In being in relationship with other people, reflecting on our experiences and taking action, we can work together to create a fair, just and sustainable Sydney.
That was the message shared to participants in a two-day foundations training on community organising by the Sydney Alliance, a coalition of diverse faith and civil organisations that work together to express common values and aspirations for the city and its inhabitants.
In learning about community organising, it is the aim of partner organisations involved in the training increase the number of community leaders, strengthening relationships with other organisations and harness that power for the common good.
“The needs of civil society, the people who gather in our churches, community, organisations, unions, schools, religious groups are often neglected. To be taken seriously in the public arena, in our democracy, we need to be better organised,” facilitator Alimoni Taumoepeau, a Uniting Church Minister, told participants.
“The secret of our success in this organisation is that we always start with building relationships with each other.
“At this training, we want to leave behind any assumptions. We want to look to the diversity, not only in your small group, but in the room, both personally and organisationally. Because that is our assets, that is our power,” he said.
The training was held on 6 and 7 April and was co-hosted by the Diocese of Parramatta, Jesuit Refugee Services and the Uniting Church Synod of NSW and ACT.
Diocesan Peace, Justice and Ecology Coordinator Sebastian Salaske-Lentern explained that the Diocese is a member of the Sydney Alliance because working together in solidarity for the common good is a key principle of Catholic Social Teaching.
“Through co-hosting Sydney Alliance foundations training, the Diocese of Parramatta seeks to share this knowledge with Catholic parishes, schools and organisations in Western Sydney and the Blue Mountains, and help develop new leaders who can harness the power of relationships in working for the common good.
“Drawing on the principles from community organising could also help Catholic parishes, schools and organisations to live relationships within their community and with other organisations more authentically and effectively.”
Diana Olmos, a Community Organiser with Sydney Alliance, said that it is important for people of Western Sydney to understand how to engage with decisionmakers about the everyday experiences of our communities, particular with a pending federal election.
“As a woman of colour and a new migrant to Australia, I am here to teach people how we as an Australian civil society can build relational power. Relational power is power ‘with’ and not power ‘over’, all in the pursuit of the common good.
“During this training, we are preparing ourselves to go into action over the next couple of months into a federal and state election cycle and to know that the pressures in our communities will be taken into account over the coming years,” she said.
The community organisation training equips people of faith to see, hear and act for the wider good, according to David Burrows, Lead Organiser for Sydney Alliance.
“It is powerful to see Muslims, Catholics and other Christian believers, union and community groups and small business people working together to listen, relate, and act action on issues of the common good,” he said.
“People have inherent dignity and power, and this training equips them to envision and create better conditions for themselves and their communities.”
Valentina Olivares, Parramatta Young Christian Students (YCS) Coordinator, hopes that what she learns from the training will be passed down to the students she works with.
“The students I outreach to are community organisers, they are leaders, and they love the role they are taking up as YCS members because they can be part of this social fight, they can do something for their communities.
“I think community organising is the base for any organisation, any community, to empower people, but also to create collective action.
“Having one-to-one face-to-face meetings to know each other and understand what are our commonalities in social justice and how we can work together, learn from other people’s lives and hear their stories are so empowering.
“I hope to encourage people to be organisers and to be part of their communities and to fight for their rights and to work collectively,” she said.
The Sydney Alliance is hosting a free pre-election forum with candidates for the Federal Seat of Parramatta on Thursday 5 May from 6.30pm at Parramatta Mission, 119 Maquarie Street Parramatta. To register for the event, please click here.
To find out more about the Sydney Alliance foundations training program, please visit www.sydneyalliance.org.au/training-and-resources