Earlier this week, I wrote to the Premier of Queensland about a number of issues of concern to the Uniting Church in Australia, Queensland Synod. The text of this letter is below.
The Uniting Church in Australia, Queensland Synod, met on the Sunshine Coast in May.
This is a gathering of about 350 members and ordained ministers from across the life of the church in Queensland, including leaders of our institutions such as UnitingCare Queensland and Wesley Mission Queensland.
We meet to hear reports on the life and mission of the various aspects of the church’s ministry, to encourage one another, and to reflect on particular matters in the life of Queensland in the light of the gospel.
This year, we had as a guest speaker Professor Anne Tiernan, of Griffith University, who helped us reflect on the challenge to form unconventional alliances, collaborate across boundaries and embrace our responsibilities as active citizens, and as “anchor institutions” in the life of the communities of Queensland. We are committed to strengthening the capacity of the communities within the state to be healthy and flourishing.
We celebrated the launch of our Covenant Action Plan, which articulates our plans to live out the Uniting Church in Australia’s covenant with First Peoples in partnership with the Uniting Aboriginal and Islander Christian Congress. This plan will see congregations engaging more fully with traditional custodians in their local context. It will also strengthen our support for the Indigenous communities on western Cape York and the Gulf, which have been a part of the life of the church since being established as missions in the late 19th and early 20th century.
The Synod deliberated for some time on the matter of so-called voluntary assisted dying. It resolved by a strong majority that it would not support legislation to allow voluntary assisted dying, should it be introduced in Queensland. We are deeply concerned about how such legislation would impact upon people at the most vulnerable time of their lives. We also believe it introduces unhelpful dynamics into the doctor/patient relationship which would be impossible to mitigate.
We believe that the current appeal of this legislation is sourced in poor understanding of the quality of palliative care and in the limited availability of such care. We urge the Queensland Government to extend the quality and reach of quality palliative care across Queensland.
The Uniting Church has also provided a submission to the Queensland Parliamentary Inquiry into Age Care, End-of-Life and Palliative Care, and Voluntary Assisted Dying which informed the decisions at our Synod and contains important reflections and recommendations for consideration by your Government.
Our agencies (UnitingCare Queensland and Wesley Mission Queensland) provide extensive aged care, palliative care and disability services across Queensland. We are deeply concerned at the current level of government funding (recognising the main sources are from both Commonwealth as well as the Queensland Government), which we consider insufficient and the impact that is having on our agencies being able to provide the level of care for vulnerable people to live safely and with dignity.
Premier, the Uniting Church is committed to honouring the God-given dignity of all people. We treasure and honour our covenant with the First Peoples of this land; we have been deeply enriched by recognising that the gospel is present in and speaks through all cultures. We believe the gospel of Jesus Christ is the most inclusive message the world has ever heard, challenging our self-created security, and we will not discriminate against anyone!
We implore your government to lead by listening deeply, and by dealing openly and honestly with the people of Queensland.
It is our experience as the Uniting Church that when people are challenged to a greater good, they inevitably rise to the challenge; we believe Queenslanders will do so!
Premier, we pray for you and the Parliament regularly. We love being able to contribute to the health and wellbeing of this state.
Rev David Baker