Female representatives from the Seventh-day Adventist Church met with Australian prime minister Scott Morrison and senior members of parliament in Canberra on September 17 and 18, 2019, to advocate on the issue of violence toward women and children in the Pacific region.
Greater Sydney Conference Adventist Women’s Ministries director Beryl Landers and Australian Women’s Christian Temperance Union president Joy Marie Butler were nominated by the Adventist Development and Relief Agency (ADRA) to represent the Seventh-day Adventist Church at the meetings.
They joined 40 other women to present requests to various members of parliament on Tuesday, September 17. Landers was among 10 women selected to meet with the prime minister on Wednesday, September 18.
In the 15-minute meeting, Landers was impressed that Morrison mentioned Seventh-day Adventists three times.
“He was on board with our requests because he sees how integral the [Adventist] Church is to development in the [South Pacific] islands,” Landers said. “He’s seen the work of ADRA, and he’s met the prime minister of Papua New Guinea, who is an Adventist. He even used the colloquial term ‘SDA’!”
“We were the only church mentioned, and he mentioned us three times,” Landers said.
The cohort was the largest delegation of female Christian leaders to travel to parliament. The meeting was arranged through a unified effort coordinated by Micah Australia, a coalition of churches and Christian non-governmental organizations (NGOs) that raises a voice for justice and a world free from poverty.
The women leaders—including representatives from the Anglican Church, Catholic Church, Uniting Church, The Salvation Army, Hillsong Church, Baptist Church, Churches of Christ, Bible Society, Anglican Deaconess Ministries, Australian Christian Churches and more—met with representatives from both major political parties to advocate for policies supporting and protecting vulnerable women and children in the South Pacific. This was in support of the federal government’s “Pacific Step-up” campaign.
The lobby group presented four requests to the Australian government. They asked leaders to ensure that Pacific Step-up empowers local communities to lead their own inclusive and sustainable development. They also requested that the government ensure Pacific Step-up recognizes the needs of women and children—the most vulnerable members of the Pacific family—and to work with the Australian church groups to leverage and amplify the strength of the Pacific church as a key partner for development and nation-building. Finally, they asked government officials to ensure Pacific Step-up is not at the cost of “stepping down” elsewhere in the world.
The delegation of women presented their requests in light of a recent report from Australia's leading aid and development NGOs, which revealed that nearly 87 percent of children experience physical or sexual violence across eight Pacific countries.
Landers said she is inspired and will take her experience into future meetings.
“I am going to the Australian Union Conference [church region] in October for their women’s ministry advisory. I will challenge them that Adventist women in Australia can be the voice of the voiceless sisters in the islands. This has been a great learning experience.”