Empowered change makers: a dynamic Social Justice Forum 2024

Over 110 members, volunteers and employees gathered from across NSW to attend the Society NSW's Social Justice Forum on Saturday 1 June. Enlightening discussions on our state's pressing social issues and empowering workshops developed actions participants can take back to their local communities to drive change. 
20 plus speakers delivered addresses and led workshops, including Trina Jones, the NSW Rental Commissioner. Senior leaders from the housing sector included the Planning Institute of Australia’s NSW President, Sue Weatherley and CEO of housing advocacy non-profit Shelter NSW, John Engler. The forum was privileged to learn from Dr Lisa Buxton, an education expert and Executive Officer of the Aboriginal Catholic Ministry, Sydney. 
The sharing of lived experiences from Bryson and Amy and the presentation on Mini Vinnies from Meave Engler were special highlights of the forum.  
A Plenary Panel Discussion examined whether increased housing supply will deliver more affordable homes, followed by workshops on:  

  • First Nations Justice 

  • Fair treatment for people who use Alcohol and Other Drugs 

  • Private rental fairness for people on low incomes 

  • Engaging with Members of Parliament  

  • The voice of people we assist in advocacy 

  • Building local advocacy networks 

The afternoon Plenary Session saw participants draw upon the skills and knowledge from the workshops to identify local social issues and workshop strategies to advocate for change. 
John Adams, Acting NSW State Council President, recognised the value of the Social Justice Forum in his Address. 
“I see 130-odd people who are committed to assisting and empowering sisters and brothers in our communities who are marginalised, devalued and distressed. At Vinnies, we say we are not about giving a handout but instead giving a hand up,” John said. 
“Giving a ‘hand up’ recognises the inherent dignity and resilience of people who are struggling – families hit by cost-of-living pressures and insecure accommodation, women and children fleeing domestic violence, First Nations communities seeking a voice and influence over the decisions that affect them.” 
“I hope you have had the opportunity to renew old connections and make some new friendships and I hope that today’s programme has you feeling renewed in your work for social justice and encouraged to engage in local advocacy,” he said. 
Yolanda Saiz, CEO of the St Vincent de Paul Society NSW, spoke about the Society’s work on the Domestic and Family Violence and cost-of-living crises, Reconciliation and advocacy for systemic social justice change. 

“Thank you for your ongoing commitment to social justice, to the people we assist and to the work of the Society,” Yolanda said. 

Social Justice Forum 2024 presentations and recordings will be posted on our newly updated NSW Social Justice website progressively. The following sessions are now available to view: 

Spiritual Reflection – Mary Ryan, State Council Vice President, Spirituality, Diversity and Inclusion 

State Council President’s Address – John Adams, Acting NSW State Council President, St Vincent de Paul Society 

CEO’s Address – Yolanda Saiz, CEO, St Vincent de Paul Society NSW 

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