Presented at the General Council Meeting
It is my pleasure to present my Chair report for 2020.
2020 has turned out to be a very unusual year for all of us, not only in Australia, but around the world.
The outbreak of COVID-19 has brought sickness, death and sadness to many families and severely curtailed the lifestyle we enjoy so happily and has forced us to make changes to the way we live, particularly how we interact with people.
At present, there are restrictions on work environments, travel, meeting with groups of people and enjoying entertainment at venues, but there are signs that these restrictions may be slowly lifting in the coming weeks.
Currently, gatherings of up to 20 people are allowed in homes, places of worship and religious ceremonies and public spaces. At funerals, we are allowed a maximum of 50 people.
From 10 July we will be able to gather in most spaces and importantly for us, a maximum of 100 people will be permitted in places of worship and for religious ceremonies. We must, of course, follow strictly the recommended spacing proximities of people as well as recording who is in attendance plus their contact details.
Faith communities tend to be highly organised groups so I am confident that the safety of all will be prominent in our efforts to get back together again in person.
Many of us lent support to various bushfire relief events in January and February. I spoke at the South Bank Piazza event organized by GOPIA and also welcomed the unofficial start to the interfaith year where many of us met up at the Bahá’í of Brisbane Harmony Week function.
Before we had heard of COVID-19, the QFCC executive met in person on 6 February and 12 March. The Education Sub-Committee and Membership Sub-Committee had previously met on 21 January to plan events and discuss membership applications.
6 February meeting (in person)
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 Society who replaced a member from the Sikh Nishkam Society.
Office bearers remained in the same positions:
- Member from (Queensland Jewish Board of Deputies) Chair, (Bahá’í) Vice-Chair, (Catholic Archdiocese of Brisbane) Secretary, and (Pagan Hearth) as Treasurer.
Executive Members from Anglican Diocese Brisbane, Ali Shahi Sufi Order, Queensland Churches Together, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latteer-day Saints, Uniting Church Qld, Islamic Council of Queensland, International Society for Krishna Consciousness, Gold Coast Sikh Association.
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.
12 March (in person)
We decided to have a QFCC banner printed to be used at functions and this was done. Unfortunately, due to COVID-19 restrictions, the Multi-Faith Prayer event at Parliament House in March and the QFCC Women’s Dinner, due to be held in July, have been cancelled.
It will be used when life returns to normal.
30 April by Zoom
We discussed holding a Zoom meeting for our membership as a “forum on the COVID-19 situation and its effects on the faith communities in Queensland.” The Secretary, other Exectutive members and I met afterwards to organise this meeting.
Fees: Because of the hardships many faith groups are facing due to the restrictions, we are not chasing late fees and we are considering a moratorium on fees for 2021.
This was also the last meeting for our representative from QCT who goes on leave from his position as General Secretary of Queensland Churches Together in May and then officially retires 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. Once restrictions are lifted, we are hoping to thank him and his wive with a dinner and will keep you informed.
General membership meeting by Zoom, 14 May
As mentioned previously, a zoom meeting for all our members was organized to discuss how faith communities are being impacted by COVID-19 – the positives and negatives.
22 people zoomed in and we thank a representative from Qld Health Metro South for joining us.
Again, you were informed by email about the outcomes of this meeting but in general many groups are experiencing a drop in income due to the restrictions, many groups have realized they need to up-date their contacts and sadly, the elderly are feeling the most impact due to lack of digital literacy and general loneliness.
On the positive side, many reported that streaming their religious services connected with those who were disabled and unable to travel or with those who did not normally visit their places of worship. Many new links with people have been made and we need to upgrade our skills with technology.
We were informed that Qld Metro Health is working hard to get accurate information to non-English speakers in 200 languages.
We all felt this first Zoom meeting was very successful and gave us the ability to speak with each other and share information.
The next executive meeting is tabled for 23 July and, all going well, we should be able to meet in person.
The Centre for Interfaith and Cultural Dialogue (CICD) at Griffith University informed us at the start of the restrictions that the Centre would not be available for meetings until September. Our Annual General Meeting is tabled for November so that meeting is looking like it will be a chance for us all to get together again in person.
The Queensland Government arranged for a consultation with faith communities and the Director of the CICD was the co-ordinator of this project. Many of you were involved in the (zoom) discussions and the final report was emailed to you all on 22 May. Thank you for your participation. If you haven’t read the report, it is a very interesting and worthwhile document to read and share with your communities.
In closing, it has been a very different year so far, 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 again taken on the workload of Secretary and Treasurer.
We are all volunteers and I appreciate the time that all of us give towards ensuring our faith communities are strong and functional, thereby strengthening the quality of life for all in Queensland.
Queensland Faith Communities Council