Students Learn to Empower the Powerless

Caitlin O’Brien reports on a social justice forum which both informed and empowered local secondary students who participated.

Recently students from schools in the Chisholm and Upper Hunter Regions of the Diocese of Maitland-Newcastle attended a Social Justice Forum at St Joseph’s Campus, All Saints College, Lochinvar. Guest speakers from NSW and Victoria came together to talk about current issues facing the world today. These include refugees, migrants, poverty and concerns around young people. Students were invited to listen to well-informed and inspirational people talk about causes close to their hearts.

“Be Your Note” by Lynette Pearce rsj encouraged a creative, hands-on experience of understanding social justice through your own spirit.

“Social Justice Teachings and Effects on Youth”, presented by Sam Hill, addressed the Catholic Church’s teachings on social justice and how these are affecting the youth of the world.

“Schools, Immersion, Mission” (SIM’s Cambodia Inc), presented by Sue and Brian Morgan, informed us of the ways we can help support school projects in Cambodia and gave us insight into supporting roles that we could be a part of, including opportunities to see this work in Cambodia.

We were fortunate to have the opportunity to meet and hear the wisdom of many people who have been involved in social justice issues for many years. “Caritas − Global Goals 2015” by diocesan Caritas team member, Louise Roach, gave students the opportunity to become familiar with the Global Goals for sustainable development that were announced by the United Nations in September.

CatholicCare Refugee Service’s Kiri Hata enlightened us about the services offered by CatholicCare in our diocese. These include education and support that empower refugees and their families.

A session about Lasallian Volunteer Services, presented by Stephen Beirouti from Melbourne, encouraged us to learn about the programs students can join that are run in Cambodia, Indonesia and Balgo in Western Australia.

The day began with a talk from Sr Rita Malavisi rsj who has worked closely with asylum seekers for the past 12 years. In recent years she has been working with Melbourne Immigration Transit Accommodation. She stated, “Social justice should make you feel uncomfortable and make you consider your life. Jesus sought those people who were powerless.” This made a huge impact on the students and made us reconsider how we viewed issues in the world today.

After students had attended their chosen workshops, they came back together to discuss what we could do, as individuals and as members of groups, to make a positive impact on the world. In this time we had an open discussion and a wide range of creative ideas was suggested for social justice initiatives at our schools.  

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