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"Maintaining Social Cohesian in Australia" - JCMA Peak Bodies Seminar (31 May 2015)

On the last day of autumn, when Melbourne's weather was at its most unwelcoming, a diverse group of some 100 people met at the Cardinal Knox Centre in Melbourne next to St Patrick's Cathedral for a community forum on "Maintaining Social Cohesion in Australia".

The afternoon forum was at the initiative of the Jewish Christian Muslim Association and sponsored by various government bodies and more especially by representative councils within these three faith traditions: the Victorian Council of Churches, the Jewish Community Council of Victoria and the Islamic Council of Victoria.

The aim of the program was to examine ways in which we can "maintain social cohesion" in the Australian community - what works, what are the challenges and what are future opportunities. The specific questions and proposals will be published at a later date in a truly consultative process started in an afternoon that saw tables of 8 people each gather and led by table-facilitators.  

Sir James Gobbo (JCMA Patron) gave the formal, but very warm, welcome to the participants. The Honourable Scott Robin Scott, Minister for Multicultural Affairs, and the Mayor of the City of Yarra, Philip Vlahogiannis, also addressed the gathering. Maria Demopoulis, as the main facilitator of the discussion, led and encouraged active involvement of the audience, as we were challenged by key note speaker Emeritus Professor Gary Bouma. Prof Bouma gave insight into Australia's history, not only from statistics but through personal and engaging comment and in contrast to a wider world scene.
But the real win of the day was that faith and community leaders sat with ordinary members of the Jewish, Christian and Muslim communities and listened to one another's ideas and experiences. Even some young primary school children participated, supported by their parents. They are already claiming a right to social cohesion, often first lived out within the family and local neighbourhoods.

Anglican Bishop Philip Huggins,  JCMA President, reminded us in his final reflection and prayer of  the "hidden treasure of who we are" and the "beauty of  holiness".

It will be exciting to see  how these   insights are collectively shared in future consultations and we thank Ginette Everest, as executive officer and others who will continue to lead these encounters.

JCMA continually invites new members and ongoing discussion. For more information see www.jcma.org.au or phone 03 9287 5590.

Br Lindsay Rust sac
Member JCMA




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