30 October, 2015
CBM Australia’s Advocacy Support Officer, Elle Spring, recently attended the Voices for Justice Conference in Canberra; here she writes about her experience. Voices for Justice is an annual Christian advocacy conference in Canberra from October 10 to 13 organised by Micah Australia.
This year I was given the opportunity to attend – which I jumped at. During the four-day conference I had the unique opportunity to gather with close to 200 like-minded Christians from across Australia and raise a united voice to influence our nation’s political leaders and government policy for the benefit of the world’s poorest and most vulnerable people.
The first two days of the conference focused on giving participants the knowledge and practical skills needed to take their voice to lobby meetings at Australia’s Parliament House. I attended, along with my fellow participants, a range of engaging workshops, advocacy training, lobby meeting preparations and policy briefings, and listened to inspiring speakers.There were many highlights for me during these first couple of days, but if I had to choose just two, it would be listening to Sef Carroll from the Uniting Church speak so passionately about climate change and the impact on women in the Pacific region, as well as an eye-opening simulation of life as subsistence fishing families living in the Pacific.
The simulation broke participants into many family groups and gave us a set of real-life scenarios. The game gave us the smallest glimpse of what is reality for so many families living in the low-lying Pacific islands contending with an unreliable source of income and the impacts of climate change.
By day three, we were armed with all of the information needed to take our voices to Senators and MPs at Parliament House. This year the lobby meetings were calling for climate change action and restoring Australian aid.
Over two days,participants attended almost 100 meetings – in their allocated lobby groups. What a way to unite our voices for justice! My lobby group had two meetings, one with Dr Dennis Jensen MP and the other with Senator Linda Reynolds. It was an excellent experience speaking to Senators and MPs and advocating for issues that we feel so passionate about.While carrying out lobby meetings at Parliament House was obviously a huge highlight, one of the greatest highlights of the conference for me was the Pacific Challenges and Australian Engagement Forum at Parliament House, where the new Minister for International Development and the Pacific, Steve Ciobo, was amongst the speakers on the panel.
The poem was a strong message to remind the speakers, and audience, that Australian aid is not about charity, it’s about development – and Australia can do more in promoting a just and equal world for all.
The conference also coincided with the launch of Micah Australia – the renewed vision of Micah Challenge. It was an ideal time to reveal the new vision and brand identity of Micah Australia as we were truly putting it into practice – “Do Justice Together”.
Altogether, it was an incredibly inspiring four days. I feel extremely lucky to have added my voice, along with all participants, to a common voice for justice – now let’s continue to do justice together.