“Is it just me,” asked the frog, “or is the water getting warmer?” Watch online

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This forum was held on 9 June at the Chapel at the Australian Centre for Christianity and Culture

Read “Is it just me,” asked the frog, “or is the water getting warmer?”

“You do not believe anything unless it makes a difference to the way you live your life”. – Bishop Leslie Newbigin. With science ‘settled’, indeed with anecdotal measurements proving more severe than science initially predicted, what is the roll of the community of faith in teaching and action? Yes, there is reason for hope. What is that reason? Science has reasonable grounds for expecting the Church to provide a rationale – or get out of the way. Science gave us a path way out of the pandemic. Science is providing a pathway in face of Global Warming. Faith and science must inform one another. This address contributes to that conversation.

Speaker: Right Reverend Dr George Browning. Respondent: Dr David Hunter. Chair Professor Stephen Pickard.

About the speaker:

Right Reverend Dr George Browning, PhD, DLitt, is the current convenor of the ACC&C Ambassadors, having the overseen the partnership with Charles Sturt University which established the Centre as well as the founding of St Mark’s National School of Theology. He was Bishop of Canberra and Goulburn from 1993 to 2008 and Inaugural Chair of the Anglican Communion Environment Network from 2001 to 2006.

His doctoral thesis, Sabbath and the Common God: Prospects for a New Humanity, examines the biblical concept of Sabbath as an ethical framework for a response to the challenge of climate change.

In 2000 he was awarded the Centenary medal for his contribution to the community and in 2007 a Doctor of Letters (honoris causa) for his contribution to education.

About the respondent

Dr David Hunter, BSc, MSc, PhD, is President of the Orthopterists’ Society, a worldwide organisation of over 300 scientists and practitioners from 60 countries working on locusts, grasshoppers and related insects.

He is also a consultant to the Asian Development Bank as “Climate Adaptive Pest Management Specialist” in the face of climate change, locust attack, and the COVID-19 pandemic.

Read the forum flyer.

Neglect or Ageing with Dignity? Watch online

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Lin Hatfield-Dodds









This forum was held at the Australian Centre for Christianity & Culture on 23 March 2021.

Caring for the aged in our community has been underfunded and characterised by neglect. Many societies revere their elderly and provide respectful environments for them to age. Gordon Ramsay and Lin Hatfield-Dodds explore the Royal Commissions Report and its recommendations at this Forum and analyse the implications and ethical issues.

Speakers: Gordon Ramsay and Lin Hatfield-Dodds. Chair: Clive Rodgers, CES co-chair.

Read the forum flyer.

Political Propaganda, Freedom of Communication and Truth on Social Media, Watch online

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Speaker Professor Seumas Miller, Respondent Toni Hassan, Chair Professor Stephen Pickard.

Social media platforms, such as Facebook and Twitter, are used by billions and have enabled the moral right to communication to be exercised on a vast scale. But there has also been an exponential increase in the spread of fake news, hate speech and propaganda, notably from former President Trump, leading to a violent attack by his supporters on the US Congress. A host of difficult practical ethical problems have arisen, e.g. Who is to decide what is fake news and what is fact or what is hate speech or what the limits of religious freedom of communication are – the tech giants themselves?

Held on 10 February, 2021 at 7.30pm at the Chapel at the Australian Centre for Christianity & Culture, 15 Blackall Street, Barton.


Download the forum flyer

Lin Hatfield Dodds Interview: Australia post Covid-19, Listen online

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On Thursday 25th June Professor John Warhurst President of Christians for an Ethical Society interviewed Lin Hatfield Dodds.

Lin is an Associate Dean of ANZSOG at ANU. She is a former Deputy Secretary of Social Policy in the Department of PM&C, National Director of UnitingCare Australia, President of the Australian Council of Social Service and chair of the Australian Social Inclusions Board.

In the interview John explores with Lin the impact of the pandemic and the type of Australian society she would like to see emerge.

We are hoping this discussion can be continued live in the ACC&C Chapel later in the year.

Listen to the audio recording by clicking the player below.


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Jill Sutton, CES

Dear CES readers and especially those responsible for homilies or sermons in the month of May,

Most of us will have read Kasy Chambers’ excellent letter on this site. And, as Christians for an Ethical Society, many of us will join her in proclaiming that we certainly do not want our nation to revert ‘back to normal’ after seeing so much admirable change in social policy. We are inspired with developments like the doubling of Newstart, moves to accommodate the homeless in safer places like hotels, the opening of private hospitals to more community access, additional leave entitlements, more equitable Job-Keeper payments to keep us attached to our jobs and the moratorium on evictions from private rental. As Kasy says, we don’t want to revert to a nation which has a two-class workforce, no housing security for renters, denial of the culture and custodianship of our First Nations Peoples, abuse of our planet’s resources causing climate change and species extinction and our shameful stewardship of this country which is related to drought and bushfires.

At this point in Australia’s history, it seems vital to me that, as Christians, we look at what we can do and how we can sustain the good policy changes we have seen in response to COVID-19. Very helpfully. Meredith Lake has pointed out, in her recent book about the history of the Bible in Australia, the way the social justice themes in our sacred texts have had a profound influence on the course of our social policy in the past. The question for all of us now is, ‘How can we follow up that tradition at this new turning point in our national history?’

Now of course I don’t hold myself as any kind of expert but I have drafted a good few sermons in my time and have regularly attended Pitt Street Uniting Church in Sydney, St Carthage’s Roman Catholic Church in Melbourne, St Ninians Uniting Church in Lyneham and the Quakers in Turner, when I have lived in proximity to these communities. They have each nourished me wonderfully in their own way. Studying theology and backgrounding Rev Tim Costello for a few years has also made me aware of the power of a good homily or sermon so I have taken a look at the lectionary for May, and will now jot down a few thoughts I have about how our texts might help us to retain the visionary social policy changes which we imagine and ask for most Sundays in the Lord’s Prayer. When we pray, ‘Thy kingdom come’ we know that we want to sustain those developments which Kasy lists as ‘impressive’.

For the first Sunday in May (3 May) we have Paul in Acts 2:44-45, telling us that ‘All who believed together and had all things in common, They would sell their possessions and goods and distribute the proceeds to all, as any had need’ and our most beloved Psalm 23 sharing that ‘the Lord is my shepherd, I shall not want’. This is such beautiful material from which to look at the important work of sharing provided by the doubling of Newstart and the introduction of the equitable job-keeper payment. Thinking of the Lord being everyone’s shepherd is such a powerful reminder of the way some are still missing out as described in the Winnunga piece on our website about the over-representation of indigenous people in prison.

Then on the second Sunday in May (10 May), there is a gift of a well-known passage in John 14. ‘In my Father’s house there are many dwelling places. If it were not so, would I have told you that I go to prepare a place for you’. Of course, this passage is traditionally used when thinking about death but isn’t it demonstrating a recognition from Jesus that safe housing is central to our existence? Isn’t it a sign that ensuring appropriate housing should be a central focus of our social policy, and haven’t we an obligation to cry out with relief and insist that any provision of housing for the homeless in a Canberra winter is an essential part of our Christian obligation?

And then, on the third Sunday (17 May) we have Psalm 66 which has the Israelites calling out for notice and space. We listen to them so shouldn’t we be listening to those who today are similarly oppressed with wage theft, inadequate holidays and insecure employment? We could be encouraged to hear them when we read the Israelites call out, ‘You let people ride over our heads; we went through fire and through water, yet you have brought us out to a spacious place’. Couldn’t we preach about how the current generous policies have brought so many of our oppressed citizens into a more spacious place, and about how it is our duty, as Christians, to sustain them there?

And finally in week 4 (24 May) could we hear, in Psalm 28, verses like number 5 in which we have an inspiring definition of God? We read that ‘Father of orphans, and protector of widows is God in his habitation.’ We as Christians want this protection of the orphan, of the widow, and indeed of all the disadvantaged, and here we learn that this protection is in our very definition of the One we worship.

I know that you are all sensitive to the congregations to whom you have given pastoral care and I am no expert in the manner or matter of what you say. And I know that you must and that you will choose and use texts as the Spirit moves you so please forgive me for writing to you in this way and for presuming to remind you of the rich relevance of our sacred texts. I suppose I have been impressed with the unusual and most fruitful collaboration we have seen between political parties and between state and federal governments and I crave to see the same collaboration between the leaders of our Christian churches.

Respectfully and hopefully,
Jill Sutton (nasturtium2@bigpond.com)


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Kasy Chambers, CEO Anglicare Australia

The coronavirus or COVID-19 has laid bare the weaknesses in our society.

The GFC, bushfires, and many other disasters drew upon individual generosity, but did not really change the underlying structure of society.  During the GFC, I wrote that I hoped the close fiscal call many experienced, would soften how we responded to those less well off; that more cautious consumption could lead to a more sympathetic environmental footprint.  However neither came to be on a large scale; en masse we forgot the shock and busied ourselves again being productive.

This time, the crisis is different.  None of us can be truly cushioned.  Inter-generational wealth won’t help, neither will being young or fit guarantee immunity from the worst effects.  This time the health of every single member of the public rests upon the weakest plank of our society’s structure.

Hence, one by one, we are seeing those horrifically weak planks being addressed. How can we guarantee the public’s health when half of Australian workers don’t have access to paid leave entitlements?  When many people live in barely affordable rental properties, how can we avoid a huge increase in the homeless population with deteriorating health for them and those around them? And how could we expect people to stay healthy while living on the lowest unemployment benefit in the OECD.

Federal and State governments have acted and deserve credit for an impressive list:  A doubling of the Newstart rate; real action on getting homeless people off the streets as we approach winter; opening private hospitals for community benefit; addressing the precarious nature of people’s employment with one-off payments; additional leave entitlements (for some the only leave entitlements); the massive Job-Keeper payment designed to keep people attached to their jobs; the moratorium on evictions from private rental –

Notwithstanding this list, there are still some left behind – each time the lowest income group is lifted it uncovers new poverty and inequities.  At the moment, people living on the Disability Support Pension need urgent consideration as they struggle with increased food prices, and often additional health vulnerabilities. Similarly those on an aged pension without the security of owning their own home will be struggling; carers are another group yet to attract much needed attention in this pandemic. People are still sleeping rough in some jurisdictions, including here in Canberra where the overnight temperature dropped to five degrees on the weekend.

Despite this it is an impressive list of responses and time will tell what additional benefits are gained from each of them – we will certainly be looking for that.

Now, as people start look to the future, there is talk of “getting back to normal”.  I am resisting that narrative. What is normal about the precariousness of leaving half a national workforce without any leave entitlements? With a two-class workforce, half the people enjoy career progression, training and leave; while the rest swirl around in a peripheral job churn of casual hours, underemployment and the gig economy. They are not able to access what the first half consider to be societal norms, like the housing market, or even look to a superannuated future in their old age.

What is normative about a housing market that favours wealth development over home and shelter?  This is an opportunity to swing the balance of residential tenancy agreements in recognition that people live long term in rental housing, seeking to call it home. This security is denied when “no reason evictions” and short-term leases are commonplace.

How could we intentionally go back to a structure which by its nature excludes Aboriginal and First Nations people, even denying  their culture and custodianship. How can we possibly go back to the “normal” of taking 5 or 6 times more than the planet is able to repair. Or to an Australia with a shameful species extinction record. Since European arrival 1,790 species are recorded as being on the brink, and this is before the catastrophic 2019 bushfires. We must not move on too quickly from the dual disasters of prolonged  drought and catastrophic bushfires, both direct results of our shameful stewardship of this beautiful continent. The health and well-being of many rural and regional communities were already worn and fragile before COVID-19 arrived.

The list goes on – but it is clear the way we were, is not something to aspire a return. A society  that dismisses poverty as individual failure, or treats environmental sustainability as an economic nuisance, is not worthy of membership. Post COVID-19, there is no place for government policies  that shift money to the top quintiles of society and reward environmental damage.

With the first part of the response to the pandemic posited to take 6 months we have time to plan, and to imagine.  We have long pointed out that a society is what we choose – we are the architects, we are the citizens. The community sector has a particular role to play.  We are the first responders in disasters. Our people are on the frontline handing out material aid, advice and often comfort.  Our services form a safety net for people in personal disaster – family violence, children unable to remain with their families, homelessness, etc.

But we are also far more than that.  The community sector at its best is society at its best.  The values of Anglicare Australia and its members support the very relationships that have been identified as central to overcoming the current pandemic  and inspire a spirit of volunteerism in others. We are able to look ahead and imagine what life could and should look like. We provide services that are the safety net, but we are also part of the rich and deeply woven fabric of those communities.

We will be working over the next months to both ensure none are left behind in the initial response to this dreadful pandemic, while using our influence to ensure more progressive policies shape the future.  We will work hard to not get back to the old normal, but build a future in which economy serves equity and justice, kindness and empathy.


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Because the forum by Julie Tongs OAM of Winnunga Nimmityjah Aboriginal Health Service and Jon Stanhope, former ACT Chief Minister had to be cancelled, we are including the following information re the high Aboriginal population in our ACT prison system:
Indigenous Canberrans are now 23% of the ACT’s prison population even though they make up only 1.6% of the ACT population.
On 24 August 2004, when the ACT prison was being planned, the Chief Minister told the Legislative Assembly that indigenous people made up “approximately 9 per cent of the ACT prison population”.
That proportion was then regarded as “unacceptable”. How much less acceptable is the situation 14 years on?
According to the  2020 Productivity Commission:
In the ACT,  Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders are imprisoned at the rate of  2,124.1  per 100,000 of the indigenous adult population, compared with 112.2  per 100,000 for the non-Indigenous population (the so-called crude rates).The rate adjusted for differences in population age structure is 1,602.5, compared with a rate of 107.6 for the non-Indigenous population.
The ACT indigenous corrections age standardised rate is thus 14.9 times greater than for the non-Indigenous population. Rates that do not take age profile differences into account are 18.9 times greater (only Western Australia, at 19 times, is worse).In 2004 the Chief Minister could claim the indigenous imprisonment rate in the ACT was “lower than the national average”.  Not now.
In the context of COVID-19 virus, the large number of indigenous Australians in the overcrowded ACT prison evokes the historical memory of widespread death of aborigines from diseases introduced by the European invaders.
Further information on prison reform and on the Coronavirus and Aboriginal Health can be found at the following link to the March 2020 Winnunga Nimmityjah AHCS newsletter:

Forum 19 February 2020: Voices and Values in the Public Sphere

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Speakers: The Hon. Dr Ken Crispin QC

When: 7.30pm 19 February 2020

Where: Chapel, Australian Centre for Christianity and Culture

During recent decades public attitudes to issues such as divorce, contraception, abortion, drugs, sexuality and gender identity have changed dramatically. Some see such changes as evidence of moral decline whilst others insist that they reflect moral principles such as fairness and respect for others. Intemperate statements and child abuse scandals have led many to dismiss Christians as sanctimonious, if not hypocritical, moralists. Perhaps paradoxically, long-recognised rights and freedoms have been eroded by new laws and unprecedented government secrecy. Whistle blowers are being prosecuted for revealing government misconduct. Faith in democracy is waning. Within this maelstrom of change, we need to reflect upon the values we affirm and the voices we raise.

The Hon Dr Ken Crispin QC is a leading jurist having occupied the position of DPP for the ACT, a Supreme Court Judge, President of the Court of Appeal. He is currently the Commissioner for Standards for the Legislative Assembly. His most recent publication is A Sceptics Guide to Belief.

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