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Author: UnitingWorld

A year has passed since a magnitude 7.5 earthquake struck the Highlands of Papua New Guinea, killing at least 100 people and displacing 18,000 from their homes. The impacts were massive, with over half a million people in the affected area and more than 270,000 people needing emergency assistance.

Immediately following the earthquake, UnitingWorld supported our partners the United Church of Papua New Guinea (UCPNG) to conduct rapid impact assessments. Our partners had been trained prior to the earthquake so were among the first to assess the needs of many affected communities. Thanks to supporter donations, we were able to help UCPNG distribute emergency supplies, including water containers, hygiene supplies and temporary shelter kits to over 1,200 vulnerable households in 12 communities across Yaken and Lai Valley in the Southern Highlands.

Recording household names to map relief distributions

Our partners completed a second round of assessments and collated it with information from other churches. They found that the primary needs had shifted to recovery and rebuilding. UnitingWorld supported UCPNG to develop a joint recovery and rebuilding plan with other churches, for which we were able to help them access funds – including private donations and grants from the Australian and New Zealand governments.

UCPNG water tank installation using recycled car chassis for elevation!

UCPNG has since been distributing and installing 91 water tanks and 28 latrines, as well as fixing water catchments and roofs across communities in the Southern Highlands. Together with other churches, they are installing a total of 329 tanks and 175 latrines throughout the Southern Highlands and Hela Province. They are designed to service whole communities in order to reach the greatest number of people.

Community members test out a new water tank installed by our partners

The earthquake has had a significant psychological impact on many people and exacerbated local conflicts, particularly in Hela province. We have been working with UCPNG to run counselling and conflict resolution workshops in the affected area. Our latest Update newsletter shared an inspiring story from one of the workshops and Stephen Robinson recently blogged about his time in the Highlands training ministers in disaster chaplaincy.

Church leaders participating in counselling and conflict resolution workshops

Responding to this disaster has been especially complicated, given the scale and remoteness of impacted communities. Our Disaster Disaster Relief Coordinator David Brice was in Mendi and Hela provinces last month visiting some of the affected areas. He says many people are still feeling the effects of it even now.

We are continuing to work with our partners in helping communities recover from the disaster and will post updates on our website here.

Thank you for supporting the people of Papua New Guinea after the earthquake. Funds raised were crucial in the early emergency response and enabled our partners to leverage their rapid assessment work to access further government funding.

Want to make your support go even further?

We have launched an appeal to help our partners be better prepared to respond to disasters.

The key to saving lives in a disaster is preparedness, and we want to help vulnerable communities be disaster ready. Find out more.


Every $1 invested into disaster preparation can save as much as $15 in the aftermath of a tragedy

Donate now

Uniting Church in Australia President Dr Deidre Palmer and national church leaders respond to the 2019 Budget

The President of the Uniting Church in Australia Dr Deidre Palmer has encouraged Australians to put the urgent needs of others ahead of short-term self-interest, after the Federal Government delivered its 2019 Budget.

The Budget has promised, all going to plan, $158 billion in income tax cuts over a decade on the back of projected Budget surpluses.

Despite the positive projections though, the foreign aid budget has again been cut, and there is no improvement for Australians relying on welfare payments, particularly the Newstart allowance.

“As the contest for hearts and minds begins ahead of this year’s Federal Election, I urge Australians to give priority to justice, compassion and inclusion,” said Dr Palmer.

“The Budget, if passed by a future government, may offer some welcome tax relief. But at what cost?”

“The bottom line in this Budget is there is less support for the most vulnerable people in the most vulnerable nations, and less support for the most vulnerable at home.”

Aid agencies noted that foreign aid would drop to 0:19% of Gross National Income in 2021-22 – well below the short-term target of 0.3% supported by the Uniting Church and other advocates.

National Director of UnitingWorld Dr Sureka Goringe said the Budget failed both generous open-hearted Australian people and the vision of genuine regional partnership.

“We need to build trust and solidarity with our regional neighbours, working together to address inequality and injustice, not just pursue a narrow self-serving agenda,” said Dr Goringe.

Dr Palmer strongly criticised a $1.6 billion underspend on the National Disability Insurance Scheme in the coming financial year.

The Uniting Church President did however welcome a number of measures confirmed in the Budget.

“I applaud the boost for mental health and suicide prevention. This is important and timely. As is the confirmation of $328 million in funding to reduce violence against women and children.”

“I also welcome the funding set aside for a Royal Commission into the abuse and neglect of people with disability,” said Dr Palmer.

President of the Uniting Aboriginal and Islander Christian Congress, Rev. Garry Dronfield welcomed the allocation of $5 million for prevention of youth suicide in Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities.

“Unfortunately, it’s not enough to address the scale of crisis that we know exists,” said Rev. Dronfield.

“There needs to be funding for diversionary programs to keep our vulnerable young people from the dangers of incarceration.”

Rev. Dronfield also was concerned about the lack of self-determination in the extension to other Northern Territory and Queensland communities of the cashless debit card. “Choice should always be given to First Peoples,” he said.

Funding for co-design of the Indigenous Voice to Parliament was welcomed by Rev. Dronfield. However he noted: “If the Government had accepted the Statement from the Heart this would have been unnecessary.

Frontier Services’ National Director, Jannine Jackson welcomed extra funding of $5.5m over four years for mental health services for people in Tasmania, Victoria and Queensland who have been affected by natural disasters.

“Given our recent and ongoing experience with drought, fire and floods we’re continuing to express our concern for the growing disparity between metro and remote Australia.”

“We hope that some of this funding and the overall increase on mental health spending will be accessible to those living and working in remote Australia,” said Ms Jackson.

UnitingCare Australia National Director Claerwen Little has queried the Government’s priorities.

In a media statement issued on Budget night, Ms Little said: 

“A ‘surplus’ gained at the cost of allowing children to live in poverty, people with disabilities to go without the basic support they need, older Australians to die waiting for home care packages, and homelessness to reach record levels, does not measure up.”

Political commentators expect a Federal Election to be called as early as this weekend.

Last month, the Uniting Church in Australia published its 2019 Federal Election resource titled “Our Vision for a Just Australia.”

The Vision Statement outlines seven broad policy areas covering First Peoples, the environment, social inclusion, wellbeing, human rights, healthy communities and peacemaking. 

“Our vision, grounded in the life and mission of Jesus, is for Australia to be a just and compassionate nation in a world, where all can flourish.” said Dr Palmer.

“I urge all Australians to examine closely the policies on offer at the coming election, and hold those asking for their vote to account in building a just. compassionate and inclusive Australia.”

This statement has been republished from the Uniting Church in Australia Assembly article, ‘Shaping a Just, Compassionate and Inclusive Australia: UCA 2019 Budget response’

Notes from the National Director

Recently I started reading ‘Dare to Lead’ by Brene Brown. In the very first chapter, there was discussion of the brave and courageous organisational culture that is required to succeed in complex, rapidly changing environments full of seemingly intractable challenges and insatiable demands for innovation. They identified the #1 roadblock to creating such a culture: “Avoiding tough conversations, including giving honest,
productive feedback.”

Here at UnitingWorld, we’ve just done some professional development to help us tackle honest conversations together, learning to listen with curiosity, taking into account different personality styles and working to support each other with integrity during times of stress. From the boardroom to the kitchen, these are techniques that can help us to work in harmony to be more together than we are separately. However, it requires all of us to be brave – to step up in the belief that the risk is worth it.

Our partners constantly engage not just in tough conversations with each other in the workplace, but with their culture in general – challenging understandings of the roles of men and women; influencing attitudes toward the treatment of children; overcoming corruption and working toward peace. There is no way to avoid these tough conversations. They, too, require listening skills, the ability to know when and how to speak to avoid stress, and how to judge ‘personality’ differences.

And as author Maya Angelou writes:
“Without courage, we cannot practice any other virtue with consistency. We can’t be kind, true, merciful, generous or honest.”

As we focus on courage throughout Lent, please pray for us as we learn to lead and listen to one another, and please pray for our brothers and sisters around the globe. Join us on the Lenten journey as we walk toward Easter, the ultimate revelation of a life courageously lived and given for others. Stories for your inspiration, both from Timor Leste and here in Australia, are available at www.lentevent.com

In hope and gratitude,

Dr Sureka Goringe
National Director

Read the latest UnitingWorld Update here:

UW_Update_Newsletter_Issue1_2019_Web_ART

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We were thrilled to receive a handwritten letter from a student who has been part of our Informal settlement school subsidy program in Fiji. Mira* just graduated and wanted to say a big thank you to the Uniting Church for supporting her education.

Many of you gave a ‘Set for School’ gift card last Christmas, supporting students like Mira to get through school on an equal footing with her peers. It’s great to see the joy and impact it can make.

*Name changed. We have reproduced parts of Mira’s letter below to remove references to names and specific locations to protect her privacy.

Full letter:

Suva, Fiji / 7 Feb, 2019
The heads/members. Uniting Church, Australia

I am glad to write this letter of appreciation for the support of the Uniting Church towards my education life.

It was indeed a proud moment for my parents to see their daughter graduate out of high school with having much burden on their shoulders to educate me. Furthermore, this attainment of education also moulded me to contribute towards the works of the church by becoming a Sunday school teacher.

The Uniting Church did not step back from helping us and provided support through means of buying uniforms, bags and shoes for us which was a need of school life.

All in all, I would like to thank the Uniting Church from the bottom of my heart for their endless support in helping the parents nuture their children.

A big bula vinaka vakalevu, dhanyarad and thank you from the children.

Yours faithfully,
– Mira

Kina Somare* is wanted throughout the Highlands of Papua New Guinea on numerous counts of violence. Leader of a well-known gang that frequently clashes with others in the region, his face is both known and feared. So when he walks into a peace workshop one still afternoon in October, amidst the rubble of Hela Province’s worst earthquake since 1922, everyone in the church stands very still. 

Somare walks out a changed man. He speaks with local police. He wants to become an ambassador for peace personally and to influence other young people to bring healing to the community. His transformation is staggering.

“The Bishop of the United Church in PNG (UCPNG), who was taking part that day, found Somare’s presence particularly unnerving,” says UCPNG Disaster Office Project Manager Stella Vika. 

“He’d been held up by this man at knife point not so long ago. They met, reconciled and Somare gave his life to Christ. Our partners up in Hela Province are really blown away by this story. To have someone of such notoriety undergo such a change is incredibly encouraging.

UCPNG leaders at the Mendi Counselling and Peacebuilding workshop

The United Church of Papua New Guinea, in partnership with UnitingWorld, has been running peace workshops and counselling for people impacted by the recent earthquake. Like other aid agencies, UnitingWorld was on hand with sanitation kits and practical items, but the long-term work of helping people recover emotionally and psychologically is incredibly important.

“Disasters frequently damage infrastructure and livelihoods but they can also increase vulnerability and conflict,” says David Brice, Disaster Relief Coordinator with UnitingWorld.

“Giving people access to counselling and the tools to navigate conflict has a significant impact on how quickly these communities can heal and recover.”

It’s one of the unique ways your donations go further with UnitingWorld. Your support doesn’t just address the practical problems of clean water and repaired roofing – it builds people’s resilience to tackle issues that accelerate after disaster. And men like Somare are changed in the process. Given the skills not just to rebuild their homes but their lives, they embrace the opportunity to bring change. 

HELP US BE DISASTER READY.

Every dollar donated before disaster strikes doesn’t just save countless lives – it saves significant amounts of money. Every $1 invested into building better homes, preparing evacuation plans and protecting communities can save as much as $15 in the aftermath of a tragedy. Please, if you’re able, add to our disaster-ready fund.

Click here to donate now.

*Name changed to protect identity

Gender Equality Theology changing hearts and minds in Papua New Guinea

Salote and Jone have been married 11 years, members of a Christian church, and have two beautiful children. They love one another, but throughout their marriage they’ve had times of conflict and Jone has become angry, abusive and resorted to violence. Each time he pleads for forgiveness, vows to change and for a time makes good on his promise. Each time, violence returns. Salote wants to believe that everyone, with the love of God, can change, but she fears for her life and for the welfare of her children. She asks the advice of her Pastor.

This is the scenario a group of men and women are grappling with in a frostily air-conditioned room in the offices of the United Church of Papua New Guinea, Port Moresby, on a typically hot February day. They’ve come from all over the country – the Highlands, New Britain, Goroka – and they represent different denominations, universities and groups united by a common desire to see an end to violence against women. This week, their unexpected secret weapon is better theology.

“Almost everyone in Papua New Guinea is a Christian, which completely underpins the culture,” explains University lecturer Theresa, who has come to be part of the Community of Practice meeting, seeking inspiration for her gender and social studies lectures.

“But most have only a shallow understanding of what the Bible really says about men and women. It’s enough for many men to believe their marriages are ordained by God, or that they are superior to women. In reality, there’s so much more to what the Scriptures say about the equality of men and women. Understanding this properly changes everything.”

Watching the group grapple with what advice a Pastor should give to the couple is an interesting experience.  Earlier, a Bible study by Rev Dr Seforosa Carroll has unpacked a passage from Matthew about turning the other cheek – a concept that for decades has been part of the powerful brew holding faithful women captive in abusive marriages. Rev Dr Carroll, however, explains that in the culture of Jesus’ day, rather than passively accepting or inviting further violence, ‘turning the other cheek’ could quite literally have created a radically different dynamic between two people and restored a sense of equality and dignity.

The interpretation opens new possibilities in the room and creates a buzz that spills over into discussion and controversy around the case study. For some, the issue hits close to the heart. Women here have left abusive marriages of their own and are raising children while helping other women find safety from violence. This is no idle hypothetical. What’s certain is that for everyone in the room, this teaching of Jesus – fully explained, beautifully illustrated  – has real authority and currency to change lives.

UnitingWorld is continuing to support the development of resources to teach Gender Equality Theology throughout the Pacific. If you’re interested in seeing a copy of the Bible studies or helping provide invaluable financial support for the project, please get in touch. We’d love you to join us on this exciting journey with our partners!

Gender Equality Theology Community of Practice activities are supported by the Australian Government through the Papua New Guinea–Australia Partnership.

Rev John Yor Nyker, the General Secretary of the Presbyterian Church of South Sudan (PCOSS) was recently asked the question, “what does transformative partnership mean to you?” His response gave us some insight into the value that he and his church place on their international partnerships.

“Transformative partnership means many things for me. It means learning new things and new culture from others, which is part of strengthening relationship and friendship between partners and our church. It’s caring for others; sharing each other’s happiness and unhappiness, sadness and joy. When the war broke out in South Sudan, our brothers and sisters in Christ’s service were shedding tears for us.

It is not resources that make partnership. Partnership is the ministry, the Kingdom of God through prayers for each other. Partnership is learning, making friendships and sharing of ideas and opinions. It is learning about the global world … learning how to pass [on] the information about your culture and your way of life. It is important to establish partnership as a part of human life.”

Photo: Rev John Yor eating a melting Tim Tam brought to South Sudan from Australia

UnitingWorld is the international aid and partnerships agency of the Uniting Church in Australia. UnitingWorld supports our partners, the Presbyterian Church of South Sudan (PCOSS), to train ministers and lay leaders and equip them with the tools they will need to teach reconciliation and peacebuilding skills in families and between tribal groups throughout South Sudan. Read more | Meet the peacemakers of South Sudan (video)

 

UnitingWorld hosted its annual five-day workshop on Gender Equality Theology in early November.

Led by Pacific theologians Rev Dr Cliff Bird and Siera Bird, ministers from partner churches across the Pacific met in Nadi, Fiji, to wrestle with biblical themes of equality and anti-violence. They discussed how principles from the Bible can be powerful forces for positive change in their communities, where violence against women continues to be a significant problem.

Participants expressed their appreciation for what they learned throughout the week and committed to taking the knowledge back to their home churches.

“The teaching tools have given me more clarification for deeper biblical analysis and identifying the root-causes of social issues,”  said Rev Tomasi Tarabe, New Testament lecturer at the Davuilevu Theological College in Suva.

“I hope UnitingWorld continues to work with Pacific theologians on developing a methodology of reading and interpreting the Bible through our cultural lens.”

Participant Victoria Kavafolau, a theology student and newly appointed head of the Women’s Desk for the Tonga National Council of Churches, spoke about how her expectations for the event were turned around.

“Before I participated in the Gender Equality Theology workshop, I thought ‘oh, this is just another program advocating women’s rights.’ To be proven wrong was an understatement… Not only did it raise awareness about violence against women and children, but the workshop provided tools and resources for theologically interpreting and identifying gender equality within Scripture and how we can apply that to our relevant contexts,” said Victoria.

“This is an important area within our respective Oceania communities to be addressed and enriched. We are in a different era now with different worldviews and contexts. Our cultural values and customs often deter us from developing further perspectives on gender equality.

This program has impacted me at a personal level and has encouraged me to address this growing issue within my Tongan community. With the aid of UnitingWorld and the tools and resources they have provided me, hopefully change can be implemented according to the will of God. Praise be to God.”

 

The Partnering Women for Change project is supported by the Australian Government through the Pacific Women Program. 

 

Photo: Victoria Kavafolau (right) with UnitingWorld Program Manager Megan Calcaterra and Rev Lima Tura, a previous UnitingWorld scholarship recipient who is now a lecturer at Seghe Theological Seminary in the Solomon Islands. Photo credit: Megan Calcaterra.

UnitingWorld welcomes the ‘Shaping the Path’ report on the prevention of sexual misconduct by ACFID members released today.

As a member of ACFID, UnitingWorld supported the commissioning of the Independent Review on the Prevention of Sexual Misconduct and participated in the review and interview processes.

While UnitingWorld had no reportable incidents, National Director Dr Sureka Goringe says UnitingWorld endorses all the recommendations made by the report.

The final report today found that of the 76 incidents reported by ACFID agencies, there were 31 substantiated sexual misconduct cases involving aid workers over a three-year period.

“As an agency committed to preventing harm to vulnerable people; those we serve, our partners and staff, we look forward to working with ACFID on implementing the 31 recommendations in the report,” said Dr Goringe.

“While we already have strong processes for preventing sexual misconduct, we are committed to learning from this review and improving our practices.”

“We want to echo the words of ACFID CEO Marc Purcell, that any case of sexual misconduct is completely unacceptable. Our sector must do better.”

UnitingWorld’s current prevention measures include: a complaints process that makes it easy for people to report misconduct; strong training and compliance processes for managing staff behaviour; regular surveys of our staff and partners providing an anonymous complaints process for discovering any issues or misconduct early; strong screening process for hiring staff, police checks and requiring a Working With Children Check; and a Code of Conduct that is included in the ‘ACFID Good Practice Toolkit’ as an example of good practice. Our staff receive refresher training and re-sign in the Code annually. We also require our Board, partners, volunteers and contractors to sign and be bound by the Code.

We do not send Australian-based staff overseas for long periods of time and instead work in close, long-standing partnerships with local churches.

Our close and vibrant relationships with our partner churches allow us to facilitate regional trainings with local staff about the Code of Conduct, compliance requirements and processes for reporting sexual misconduct.  Our close partnerships also allow us to have clear and frank discussions about expectations for implementing the Code of Conduct across church-based partner organisations.

In addition, UnitingWorld regularly runs regional workshops in collaboration with local church partners and theologians to promote gender equity and address gendered power dynamics, an issue identified in the report as one requiring improvement across the sector.

UnitingWorld remains committed transparency, accountability and constant improvement of our systems to prevent sexual misconduct.

If you have any questions about the AFID report or UnitingWorld’s processes for preventing sexual misconduct please do not hesitate to contact us.

Links

The Report

ACFID’s statement

 

UnitingWorld is the international aid and partnerships agency of the Uniting Church in Australia. We connect people and communities in Australia, the Pacific, Asia and Africa to work together for a world where lives are whole and hopeful, free from poverty and injustice. Find out more.