Working for Justice
Updated: Jan 17
I am new to Toowoomba. I arrived at the end of March this year and started work as the Executive Officer of the Diocesan Social Justice Commission on April 1st. As my first contribution to Horizons, I would like to share my key areas of work and the hopes that I have in this role.
As Executive Officer, my work is set by the mandate of the Social Justice Commission. Arising from the Pastoral Planning process, the Commission has been tasked to work on issues relating to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples, to refugees and asylum seekers and on issues concerning Care of the Earth. The Commission has the role of raising awareness, educating, advocating and practically working to seek greater justice. Aware that many of the issues are far larger than our Diocese, the Commission works alongside many other social justice focused organisations, both secular and church related, to achieve its goals.
The Church’s desire to respond to these issues arises from the challenges of the Hebrew prophets to act justly and from the Gospel’s call to see Jesus in those most in need (Matt 25). Alongside this, over the last 120 years or so, our Popes and Bishops have offered substantial social teaching in response to current issues. Our Diocesan Social Justice Commission draws on one quote from the 1971 Synod of Bishops’ document ‘Justice in the World’ as its guide and inspiration. It says: ‘Action on behalf of justice and participation in the transformation of the world fully appears to us as a constitutive dimension of the preaching of the gospel.’ The Synod Bishops name that working for justice as at the core of announcing the good news. We cannot preach the gospel without working for justice.
I come to this role of Executive Officer with training and experience in working for justice. I would best describe myself as a Catholic theologian with a specialty in Christian mission and social and ecological justice. My theological background has given me a good understanding of the faith basis we have for working for justice. It also gives me skills to analyse issues, to reflect on them in the light of faith and to offer resources to parishes, groups and individuals as they seek to respond to injustices.
I come with experience doing a similar job for 12 years for the Bishop of Auckland. There, I both worked directly on issues as well as did faith formation in social justice with parish and diocesan groups. I was blessed to work with many Māori, with refugees and with environmental activists on issues that we had in common..
Following the years in Auckland, I had nine years in South Africa. I went to study and ended up living and working in a poor rural area for six and a half years. At the head level I was researching conversion and what leads to conversion to justice, while my personal day to day journey was an ever deeper exposure to, and immersion into, the lives of some of the poorest in rural South Africa. Being the only non-African in the local area was a very humbling experience. It was a difficult learning experience but I feel blessed to have had the opportunity.
Now I am in Toowoomba. And I grateful to be here! I enjoy the challenge of working for justice and I enjoy the dynamic of connecting with people and seeking where I can best contribute. I am also aware that I have much to learn about the local context being a New Zealander.
With that said, I do have hopes for what I can contribute in the role of Social Justice Commission Executive Officer. Our Church has made strong stands on ecological, refugee and indigenous issues. My hope is that I can help the Diocese of Toowoomba understand better how these issues are experienced here in Australia, what the Church is teaching, and how best to respond as Catholics. I hope to raise awareness of Pope Francis’ teachings. For example, he has recently declared that we are at the point of an ecological crisis, not only because of human-induced climate change, but also because of our unsustainable consumer lifestyles and how this is impacting upon endangered species and on the earth’s resources. Francis stands with refugees pleading with the world that we act more compassionately and humanely. And he argues that indigenous peoples must have the decision-making rights over their traditional lands and not governments or mining companies. Each of these Papal stands has significant import for us in Australia and for the call we have as Catholics.
So, if there is any parish or group that would like me to come and visit, I would be more than happy to respond. I can be contacted at 0428 130 895 or via email@example.com .
Dr David Tutty