Almost 12 months old, the infant National Committee of Australian Church Women (ACW) held its second gathering in January 1966 at St Hilda’s College, the University of Melbourne, Victoria. The committee was about 30 in number, including two or three men, and they discussed and formulated plans for the remainder of the year. Between this national meeting and the next one in 1967, the Working Committee implemented the day-to-day work of ACW.
One area of the national discussion that is still ‘front and centre’ today was migrant welfare and integration.
It was recorded that:
‘The Rev. Harvey Perkins, General Secretary of the Australian Council of Churches (ACC), gave a challenging account of the needs and possibilities of Inter-Church Aid and migrant welfare. This is one place where the Church turns to the women and says, “help us to serve the world’s need”. ‘
Historically, the church has depended greatly on the generosity, sacrifice and hard work of women in raising funds for missions and similar projects. Australian Church Women are still very effective fundraisers in spite of current attitudes towards women's groups.*
Regarding migrant integration it was noted:
‘We have not thought enough about the possibility of helping with migrant integration, which is both a national responsibility and a Christian imperative.
‘If the love of Christ does not constrain us to help migrant families in the difficult years of getting to know us, then we have not understood the love of Christ aright.
‘Much is already being done by the Good Neighbour Council, by the Resettlement Department of the ACC, by churches and individual Christians, but it is still not enough. There are thousands of lonely migrants near to despair because we have not found the way to help them. Women are urged to take this seriously.’
Mrs Paul Anderson was a guest at the meeting; she had written an interesting report of a study on migrant women in Australia conducted by her husband. Mrs Anderson spoke on the loneliness and isolation of migrant women across Australia, particularly for those who weren’t able to speak or read English.
The members of the 1966 National Committee resolved to link that year's World Community Day service with migrant women. When the annual World Community Day service was held around Australia, the theme was ‘Our Common Life and Responsibility in Family and Community’, and the offering was used to assist migrant women in Australia.
The amount of this World Community Day offering was $300. The equivalent purchasing power in 2020 is about $2,400. A commendable gift from those who attended the services.
And the women of ACW continue to take seriously the issues of immigrants and refugees. The National and Unit Social Justice Convenors of ACW bring these matters to the attention of the members for united action.
Both the Old and the New Testaments instruct us as to what our attitude should be to foreigners in our company:
‘For the entire law is fulfilled in keeping this one command: Love your neighbour as yourself.’ Galatians 5:14 (NIV)
*Unfortunately, today’s closure and phasing out of many women’s groups has meant a corresponding dwindling of funds being raised, and even suspensions of many worthwhile and needy projects.