As has been my tradition, every sermon that I preach will be posted here. This sermon, The Great Banquet, was given at The Salvation Army Rochester on Sunday May 13, 2018. The Reading wasLuke 14:12-24.
It’s 6:30am, and the temperature is in the single digits. I’m sitting on a picnic blanket on the lawns of Parliament House. To the left of me are two sisters and a friend who have travelled there from Adelaide. Next to them, a native Hawaiian who now lives in Sydney. Someone from Canberra. A couple from Newcastle. Behind me is a man recently arrived from Syria. And on the other side of the group, another man who originates from the Congo but arrived only last week into Australia from a refugee camp in Burundi. Prior to today, I had only met these people the night before as we watched the budget and shared in prayer and worship. Yet today, these people, from varied backgrounds and faith traditions, today we are family. We meet together to learn from scripture, and to be a voice for the unheard.
Over to our right, the news crews stand in readiness, ready to interview a range of politicians as they discuss this latest budget. And in front of us, a banquet table, jam-packed full of goodies to illustrate how the blessings of our abundance means that we have plenty to share with all who need it. Continue reading “The Great Banquet”
A couple of nights ago, I attended an event that looked at the issue of asylum seekers, and where to now. The event was very well attended – they were expecting about 30 people, but instead had about 100.
One of the big things I took out of this was an understanding of the two main issues in asylum seeker policy – that of fairness, and of standards. Continue reading “What now for asylum seekers?”
In the little sung second verse of the Australian National Anthem, we find the words, For those who come across the seas, we’ve boundless plains to share. However, despite this being part of our national anthem, part of the words that we claim to aspire towards, there is significant evidence that as a nation we are not willing to share the boundless plains that we have. Thankfully, there are also significant programs that are helping to share what we have with those that are new to our nation. Today we’re looking at some of the issues that Asylum Seekers and Refugees face in the area of Language.
Language is a major issue that affects how refugees and asylum seekers are able to integrate into a community. One journal article wrote that “English language proficiency has a direct and obvious impact on the ability of women to settle in Australia and on the length of time that process takes.” The authors of this article found that the majority of participants in a study attributed many of their problems as arising due to their language difficulties. The Department of Immigration and Citizenship does fund an Adult Migrant English Program, providing 510 hours of ESL tuition within the first five years of arrival. However, many have found that these programs are filled with cultural problems, such as mixed classes which make it uncomfortable for those who have come from countries where segregation was the norm.
Another difficulty is that the children often pick up English quicker than the parents. This forms more difficulties between children and parents, where the children know words in English, but are unable to explain it to their parents. This puts further strain on their parents, as they are unable to fully communicate with their children.
As indicated in the last post, the Australian Government’s new “no benefit” policy allows for asylum seekers to be placed in community detention, but they are unable to take part in employment, volunteer work, or to take part in ESL classes. As stated above, this means that those in this situation are unlikely to integrate into the community at any stage. It is a very disturbing policy, that makes the life for those in this situation very difficult.
In the little sung second verse of the Australian National Anthem, we find the words, For those who come across the seas, we’ve boundless plains to share. However, despite this being part of our national anthem, part of the words that we claim to aspire towards, there is significant evidence that as a nation we are not willing to share the boundless plains that we have. Thankfully, there are also significant programs that are helping to share what we have with those that are new to our nation. Today we’re looking at some of the issues that Asylum Seekers and Refugees face in the area of Employment.
Employment is one of the major issues and concerns of Asylum Seekers and Refugees, because they do not want to feel like they are a burden on the community. Those who are not permitted to work (because of Temporary Protection Visa’s or conditions placed on their community based detention) find themselves feeling demoralised or despaired at their inability to contribute to Australian Society. Those who are able to seek employment often find discrimination either in the application process, or within the job itself. One Sudanese woman said “At work, the white Australian nurses give me the heaviest and messiest duties to do. Some talk down to me and others just don’t take notice of me and ignore me.”
The Australian Human Rights Commission visited those who were living in community detention. During those visits, they found that “opportunities for self-reliance and meaningful activities are critical to rebuilding resilience amongst asylum seekers, refugees and stateless persons.” Providing meaningful employment can be a very strong way of enabling refugees and asylum seekers to feel a part of their new community.
With this in mind, the Australian Government’s new “No Benefit” policy is incredibly worrying. Basically, what the government can do is give some asylum seekers a temporary protection visa, which does not allow them to work, volunteer, or even take part in ESL classes. This effectively removes them from society, and adds shocking results for their mental health, because not only are they sitting around doing nothing, but they feel bad about having to rely on people and agencies for their survival.
The ABC is reporting that the United Nation High Commission for Refugees (UNHCR) has warned the Australian Government that the Malaysian refugee swap deal may result to “arbitrary and unlawful detention under international law.”
Australia is saying they will go ahead with the deal anyway, and are currently looking for a third country to take refugees. I’m very disappointed with this news, as we are very clearly saying “we don’t care about international law.” Considering that its international law that governs human rights, and how we treat asylum seekers I’m worried that we may set a precedent for us to do worse things to asylum seekers. Continue reading “Malaysia deal amounts to “arbitary and unlawful detention””
A government is responsible for infrastructure. Not only the building of new infrastructure, but the maintenance and regular upgrading of old infrastructure to suit the needs of the population. A national broadband network, such as the one the government is currently building, is essential to cater for the needs of the population now and into the future. A fiber network has already been proven to be significantly upgradeable with minimal change to the existing infrastructure once the fiber is in place. This is why if I was prime minister, I would continue this process.
Refugees is a hot topic at the moment. It is one that requires clear thought, and compassion on both sides of the debate. Personally, I believe that off-shore detention centres are a violation of human rights, as we are detaining these people when they have not committed any breeches of the law.
However, I can also see the need for there to be some kind of fact checking process to ensure that those we let into society are indeed refugees. This process needs to be completed as quickly as possible.
If we are to detain asylum seekers, we need to have a deadline by which time a decision must be made. The main thing that has caused so much mental health issues within detained asylum seekers is often not the detention itself, but the uncertainty in how long they will be detained for a crime that doesn’t exist. We need to ensure that all claims are processed quickly – say, within six months – and if that is not possible, then we recruit more staff to ensure that it is possible.
Also, I would promote as Prime Minister a scheme where once an initial assessment is made, every asylum seeker is sent into community detention. Community detention is not only far better for the asylum seeker, as it also helps them settle into the community, but it is also far cheaper for the Australian government than off-shore detention.
Investing in renewable energy
Renewable energy sources such as wind, water, solar and others are not at the stage where they could replace coal completely. However, we would be foolish to assume that coal and gas will remain a viable source of power into the future. Eventually, we will mine all of the coal, oil and gas, and need to find another source.
It is therefore a smart idea to develop existing and potential renewable energy technologies to not only prolong the amount of time we have until coal runs out, but also to eventually replace coal when it does run out.
Is there a lot of work to do to get it to this stage? Absolutely. However it would be foolish not to act on this now.
So that’s three things I would focus on if I was Prime Minister. What would your three things be?