shoulder to shoulder

Over the last couple of days, much media attention has been focused on the big gathering aimed at producing “The Queensland Plan”.  It’s been an important gathering, and the plan will hopefully help government and community alike map out a pathway for the next couple of decades.

While all the public attention focused there, a lesser known, but potentially more important gathering also took place, with the first public event to launch the brand new Queensland Community Alliance.

The Alliance, modelled after similar community organising groups in Sydney, London and Los Angeles (among many other places), sees faith groups, trade unions and other community organisations join together focused on the common good.

It’s not party political, but will engage with all levels of government with the aim of a better, stronger, fairer society.

It is primarily oriented around building capacity, resilience and relationship, with the ultimate purpose of making our communities stronger.  The organisations involved may share different world views, but ultimately find a lot in common as through their members they seek justice, compassion, empowerment and so on.

Last night was the first public gathering, and the official launch for the Alliance.

17 organisations have so far signed on and committed the necessary funding the help the Alliance grow.  They’re an interesting mix with trade unions such as Together, the Rail/Bus/Tram Union, Qld Nurses, Independent Education, Teachers and so on standing alongside Uniting and Catholic Churches (with hopefully other faith groups to come) and community groups such as the Ethiopian Community  Association and Multicultural Development Association’s, just to name a few.

The mood in the room is positive, buoyant, even a little excited as representatives of each member group declare their commitment to one another and the Alliance, and a rowdy crowd of several hundred cheer enthusiastically.

It’s a grass-roots action this one, slow and gentle.

The initial action of the Alliance will be to listen and build relationships.  Listen to the community, listen to the members of it’s constituent organisations, listen to each other.

All that takes time.

I was glad to be at the launch last night (and to have my daughter with me, exploring her own commitment to growing a healthy society), to be inspired by the enthusiasm and passion on display and to have the chance to start making connections beyond the church I work for.

One story I heard last night came from a man who lost his public sector job after several decades.  He sounds lost and broken, more than a year down the track from the Qld Government “cleanout” and with no job, no prospects.  The Alliance gives him hope that people will join together, stand shoulder to shoulder in support and solidarity.

Another I spoke with was a refugee from Zimbabwe. His home destroyed by his own government, accused of all sorts of things, left with no option but to flee for his life. The experience has turned him into one who is active in strengthening the community, building resilience, standing up for justice. He works in the Qld public sector union Together and is excited about all that the Alliance might mean for ordinary people all over.

As an aside, here’s a young man working hard to make Australia a better place for all, and who came here as a refugee.  How shameful the way our nation treats those today who are running for their lives, offering a cold shoulder and a prison cell for daring to dream.

It’s early days for the Queensland Community Alliance, and a lot of work to be done, but, like I said, this is one “under-the-radar” initiative has the potential to make a very real difference in our cities and towns in the years ahead.

Head over to the facebook page to check it out, and see if your church/union/club/school/organisation can offer something by standing shoulder-to-shoulder with others.


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