In late 2019, two members of our team had the privilege of joining Voices for Justice; Micah’s annual political training and lobbying event in Canberra. Along with 200 Christians from across Australia and 15 leaders from the Pacific, they learnt political lobbying tactics and tips for speaking to politicians about issues of justice. They then met with several of our politicians in Parliament to argue the case for better overseas aid, as ACCI Relief Project Officer Renee Quilty explains…
What was it like to attend Voices for Justice for the first time?
There was an incredible atmosphere at Voices for Justice as so many Christians from all walks of life, and from across the country, came together in unity around one cause. When we were in Parliament House, there were other groups lobbying for important issues which impacted their own lives, however, the atmosphere of the Voices for Justice delegation was so different, as we entered parliament to advocate not for ourselves but for others.
This year at Voices for Justice, the focus was on aid in the Pacific, therefore Micah had invited many key church leaders from the Pacific to join us. Having these incredible leaders join us created an inspirational atmosphere, as we heard firsthand about the issues impacting the region from the people working so hard in their own nations. These Pacific leaders made it clear – ‘we are not looking for a handout, we are not even looking for a hand up. But what we are looking for is to have hand in hand partnership’. It was great to partner with them in our lobby meetings and give them the chance to share from their own experiences.
How were the introductory sessions helpful for preparing you to engage with politicians?
The introductory sessions were so useful as we were trained for our two days in parliament. Many of us had never engaged directly with politicians before and were unsure what to expect in our meetings with them, however by the time those meetings came around we were so ready with all the information and preparation needed to succeed.
The introductory sessions taught us about the current federal aid budget and the policy issue we were advocating for – which, this year, was around aid in the Pacific. We also had preparation times with our lobby groups, mock lobby meetings and times of prayer. Not only did we feel equipped for the event but also to advocate, in the future, back in our own electorates.
What kind of response did you get from the politicians you met with?
At Voices for Justice, the Micah team try as much as possible for you to meet the politician from your own electorate. Therefore, we were put in a lobby group of four, with other people from Melbourne.
All the politicians we met with responded very positively. All were Labor members and therefore have little power to make change now, however it was great to find out the ways these politicians can still champion aid. It is always great to see the short-term impact of Voices for Justice (or any advocacy) but to also remember these meetings can impact on future decisions and the continual building of relationships with these leaders over the years is powerful.
What was your major takeaway of being involved in advocating to our country’s politicians?
Often, we can be passionate about social justice but feel frustrated at our powerlessness to do anything to bring change for those living in poverty. However, through Voices for Justice you become aware of how simple it is to go and talk with politicians, and how these conversations can have a huge impact over the decisions made in parliament around foreign aid and then on people around the world. It was amazing to know you’ve been able to join your voice with so many other Christians to advocate for justice together.