Footscray

My final days in Australia were based in the down-town Melbourne surburb of Footscray. This was an industrial area. Immigrants from many lands settled here because it was cheap. So, too, did an extra-ordinary network of downwardly mobile, high-octane Christians. Most of these have chosen part-time employment in order to devote quality time to voluntary causes. They share cars and have developed a variety of social, spiritual and green enterprises. Darren and Sally began Green Collective. They employ those without jobs to collect bottle corks from restaurants, unwanted goods, including mobile phones, from homes.They have established several Charity Shops and transformed them into Opportunity Shops. They not only sell re-cycled goods, but also fair trade items and artefacts made by local asylum seekers. They invest their profits in employing more needy people.

Some twenty five families have formed an organic food co-operative. Each is part of a rota of people who collect bulk food from a warehouse, receive orders, sort, pack and deliver it. This creates community. They join together for a monthly seasonal celebration. Now there are five other co-operatives in the area,

My hosts were Dave and Cathy Cook , who once gave valued time to our Lindisfarne Open Gate Retreat House as volunteers. He is media officer for the NGO development organisation Plan International. Cathy has just convened a meeting for Australian churches and NGO's to explore how they can make climate change a major prayer focus. .

Jonathan Cornford completed a Ph.D in Political Economy/International Development and Oxfam have employed him to undertake research and advocacy on development struggles in the Mekong. In his unpaid time he and his wife Kim have founded an NGO named Manna Gum . The aim of this non-profit organisation is to help church people who have been conditioned to disconnect personal faith from business and green ethics, to understand and practise the social and economic implications of Christ's Gospel. They do this through networking, a magazine and a web site (www.mannagum.org.au)

Nick Ray has founded Ethical Supermarket Shopping. They do workshops in schools and even in supermarkets, and publish an Ethical Supermarket Guide. See www.ethical.org.au . Ten people who have associations with Melbourne's Urban Seed social enterprise have formed a Footscray Seeds group that meets at the Baptist church. Marcus Kernow leads this and they meet twice a week. On Sunday I attended the local Church of Christ. This provides mentors who befriend prisoners during their last weeks in prison, and support them when they come out. This is an orphaned generation. Oh that every prison had such a partnership with a church.

Now Footscray is becoming gentrified, in part because of these downwardly mobile Christians. They ask themselves whether they stay with with the social enterprises that thrive here, or whether some should move once again to live among the most needy in new locations.

Posted at 19:13pm on 23rd January 2011
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