Social Justice Gathering Wrap Up and Resources

Catholics from across Sydney came together on April 1st and once again proved that our Archdiocese is full of talented and passionate people committed to bearing public witness to their faith by working for justice. Twice a year we get to come together at our Social Justice Gatherings and each time the numbers and energy grow just a little bit more!

The topic of this Gathering was ‘Housing and Homelessness’. In our work across Sydney we have heard from so many of you who are affected by the sheer unaffordability of housing in our city. Some of you are struggling through homelessness, insecure or unsafe housing, others are worrying they’ll never be able to afford to have children and a roof over their heads, some of you in your 20s and 30s are already anxious about your ability to ever own a home and provide for yourself in old age, while a great many others are sad and angry that their children and grandchildren will not be able to attain the same standard of living, or access the same opportunities as they were able to when young.

Whatever the motivation, the group of people who came along in April where ready and willing to commit to take action in their communities and parishes. The stellar line up of speakers helped us make sense of the complexities of housing costs in Sydney and offered inspiration and concrete options for action.

We opened the day with a ‘big picture’ overview of the housing landscape by Professor Peter Phibbs from the University of Sydney. He gave us a clear picture of the problem of housing costs in Sydney and how that has changed over the last few decades.

Then, we heard from Barry Anderson who volunteers at Cana Communities—a wonderful Catholic charity providing food, housing, love and support to people facing homelessness or other crises. Barry shared some of the stories of despair, hope, loss and laughter that he has been a part of in his work. He reminded us that, in the end, housing is, or should be, about home—a place of belonging, connecting and relationships and not just another kind of currency in a winner takes all world.

After another delicious lunch provided by Parliament on King—a Burmese feast this time around—we settled in for a fascinating panel session. We heard from Associate Professor Judy Yates from University of Sydney, Dr Louise Crabtree from Western Sydney University, David Barrow from Sydney Alliance and Dr Joanne Jakovich from Big World Homes.

Respectively, they spoke about the role of negative gearing and capital gains tax breaks in pushing up the cost of housing; models for sustainable and affordable housing that fosters real community; the use of inclusionary zoning as one mechanism that can bring about more affordable housing in Sydney; and innovative tiny home community based solutions for those stuck in the private rental space unable to move into ownership.

By the end of all the sessions we were left with a clearer sense of what is going on in our city and some of the ways we can, as a community, work for change.

In between the presentations we also made time to connect with each other and learn from people in neighbouring parishes and explore ways to collaborate. And at the end of the day people committed their social justice groups to specific actions.

Many groups committed to coming along to a community housing assembly with Planning Minister Anthony Roberts on May 4th (details below) to show their support for affordable housing and inclusionary zoning as one part of the solution. Others committed to raising awareness about the effects of negative gearing and capital gains concession in their families, communities, and parishes; others committed to visiting or writing to their local MPs about these tax issues, as well as the need for more public housing and also mandatory inclusionary zoning; and others committed to exploring possibilities for affordable housing in their local communities, perhaps even on parish land, and especially in relation to the tiny homes model offered by Big World Homes. We wrote down and shared our commitments and will follow up with each other at the October Gathering.

It is such a pleasure to get together with Catholics from across Sydney who are committed to showing the world Jesus’s love by working for justice. It is not always an easy task to wear one’s faith in a very often hostile public. It is countercultural to show that it is God who moves us to action , but twice a year we get to see and be encouraged by people who do just that.

Thank you to all who came, to our speakers and all those who lent a hand to make the day run!

If you would like to get involved or if you would like to revive or start a social justice ministry in your parish please visit our website or give us a call for a chat—we’d love to help you!

For those who attended the day and wanted copies of resources but haven’t received them by email by 13 April you will find them below.                              

—JPO Staff