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Social Justice Forum

THE SOCIAL JUSTICE IMPERATIVE

“You must not be content with tiding the poor over the poverty crisis: you must study their condition and the injustices which brought about such poverty, with the aim of long term improvement.�

Blessed Frederic Ozanam. 1813-1853.

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Social Justice Forum

CONTENTS The Social Justic Imperative ........................................... 3 Forward ........................................................................... 4 Agenda ............................................................................ 5 From the State President ................................................ 6 Spiritual Reflection .......................................................... 7 Forum Findings ............................................................. 11

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Social Justice Forum FORWARD Historically, the early morning part of our Social Justice Forums has been devoted to identifying the issues which the members of the forum wished to discuss during the day. The structure of the 2008 forum was different. Reflecting on the recent dynamic forums at Mooroopna and at Traralgon, the Committee felt that the issues which had been identified at those forums were worthy of the wider discussion at the full state forum. The Committee selected eight issues which the Committee believed would be of greatest interest to members, and these issues were set down by the Committee for discussion during the day. To help members link the chosen topics to the theme of the 2008 Forum -- “Identifying Issues, Finding Solutions” -- eight people familiar with the particular issues were asked to act as “scene-setters” for the discussion sessions. Arising from what was effectively a change in format, we have seen a significant change in the Forum outcomes. Because of this change, the structure of the report on the Forum, set out in this Booklet, has also changed. Rather than dealing only with the anticipated findings of solutions based on Conference experience, the Booklet also covers findings based on “available” solutions, and on the practical use of information and recommendations provided by the Management and Development Team, such as the recent releases on Education Support and Money Management. The Committee hopes that these changes, which are, in some respects, evolutionary, will enable members to relate to ways in which they can provide even more effective assistance to those who approach us seeking our help.

Tony Dalton, Chairman.

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Social Justice Forum SOCIAL JUSTICE FORUM 2008. Stella Maris Centre, Lt. Collins Street. Saturday, October 25th., 2008. CONFERENCE SOCIAL JUSTICE AT WORK IDENTIFYING ISSUES/FINDING SOLUTIONS.

0900

Registrations. (Coffee/biscuits available).

0930

Opening prayers and reflection (Sr. Rosemary).

0945

Welcome by President Jim Grealish. Introduction to the Forum.

1000

Scene setting [4 groups of 20].

1015

Morning Discussion Session [4 x 2 groups of 10]

1115

Coffee.

1130

Findings from Morning Session.

1215

Lunch.

1300

Scene setting [4 groups of 20].

1315

Afternoon Session [4 x 2 groups of 10].

1415

Findings from Session 2.

1500

Wrap-up and review of the day.

1530

Closing prayers.

Topics for discussion groups: Accommodation, Addictions, Domestic Violence, Education, Funeral Expense, Mental Illness, Money Management and Transport. Four of these will be discussed by each of two different groups in the Morning Session, and four in the Afternoon Session. 5 Social Justice Committee

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Social Justice Forum FROM THE STATE PRESIDENT. Thanks to all who have made the effort to be at this sixth annual Social Justice Forum. Thanks also to the Committee which has put this program together. The theme for today’s forum is “Identifying Issues/Finding Solutions”. Unfortunately, in today’s uncertain international economic climate and downturn identifying issues might be the easier part of the equation. In Victoria, too, the continuing effects of the drought are adding to the more general effects of the current downturn. I think your committee is wise, therefore, to focus on eight areas where we can often assist in meeting social justice issues in practical and meaningful ways. One thing I am sure of is that in the next 12 months the demands for our services are going to increase substantially. At the same time, it would be surprising if we did not face a slowing down in the growth of the funds. In other words, we will be asked to do more but with fewer resources. So, the “Finding Solutions” part of today’s equation may get down to how we make the most effective use of our resources. Sometimes in these situations the most effective solution is to do fewer things but to do them well rather than to take a scatter gun approach and try to solve all problems. However, I’m sure your collective wisdom will solve these things by the middle of the afternoon. So, in conclusion, again my thanks for all you do for the poor and needy in your various Conferences. I know the Society will be the better for your deliberations today, and I wish you well. Jim Grealish 6 St Vincent de Paul Society Victoria Inc.

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Social Justice Forum SPIRITUAL REFLECTION. Leader: We gather today in the spirit of Frederic Ozanam to reflect on our role and challenge to question the injustices which are present in our society today and to do our best to bring about long term improvement for the poor who are the beloved of God. Let us reflect for a few minutes on the way Jesus used the experience and needs of others to change his own views. Reading:

Matthew 15:21-28

Leaving that place, Jesus withdrew to the region of Tyre and Sidon. A Canaanite woman from that vicinity came to him, crying out, “Lord, Son of David, have mercy on me! My daughter is suffering terribly from demonpossession.” Jesus did not answer a word. So his disciples came to him and urged him, “Send her away, for she keeps crying out after us.” He answered, “I was sent only to the lost sheep of Israel.” The woman came and knelt before him. “Lord, help me!” she said. He replied, “It is not right to take the children’s bread and toss it to their dogs.” “Yes, Lord,” she said, “but even the dogs eat the crumbs that fall from their masters’ table.” Then Jesus answered, “Woman, you have great faith! Your request is granted.” And her daughter was healed from that very hour. Reflection: By and large, the Gospels sidestep the issue of what we might call Jesus’ psychological development; instead, they depict other kinds of variability that result from having a body and an emotional life. We see him grow tired of crowds, need to be alone, and fall asleep (with a cushion under his head, according to Mark 4:38). He grows hungry and eats; he cries out from the cross, “I thirst.” Not infrequently his emotions boil over in anger at Pharisees, money changers and even his own disciples. He also erupts into grief, both over the death of Lazarus at Bethany and for himself in the garden of Gethsemane. There is one occasion, however, that stands out among these human moments -- an occasion when we see him learn something new and, as a result, become someone different. In the passage from the gospel of Matthew, which we have just read, Jesus is brought up short by an unexpected truth. Not only does he change his mind, but does so in a 7 Social Justice Committee

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Social Justice Forum breathtaking 180-degree turn. Most astonishing of all, it is a pagan woman who makes him do it. His encounter with her takes place outside Jewish Galilee, in the gentile region of Tyre and Sidon. Away from the safety of home, not to mention the purity laws that keep life clean and godly, he is vulnerable to trouble. Enter, as if on cue, “a Canaanite woman from that vicinity.” As a Canaanite, she is the archetypal other, more beyond-the-pale even than the Samaritans we see Jesus deal with so graciously in the other Gospels. As a Canaanite and a woman, moreover, she is meant to be kept at least two arms distance from this pious Jewish man. To add irritation to potential injury, the woman is a screamer. She dogs Jesus and his followers with her cries; she does not scruple to use Jewish flattery she has no right appropriating (“Lord, Son of David, have mercy on me!”). Nor does she hesitate to put her worst foot forward in order to get a hearing: “My daughter is suffering terribly from demon possession.” What do you do with a pushy Canaanite woman who won’t shut up? Jesus tries to ignore her; his disciples urge him to send her away; and when the itinerant rabbi finally speaks his mind -- in response to them more than to her -- it is with a bit of received wisdom that no one would hold against him: “I was sent only to the lost sheep of Israel.” Matthew is otherwise at pains to show that the Messiah came in the fulfillment of the Jewish law and prophets, that he is Israel’s hope and consolation. There are plenty of lost sheep from his own fold to attend to -- let the Canaanites deal with the Canaanites. But this woman will not take a snub for no. She advances toward him, kneels down in the traditional suppliant position, and begs. “Lord, help me.” Jesus’ response is not only negative, it is an outrageous put-down. Perhaps she doesn’t understand: he’s a shepherd, his flock consists of Jews. It is they who are the children of Abraham and therefore of God. Why on earth would he throw pearls to swine or “take children’s food and throw it to the dogs?” A kneeling woman does not have far to fall, and by all rights that insult should have floored her on the spot. After all, what is a desperate Canaanite to do after such a slap but slink off into the crowd, take her place in the filthy streets among the dogs where she belongs, and go back to the daughter still in a demon’s grip? 8 St Vincent de Paul Society Victoria Inc.

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Social Justice Forum But not this lady! She parries with Jesus as if she were Portia or some other Shakespearean heroine who gets her man by using her wits. “Yes, Lord,” she answers, continuing to accord him the respect of The Lord and initially agreeing with what he just said. But then she comes back with a subtle variation on his theme: “Even the dogs eat the crumbs that fall from their master’s table.” He regarded Canaanites as wild dogs; she accepts this. She does not presume to be invited to the table. But what about the scraps gathered from underfoot? Matthew does not give us any indication of whether Jesus smiled at her word play and her cunning, or whether he accorded her the ancient Palestinian equivalent of, “You go, girl!” We don’t know what he felt at losing an argument. What’s clear is that he recognized truth when he heard it and saw a gentile ready to be part of a flock much bigger than the one he had been sent to. “Woman, you have great faith! Your request is granted.” The Canaanite woman’s persistence not only made her daughter whole; it also showed Jesus the larger world he had come to listen to and heal. What questions does this story engender for us? Are we open to challenges from outsiders? Are we willing to change our behavior? Are we able to change our pre-conceived ideas about  the needs of people  the role of the St Vincent de Paul Society? Prayers of Intercession: Leader: As we begin this forum let us bring to God our prayers for the distressed people of the world. 1. For the nations and peoples suffering from war and civil unrest, we pray: R/Have mercy, O God, have mercy. 2. For the cities of the world burdened by poverty and violence, we pray: R/Have mercy, O God, have mercy. 3. For civic leaders and government officials who struggle 9 Social Justice Committee

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Social Justice Forum with temptations to greed and lust for power, we pray: R/Have mercy, O God, have mercy. 4. For employers and landlords who resist putting personal gain above justice for others, we pray: R/Have mercy, O God, have mercy. 5. For all Vincentians that they may be committed to working against injustice wherever they meet it in their work, we pray: R/Have mercy, O God, have mercy. 6. For the areas in our own hearts, O God, that hold violence, prejudice and hatred, we pray: R/Have mercy, O God, have mercy. Let us pray together: Lord God, your mercy heals the wounds of sin and division. Reshape our hearts and rebuild our shattered spirits; steady our lives and give us the energy to work for justice and peace. We ask this in the name of Jesus, the Christ. “Community of Christ” Community of Christ, who make the cross your own Live out your creed and risk your life for God alone The God who wears your face, to whom all worlds belong Whose children are of every race and every song.

Community of Christ through whom the word must sound Cry out for justice and for peace the whole world round: Disarm the powers that war and all that can destroy, Turn bombs into bread, and tears of anguish into joy.

Community of Christ, look past the Church’s door And see the refugee, the hungry and the poor. Take hands with the oppressed, the jobless in your street Take towel and water, that you wash your neighbour’s feet.

When menace melts away, so shall God’s will be done The climate of the world be peace and Christ its Sun: Our currency be love and kindliness our law, Our food and faith be shared as one forevermore

Bernadette Farrell

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Social Justice Forum FORUM 2008 REPORT NOTES. The discussion findings from the Forum are reported in the notes following .The reader will observe that, as mentioned in the Forward, the pattern of notes varies from section to section, reflecting the particular features of the subject. ACCOMMODATION. Issue: Imminent loss of existing accommodation (eviction, etc.) Issue: Immediate accommodation requirement. Issue: Newly released prisoner. Issue: Dispute with landlord. Issue: Present accommodation highly unsuitable for family needs. Referral Information: Local Emergency Accommodation Office. Department of Human Services. Victorian Tenants’ Union. Transitional Housing Services. Citizen’s Advice Bureau. State Office of Housing (Department of Human Services). ADDICTIONS. Issue: Recognition of symptoms. Training for members is desirable. Be alert to different forms of addiction – alcohol, drugs, gambling . Issue: Interaction with addiction sufferers. 11 Social Justice Committee

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Social Justice Forum Try to evaluate mental health of addiction sufferer. Maintain helpful posture and sympathetic attitude – avoid criticizing. Use listening skills and gentle questions. Try to build trust. Issue: Resources for providing appropriate assistance. Be aware of local specialist agencies, and have contact details available. Use Society resources where appropriate, including other near-by conferences. Respond to immediate needs (particularly children’s needs). Issue: Safety. Always visit in pairs (mandatory) - appropriate gender if possible. Be alert for possible sources of infection – sharps, etc. Ensure access to exit is not impeded. Try to ascertain number of people in house. Issue: Providing immediate assistance. Avoid providing cash or anything which can be readily converted to cash (eg store cards, vouchers). Provide food or other requisite goods (eg furniture) as such. Be ready to provide direct assistance for methadone purchase – deal with the chemist. Referral Information: Brosnan Centre. Centrecare. Gambler’s Help (1800 156 789).

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Social Justice Forum DOMESTIC VIOLENCE. Issue: Situation where violence is suspected but unconfirmed. Approach with discretion. General enquiry after health and well-being can sometimes elicit information. Be alert to injuries to animals. Suggest contact with community support agency for other apparent needs (eg Centrecare, Lifeline) to engage trained social worker in the situation. Issue: Apparent contravention of Intervention Order. Confirm that the Order is in effect, recommend that the victim contact the police. (Note that police are required to act on every such call, usually respond very quickly). Issue: Abuse of elderly by male relative. Suggest application for intervention order. Recommend male contact “Mensline Australia “ (24 hour, 1300 789 978). Issue: Situation where abuser is still in home. Avoid confrontation. Don’t try to assess the level of danger to the victims. Avoid any conversation which could result danger to the victim. Discreetly recommend contact “Women’s Domestic Violence Crisis Service of Victoria,’’ (24 hour Freecall 1800 015 188). Issue: Victim family haved moved out, is on the road with nowhere to stay. Arrange/pay for appropriate motel accommodation for parent and children, for a few nights while more permanent accommodation is found. Recommend contact “Women’s Domestic Violence Crisis Service of Victoria,’’ (24 hour Freecall 1800 015 188). Provide food if necessary.

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Social Justice Forum General Suggestions: Conferences and members should have contact details of Crisis Service and Mensline readily available. Conferences should have a workable arrangement with a local motel for emergency accommodation. Members should avoid parking in driveway of homes visited where violence is suspected – avoid being “parked in”. Members should try to avoid any position where their rapid exit from the home could be blocked by another person. Referral Information: Centrecare. Lifeline. Centrelink. “Mensline Australia “ (24 hour, 1300 789 978). “Women’s Domestic Violence Crisis Service of Victoria,’’ (24 hour Freecall 1800 015 188). St. Vincent de Paul Society.

EDUCATION. The group discussion followed the Guidelines for Education Support, recently released by the Membership and Development Team, and readers are referred to this document for further information. FUNERAL EXPENSES. Issue: Family facing imminent death of relative. Enquire about the existence of a will. Offer advice on free will kits, enduring power-of -attorney, medical power-of-attorney if the need for these is apparent.

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Social Justice Forum If funeral expenses are likely to be a problem, stress that no contract with a funeral service provider should be made before application for government or community assistance has been made. Offer information on available assistance with funeral expenses.* Issue: Family struggling post-funeral with financial hardship. Provide immediate material assistance as appropriate. Refer family to Centrelink on “Bereavement Payments”, “Bereavement Allowance” and “Widow Allowance” – details included in current Centrelink “Guide to Australian Government Payments” . If family is unable to pay contracted funeral expenses, recommend negotiation with funeral provider, and take part in negotiations if necessary. Referral Information: Centrelink. Citizen’s Advice Bureau. Community Legal Service. State Trustees Office. Melbourne Bereavement Assistance Limited.

MENTAL ILLNESS. Issue: Recognizing mental illness. Undertake training, eg Society programme. Be alert for symptoms during visit – standard of housekeeping and hygiene, anger or aggressiveness, controlling/demanding attitude, resistance to seeking help, evidence of substance abuse. Make discreet enquiries around disability pension, medication, medical care, professional carer/case worker, family support and relationships, pets. 15 Social Justice Committee

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Social Justice Forum Issue: Interacting with the mentally ill. Always visit in pairs, with appropriate gender mix. Remain calm – empathetic, exercise kindness and gentle persistence. Remain close to accessible exit. Have reference contact information readily to hand. Have in- depth discussion of visits at conference meetings, build shared knowledge. Maintain some level of continuity with callers. Notify call-centre if psychiatric medication has been confirmed. Issue: Providing effective assistance. Help to re-engage with the local community – coffee outings, family connections, hobby groups, (members can accompany at first to help with assimilation). Assist with payment for medication – vital for proper treatment. Refer to local support agencies, offer to help with the initial contacts with these agencies. Referral Information: Local mental health support agencies. Local social support groups. Crisis Assessment Team (CAT). St. Vincent de Paul. Department of Human services.

MONEY MANAGEMENT. The group discussion followed the training notes recently released by the Membership and Development Team for conference training in money management issues. Readers are referred to these notes for further information.

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Social Justice Forum TRANSPORT. Issue: Getting sick family member to hospital/medical clinic when no car available. For a scheduled trip, conference members (2) may provide a “lift ” to and from the medical facility -- this assistance may become extended if the visits become regular. Alternatively, the conference may provide money for taxi fares to and from the medical facility (note taxi fare concessions). Depending on the capabilities of the persons involved, the “lift ” and/or taxi fare assistance may be to public transport from which the medical facility is accessable. Recommend that, in an emergency, an ambulance should be called – normally there is no cost for “card” holders. Conference may assist with cost of ambulance if required. Issue: Getting children to school and related activities when no car available. Covering transport cost provides a solution to the family being socially isolated from necessary activities -- this could improve the children’s educational opportunities, and the parents’ ability to participate more effectively within the community. Strategies to achieve this include providing travel cards and taxi costs for those reliant on “public transport” options, and assisting with the running costs for those using private motoring. The latter could include a voucher system at the local service station Issue: Meeting family “big number” car expenses – registration, repairs, fines. Depending on the urgency, conference may pay portion or all of expense. Suggest time payment arrangements be sought – advise against use of short-term loans. 17 Social Justice Committee

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Social Justice Forum Issue: Long distance travel has become necessary, but is unaffordable. If the family is using Society holiday accommodation, conference covers fares for the family. Recommend use of low cost transport – eg inter- city bus. Help with reservations, etc., if family has communication difficulties, eg. language problems. Referral Information: Local Ambulance Service. Local Council. Citizen’s Advice Bureau. School. Local taxi service. Local bus company. VicRail.

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ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS. The Committee wish to extend their thanks to all who participated in the Forum, and to all who worked diligently to make it possible. Without this support, our Forums would not be be possible.

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Social Justice Forum NOTES:

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St Vincent de Paul Society Victoria Inc. ABN: 28 911 702 061 43 Prospect Street, Box Hill Vic 3128 Locked Bag 4800, Box Hill Vic 3128 Phone: 03 9895 5800 Fax: 03 9895 5850 Email: info@svdp-vic.org.au Website: www.vinnies.org.au/vic May 2009

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http://vinnies.org.au/files/VIC/SocialJustice/Forums/2008%20-%20SJ%20Forum%20booklet  

http://vinnies.org.au/files/VIC/SocialJustice/Forums/2008%20-%20SJ%20Forum%20booklet.pdf