Presented at the Annual General Meeting
It is my pleasure to present the Chairperson’s report for the Queensland Faith Communities Council (QFCC) Annual General Meeting (AGM) of 10 November, 2020.
This is the fourth AGM in the history of the QFCC since we were officially launched in May 2017.
As we all know, 2020 has provided many challenges for us as we endeavour to continue living our lives in as ‘normal’ a fashion as possible. Unlike the southern states, we in Queensland had a relatively short lockdown period after March.
However, our ability to hold regular meetings and to pray together in our houses of worship meant we had to adapt to new Government restrictions, which thankfully we all adhered to and we quickly found new virtual ways of meeting and worshipping together.
In 2020, the Executive has met 6 times in accordance with our Constitution:
6 February and 12 March we met in person before we knew what COVID-19 was.
At our first meeting on the 6 February, the executive finalised the election of Office Bearers from the AGM in November 2019 and also welcomed a new executive member from the Gold Coast Sikh Association who replaced a member from the Sikh Nishkam Society.
The executive committee members are from the Islamic Council of Queensland, Ali Shahi Sufi Order, International Society for Krishna Consciousness (ISKCON), the Brisbane Bahá’í Community, Uniting Church Queensland, Anglican Diocese Brisbane, Catholic Archdiocese Brisbane, Queensland Jewish Board of Dupties, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, Queensland Churches Together, Pagan Hearth and new member the Gold Coast Sikh Society.
Two representatives from the Royal Commission into Violence, Abuse, Neglect and Exploitation of People with a Disability spoke to us at this meeting.
These representatives are responsible for reaching CALD (Culturally and Linguistically Diverse) communities through open community forums and also private meetings. (DRCenquiries@royalcommission.gov.au and 1800 517 199)
On the 30th April we had our first Zoom executive meeting, which worked well. At this meeting, we felt it was very important to connect with our membership as the year was proving to be a stressful time for a lot of people.
This was also the last meeting for a member of the Executive who went on leave from his position as General Secretary of Queensland Churches Together in May and then officially retired in October.
We were given the opportunity to thank him for his friendship and many years of meaningful work in interfaith and for his wise counsel.
An interim member of the Executive, as interim General Secretary of QCT, was welcomed to our Executive for future meetings.
From January 2021, a new member will commence duties as the General Secretary of Queensland Churches Together and will join our Executive.
Another memer of the Executive has also recently informed us that her Islamic Council of Queensland representation on the Executive will now be filled by a new representave. The retiring member is known to all of us and we are so grateful to her for her years of help and advice in interfaith. She is a tireless worker for her community and a friend to all of us and we wish her well. Welcome to the replacement member. We look forward to working with you on the Executive.
We organised a very successful Zoom on 14 May on the topic “how faith communities are being impacted by COVID 19 – the positives and the negatives.” 22 people zoomed in and a representative from Queensland Health Metro South joined us as well so that she could hear our discussions and also help with information from her department. We were informed by the representative that information to non-English speakers was available in 200 languages.
Our next meeting on 23 July was held at the Secretaries home where chairs were placed in accordance with the strict COVID-19 regulations and we were able to have a meeting in person.
By 10th September, we were back to zooming and our last executive meeting was held on 22 October at the Uniting Church in Holland Park. Again, strict COVID-19 rules were adhered to and it was satisfying to meet again in person.
So, it is evident that much planning and thought has gone into keeping closely to our prescribed meeting dates so that we can function efficiently for our membership.
The two ‘open’ meetings that are held each year have, by necessity, been held by Zoom.
Firstly, the General Council Meeting on 18 June and we welcomed guest speakers Caroline Fitzpatrick, Manager 99 Steps CALD DV and Family Violence Program and Jatinder Kaur, Social worker, Sahara House, a women’s refuge run by the Sikh community for predominantly women from the Indian Sikh, Hindu and Sri Lankan communities. (See our blog: Faith Communities Address Domestic Violence)
We felt that the topic of Domestic Violence (DV) was very important to highlight and inform as COVID-19 had placed even further hardships on individuals and families living in violent and dangerous situations.
You have all received the Minutes from the June General Council Meeting as well as copious information about DV training and DV help, and we thank Caroline and Jatinder for generously making time to help us despite their very heavy workloads.
Our second ‘open’ meeting is the AGM on 10 November, and we were hoping earlier in the year that we would be able to meet in person by then, but this has not been possible.
The Multi-Faith Prayer event at Parliament House in March was organized and was unfortunately cancelled only the day before the event as it became clear that safety measures from COVID 19 would be in place.
Apart from the six Executive meetings and two Open meetings, the three sub-committees – Education, Membership and Communications – have held separate meetings and have reported back to the Executive with their findings and achievements.
The Secretary will give further details in her secretary’s report but I’d like to provide the following information:
Met at the start of the year (in person) on 21 January to progress the membership application of the Ahmadiyya Muslim Association Australia, Queensland Chapter who moved from Observer status to Ordinary membership at the June 18, 2020 General Council Meeting.
The Vedanta Centre of Sydney, Brisbane Chapter was placed in Observer status until Ordinary membership is granted at the AGM on November 10, 2020.
An individual, of the Church of Christ Scientist successfully applied for Associate membership. This new Associate member will replace a former member as their Church’s official interfaith person at meetings.
I would like to officially welcome our new members and thank them for their interest in the QFCC.
The men’s and women’s dinners are initiatives of the Education Sub-Committee.
The Men of Faith Dinner was held by zoom on 1 September and was, by all accounts, a successful event.
The Fourth Women of Faith dinner was held by zoom on 8 September and was again an enjoyable and educative evening. Guest speaker was from the Bahá’í community on the Gold Coast and she provided much insight into her Bahá’í journey from Iran to Australia.
The ‘Festivals Across the Faiths’ document will be launched at this AGM and further details will be provided. My sincere thanks to all those who worked so hard to produce this valuable document.
On 18 August, the whole sub-committee met with a representative at the Wesley Hospital to discuss updating the guide to ‘Dying well’. This issue has progressed even further and a substantial document from a range of faith groups is currently being processed that will deal with death and dying. This will be made available to all hospitals.
A representatve from the Children’s Hospital is also working with QFCC to arrange a series of talks to chaplains and palliative care staff at her hospital on death and dying and these talks will be recorded and uploaded to YouTube and will also be used as a reference for hospital staff. These talks are commencing in November and will continue in 2021.
This committee has also been meeting throughout the year to increase the visibility and accessibility of QFCC through FaceBook, a YouTube channel and a Blog. We all know this is vital these days if we are to stay relevant through people finding us and finding out what we do.
A sincere thank you those Executive members who are working in the sub-committees to progress our organization.
Centre for Interfaith and Cultural Dialogue (CICD), Griffith University
I normally start my Chair report with thanks to the Director, the CICD and to Griffith University for their generosity in allowing us to meet in that wonderful space.
Tonight, I am closing my report with reference to the CICD.
Because of COVID-19, we were unable to hold our General Council meeting at the CICD in June as the University advised us that the CICD would not be operating till the end of September.
We held hope that we would all be able to meet there in November for the AGM.
Sadly, on 2 November, the Director informed us all of the proposed closure of the Centre for Interfaith and Cultural Dialogue, effective January 1, 2021.
As the University has invited feedback on the proposal until 27 November 2020, we, the executive of the QFCC felt that the first thing we should do was invite Brian to speak to us at the AGM as we would then be getting the most accurate information.
Many of us have met at the CICD or the Multi-Faith Centre as it was previously known, for many, many years. The Centre was announced 20 years ago and the building was built and opened in 2002.
Many faith groups contributed to the build with the Amitabha Buddhist Association of Singapore presenting perhaps the largest donation of one million dollars in December 2000 to Griffith University for the Multi-Faith Centre.
The Venerable Master Chin Kung stated that:
“all religions share the fundamentals and like a tree with many different leaves and branches, there are different beliefs but all are from the same source….if we look beyond our own world, we will work for true peace and will work with each other and our love will reduce conflict with all people.”Venerable Master Chin Kung
The Vice Chancellor at that time, Professor Roy Webb, said when accepting the cheque:
“that the Venerable Master has indicated a greatly enlarged vision for the Multi faith centre beyond the wildest dreams in the past and had indicated a support which would endorse a world focus for the Centre.”
After we hear the Director speak, we might discuss the situation of the CICD, and what action the QFCC should take through the Executive in making representations to Griffith University, and perhaps participating in a public campaign, to support it, and discuss a Motion to that effect.
The CICD holds very special memories for many of us and it has played a truly significant role in allowing a large and diverse group of multi-faith and multi-cultural people engage with each other, learn about and from each other, break bread with each other and forge meaningful friendships and relationships that have strengthened our Queensland society.
In closing, it has been a very different year, but I am heartened by the many stories I’ve heard of different faith communities who have been so creative and energetic in finding new ways of connecting, re-connecting and generally just ‘touching base’ with their communities.
The elderly and unwell have been in the minds of most of us as they are so reliant on personal contact. We all need to remember what we have learnt through this pandemic and we must continue to reach out to those who need our help, and to those who simply need a phone call now and then.
Thank you to the Executive for always giving of their time and expertise and a special thank you to the Secretary and Treasurer who have taken on the workload.
The Secretary has at times felt like she is ‘herding cats’, but she has great drive and energy and we all benefit from her herding skills.
Thank you to the whole membership for your continued interest and for the work you do within and outside your own faith communities. It is good work. It is meaningful work and it helps us build a better society for all.
Queensland Faith Communities Council