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In February 2020, the Minister for Foreign Affairs, Senator the Hon Marise Payne requested the Joint Standing Committee on Foreign Affairs, Defence and Trade – Foreign Affairs and Aid Sub-Committee to inquire into strengthening Australia’s relationships with countries in the Pacific region.

UnitingWorld made a submission in April and was published on the Committee’s website here.

We made the following recommendations:

1. Engage with and through Christian churches in Pacific countries

  • Christianity is the dominant paradigm in the Pacific, it is the language of life and culture.
  • Churches are the most influential non-government community network in the Pacific.
  • Existing church-led Australian engagement can be leveraged for growth and impact.
  • Pacific diaspora embedded in Australian churches can be leveraged.

2. Engage with Pacific Regional Christian organisations

Regional multi-church organisations such as the Pacific Conference of Churches, and similar bodies at national level, are places that draw together influential leadership from across the Pacific communities and provide a valuable space for high return on relational investment.

3. Deal with the issue of climate change with integrity

This is the biggest existential issue in the Pacific, driving both rapid-onset disasters and slow-onset destruction of livelihoods. Acknowledge that this is not just an ‘aid’ issue but one that requires regional and global collaboration on a range of fronts.

4. Create space for alternative models of development

Recognise that development and social flourishing for the Pacific people must be self-determined with due weight given to indigenous wisdom, culture and context. GDP and economic growth may not be the desired indicators.

5. Address the Pacific societal impacts of the labour mobility scheme

The current high rates of working age adults spending extended periods away from their partners and children is causing significant social dysfunction in Pacific communities. Increased remittance income is being offset by marriage breakdown, juvenile delinquency and addiction issues.

6. Align Australia’s emission control policies to signal a clear commitment to climate change mitigation

Australia’s credibility in the Pacific is significantly contingent on a consistent policy approach to climate change. Offering aid-based solutions to the Pacific while signalling a lack of commitment to curbing fossil fuel emissions locally is counter-productive.

Click here to download the full submission.

Due to COVID-19 and its impact on countries in the Pacific, the date for submissions been extended to 30 June.

Project Update: Kiribati Safe Families, Healthy Communities

The Kiribati Safe Families, Healthy Communities project has gone through two phases.

In the first phase of the project, we worked with RAK (Reitan Aine ki Kamatu – Women’s Fellowship of the Kiribati Uniting Church) to support the establishment of raised vegetable garden beds through resources and training.

Kiribati women identified this as important for three main reasons:

1. Food security
With the increasing effects of climate change on their tiny islands growing food had become more and more difficult. With the rising sea levels, the fresh water table has become contaminated with salt water and is too brackish to grow most crops. Also, this sea-level rise has seen king tides and tropical depressions cause widespread regular flooding, damaging low level food crops.

Kiribati

2. Improved health
As a result of the limited availability of fresh foods, people turn to the imported foods. These include a large diet of 2-minute noodles, excessively fatty cuts of meat (often deemed unsuitable for human consumption in Australia) and preserved sugary foods (as they last the long sea journeys to Kiribati). All this is resulting in national poor health and increased incidents of diabetes.

3. Increased usable income
If the families and communities can grow more of their own food, they will need to spend less on the expensive, poorly nutritious imported food, thus releasing more income into the family budget for school and medical fees.

During the training activities on gardening, composting and healthy cooking (developed and conducted locally), conversations about healthy family and marriage relationships and the protection of women, girls and children were facilitated. The learning from these conversations highlighted specific community needs for families in Kiribati and our partners have been sharing their insights with us.

Gender-based violence is a huge issue in Kiribati and young girls are particularly vulnerable. With Kiribati being so isolated, there is a steady flow of foreign ships into the port bringing supplies. Among communities with little income and high unemployment, young girls are vulnerable to trafficking.

We are currently in the early stages of the second phase of this project with RAK and Kiribati Uniting Church (KUC), which currently consists of 2 main aspects:

1. Theological training and resourcing of Pacific Gender Equality Theology for leaders across the church, women’s fellowship and youth groups. The aim is to shift the patriarchal paradigm and equip the church and its leaders to be able to engage effectively in conversations about gender, domestic violence, child abuse and exploitation with families within their communities. Our partners have identified this as an important part of building safe families in Kiribati.


Gender Equality Theology workshop in Kiribati Feb 2019

2. Evaluation of the ‘healthy communities’ aspect of the project. We are working with our partners to identify the aspects of the garden phase that worked well and the reasons why it was less successful in some locations. We anticipate that after developing a better understanding of the factors that affect project impact, we can move to build on the foundations of food security and increasing people’s incomes, while recognising that it is both spiritual and physical needs.

Gender Equality Theology workshop in Kiribati Feb 2019

As the theological training component of the project is the most active right now, the Kiribati Safe Families, Healthy Communities project is now part of the Pacific Partnering Women for Change project. We will post updates on both aspects of the project as we gather information and take the learning forward with our partners in Kiribati.

RAK Project Coordinator Bairenga wanted to say thank you for the prayers and donations of UnitingWorld supporters for enabling the work of our partners.

She recorded the below in April 2019.

Thank you from Kiribati! from UnitingWorld on Vimeo.

Thank you to everyone who has supported this project!

All photos by Natasha Holland, International Program Manager, UnitingWorld

Six months have passed since the deadly earthquake and tsunami that devastated the coastal city of Palu on the Indonesian island of Sulawesi. 4,340 people were killed and more than 200,000 were displaced from their homes. Our Indonesian staff and church partners lost friends and loved ones.

Thank you to everyone who supported our emergency appeal.

Your donations allowed our partners in Indonesia to provide necessities for people struggling through the crisis: food and clean water, milk for infants, sanitary supplies for women, shelters, mattresses, mosquito nets and cooking equipment for 86 families.

One of the many families displaced from their homes

Your gifts also helped our partners be able to provide health care and psychosocial support to people traumatised by destruction and loss. Using local church buildings, our partners ran training for Sunday school teachers to help them understand post-traumatic reactions and be better able to offer care for children.


Our staff and partners provided health checks for 123 people in an affected community

Our partners also provided handicraft activities for refugees who couldn’t return to their destroyed homes or jobs right away, giving them a small source of income and something else to focus on besides the destruction.


Resources used by Sunday school teachers to provide care to children after the disaster

Our local church partners also helped restore clean water and sanitation to affected communities in the remote Kulawi Regency, an area largely overlooked by the government response.


Our church partners (MBM and GPID) praying together before going into the field

The disaster response was church partnership in action, with churches from Bali and Sulawesi working together to help vulnerable people who’d lost everything – made possible by the support of people and churches in Australia and Indonesia.

Thank you so much for being part of this transformative partnership!


You can help vulnerable communities be disaster ready

We’ve launched an appeal to help our partners be better prepared to respond to disasters like Sulawesi. The key to saving lives in a disaster is preparedness, and we want to help vulnerable communities be disaster ready. Find out more.

Your donation will go a long way. Every $1 invested into disaster preparation saves up to $15 in the aftermath of a tragedy.

Donate now

Your gift can help vulnerable communities build resilience to disasters, equip and train disaster response staff and volunteers, prepare shelters and evacuation plans and increase the capacity of our partners to provide emergency support and pastoral care.

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