Indigenous, Diaspora and Migrant Worker Voice Issues Highlighted at First Pacific Meeting – Australian Church Network – Insights Magazine

Representatives from churches in the Pacific and Australia concluded the first in-person meeting of the Pacific Church Partnership Advisory Network (‘PCPAN’) in Canberra, focusing on self-determination, Pacific migrant work, development in the Pacific and affirming the vital role of churches, faith-based bodies and civil society organizations as development actors in their own right.

The two-day meeting, which took place on Friday July 22, under the auspices of the Australian Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade (DFAT) Pacific Church Partnerships Programme, was held in Ngambri and Ngunnawal Land in Australian Center for Christianity and Culture in Canberra. This was the 3rd meeting of the PCPAN, which is made up of the Pacific Conference of Churches, the National Councils of Churches of Samoa, Vanuatu, Kiribati, Tonga, Papua New Guinea, Solomon Islands and Fiji and the Pacific Disability Forum of the Pacific; and the National Council of Churches Australia, Church Agencies Network, representatives of Australian Indigenous Peoples and the Pacific Diaspora, Australian Christian Churches, Micah Australia and DFAT Pacific Office.

The meeting featured the process of ‘talanoa’ or ‘spinning’ dialogue – of deep listening, thinking and then speaking. Particular attention was given to learning about self-determination from a First Nations perspective and understanding migration (both circular and permanent) of Pacific diaspora voices.

Rev. Mark Kickett and Ms. Alison Overeem of the Uniting Aboriginal and Islander Christian Congress and “Aunty” Pat Anderson, co-chair of the Uluru Declaration, spoke about the challenges facing First Peoples and the crucial paradigm shifts needed to both for the Australian parliament and people for the journey of self-determination to reach its destination.

Voices of the Pacific Diaspora: Advocate for climate justice and an end to modern slavery and United Church Minister, Reverend Alimoni Taumoepeau, President of the Pacific Islands Council – Queensland, Ms Ema Vueti, Legend of Rugby League and Kaiviti Silktails President, Mr. Petero Civoniceva, as well as PCPAN Pacific Diaspora Representative and United Church Pastor, Reverend Viniana Rokomasi Ravetali, and Ms. Siosiana (Joyce) Tangi, Representative Australian Christian Youth and United Church Field Worker, shared their experiences as Pacific migrants, and the challenges and opportunities of sport-based migration.

Pacific representatives expressed concern about some of the very serious issues faced by Pacific Islander participants in seasonal and semi-skilled and skilled worker programs and called for stronger engagement with churches, NGOs and Pacific Diaspora organizations to ensure worker welfare and for pre-departure processes and checks and balances to ensure these opportunities are ultimately not extractive.

Australian Minister for International Development and the Pacific, Hon. MP Pat Conroy, who joined the meeting, reaffirmed Australia’s recognition of churches and wider civil society as development actors in their own right and welcomed the PCPAN as another way for Australia to listen to the Pacific and partner with faith-based organizations on key development. problems.

The role of civil society in implementing the recently launched Blue Pacific 2050 Strategy was also highlighted by Minister Conroy and reaffirmed by Mr. Ewen MacDonald, Head of DFAT’s Pacific Office, during a session attended by Associate Professor Rebecca Monson of the Australian National University, Reverend James Bhagwan of the Pacific Conference of Churches and Mr Setareki Macanawai, Chief Executive of the Pacific Disability Forum.

Self-determination being a key theme of the meeting, the situation in West Papua was identified by the members of the PCPAN. The President of the National Council of Churches in Australia and Vice President of the PCPAN, Reverend John Gilmore, acknowledged common concerns for Papua, where a number of churches are also members of the Pacific Conference of Churches.

The President of the Free Wesleyan (Methodist) Church of Tonga, Moderator of the Pacific Conference of Churches and Chair of the PCPAN, Reverend Dr. Tevita Havea, said this first in-person meeting of the PCPAN was significant as it affirmed the commitment of churches in the Pacific to a stronger commitment. with the First Peoples of the country now called Australia, to listen to the Pacific Diaspora and to reflect and work together on the common issues facing our countries.

Elizabeth Stone, General Secretary, National Council of Churches in Australia

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