Advocacy in our Capital: Converge & Micah Australia
Our political leaders are just people like the rest of us, and they go into their roles looking to make a difference in our communities, to lead our nation to be the best they believe it can be. Remembering these two things is helpful when we have the opportunity to meet with, advocate to, and pray for, our elected representatives. We can also be grateful for the freedom we have to participate in our democracy, recognising that for many people around the world this is not the case.
In September, members of our movement had the opportunity to do this as part of Converge, an annual gathering of Baptist leaders from across the nation in meeting with our federal representatives in Canberra to discuss issues of justice. It’s an opportunity for us to use our voices to speak up for others. In previous years we’ve advocated for refugees and asylum seekers, people living in poverty, and people whose lives have been marred by domestic and family violence.
This year, the focus of Converge was on the wellbeing of children in our nation, after the release of Baptist Care Australia’s report “Australia’s Kids – The State of the Nation”. Mike Mills, Melinda Cousins, Karen Walker, Mike Bartlett and Julie Gardiner from Baptist Churches, along with Graham Brown, Ally Ions and Rachel Kemish from Baptist Care, made up the SA delegation. We had meetings with MPs and Senators discussing effective policy options for improving the circumstances of children living in disadvantage and poverty. We were received positively and with a listening ear, as well as robust discussion in some cases. We trust that our voices were heard and we pray that as we continue to speak with gentleness, respect, and compassion, we may influence our leaders in their decision making over the long term.
Melinda had the opportunity to return to Canberra the following week as part of a group of 40 women leaders from across denominations organised by Micah Australia. They were advocating for women and girls in the Pacific region, urging the government to keep the vulnerable and marginalised at the centre of our foreign aid priorities. They also spoke to our elected leaders about opportunities to partner with Pacific and Australian churches in seeing communities transformed.
Many of our political leaders are used to people coming to ask them for something for themselves. We have the opportunity to live out our faith by taking up the cause of the most vulnerable. (Isaiah 1:17). If you would like to find out more, Baptist World Aid have resources on their website about how to meet with your local MP, or participate in advocacy through Catalyst Groups and Voices for Justice.