an upcoming aid review, which has been welcomed by Micah.
“At a time when our region needs Australia more than ever, we have cut aid to the lowest level ever in history,” said former chief advocate of World Vision Australia Tim Costello.
“We believe that as a blessed nation we have a moral obligation to ensure Australian aid is generous and is supporting the world’s most poor, vulnerable and oppressed, beyond just their ‘strategic’ value,” he said.
For the ADRA representatives, they view their involvement in Voices for Justice as a key manifestation of their lived faith.
“It’s not an extra-curricular activity,” says Shell-sea Ellem, a first time participant at Voices for Justice, on the importance of speaking up for the poor. “It is part of our main calling as Christians.”
John Smilek, a volunteer regional coordinator with ADRA in Victoria, says he was reminded of how important justice is as an aspect of the Christian faith and identity.
“As Adventists, justice is in our heritage going back to our founders and was part of the DNA of the early church. For some reason we have, for the most part, misplaced this side of the gospel in our own community. I believe we need to rediscover the meaning and joy of serving others.”
Nathan Brown, an ADRA supporter and book editor at Signs Publishing, has been attending Voices for Justice since 2012. He says that gathering together as a collective of Christians is important not only to speak out on behalf of those less fortunate, but also to leave a positive impression of Christians with our politicians.
“Across our meetings with parliamentarians, we received a number of comments about our voices offering a refreshing and healthy alternative to some of the more prominent and often negatively perceived Christian voices that are those most heard in our public debates,” said Mr Brown.
Together the Voices for Justice delegation attended a total of 88 meetings with MPs, senators, and ministers. The ADRA representatives are already looking forward to next year’s event.