Displaying items by tag: Pacific
Prime minister Anthony Albanese has issued a national apology to survivors of the thalidomide scandal and their families, marking the government's first acknowledgment of its role in the tragedy. Thalidomide, initially a sedative but widely used as a morning sickness drug in the 1950s, led to severe birth defects in at least 10,000 babies globally. A report in 2019 revealed that 20% of cases could have been prevented with earlier action. Survivors have long sought acknowledgment and compensation, pointing to the examples set by Canada (in 1991) and the UK (in 2010). 140 survivors have registered for a financial support programme which gives a one-off payment of £260,000 each, with subsequent annual payments of between £2,600 and £30,000. Mr Albanese has now reopened the application process for those who might have missed it previously.
On 14 October, Australia will vote in a historic referendum that cuts to the core of how it sees itself as a nation. If successful, the proposal - known as the Voice - will recognise aboriginal people in the constitution, while creating a body for them to advise governments on the issues affecting their communities. Advocates say it Is a ‘modest yet profound’ change that will allow Indigenous Australians to take a rightful place in their own country - which has often dragged its heels confronting its past. But those campaigning against it describe it as a ‘radical’ proposal that will ‘permanently divide’ the country by giving First Nations people greater rights than other Australians - a claim legal experts reject. Australia is unusual among settler nations to have never made a treaty with its indigenous peoples. It first voted on whether to acknowledge them in the preamble of the constitution back in 1999. The reform - which was one of two amendments tied to the referendum over whether to become a republic - failed.
Churches and prayer and mission ministries across Australia, New Zealand and the Pacific Islands have come together in unprecedented unity that has not been seen for decades, with the vision ‘A new wave of glory to cover the earth, as the waters cover the sea’ (Habakkuk 2:14). Sixty days ahead of the World Prayer Assembly in Perth, planned and spontaneous prayer is already taking place across the cities. There are reports of the wave already sweeping through, and there is a lively air of expectancy as to what God is doing through this global gathering. Before it, the leaders have called for 21 days of prayer and fasting (from 28 August), contending for a ‘wave of the knowledge of the glory of God’ to engulf the globe, for an awakening across Australia with millions finding Christ; and a global awakening with billions finding Christ.
Western Australia health authorities approved 76 late-term abortions last year, but new legislation being introduced to parliament will allow abortions up to birth. All that will be needed is a second doctor agreeing the abortion is justified. 71 of the abortions last year were for suspected Down’s Syndrome. On the first day of parliament this year the premier said his government will ‘modernise Australian abortion laws, making safety, privacy and dignity an absolute right’. Many have now signed a petition calling on the government to show Western Australia has compassion for both pregnant mothers and unborn children, and to ensure that any purported modernisations of the law include ending the disability discrimination that has seen so many lives taken of those with Down’s Syndrome. They want the legislative council to ensure the safety, privacy and dignity of unborn children suspected of having the syndrome. See also
Australia's medicines regulator has approved using psychedelics to treat depression and PTSD. This will allow magic mushrooms and ecstasy tablets to be prescribed as medicines at a national level. Ecstasy was developed in 1912 as an appetite suppressant in the USA, but was outlawed in the 1970s. It entered Australia as an illegal party drug in the 1980s, giving increased energy levels, empathy, and pleasure. How Australia rolls out clinical prescriptions for both drugs will be closely watched. Initial access to the drugs will be limited and costly. Many say it’s a landmark moment, but the Medical Association and the College of Psychiatrists have expressed serious concerns about psychedelic treatments. A professor of addiction medicine at the University of Sydney wants larger-scale studies and better research. He warned of known risks of fear, panic and re-traumatisation; and unknown risks of long-term side effects with potentially very limited benefits.
Nine women and seventeen children are taking the Australian government to court, arguing that Australia has ‘effective control’ of their detention and the power to set them free from Syria’s Roj refugee camp. These Australian wives, widows, and children of slain or jailed IS members claim a legal right to return to Australia. Most are in squalid and violent detention camps, some held for four years. Children have untreated shrapnel wounds, malnourishment, and serious mental illnesses. Some were born in the camp and know no life outside it. Save the Children Australia say that legal action was a last resort, but they were left with no choice but to take Australia’s government to court. Pray that the US-backed Kurdish SDF army and the refugee camp officials will actively cooperate in the release of these Australians as they did for other countries, including Denmark, USA, Germany, France, Sweden, and the Netherlands.
Every week in Australia, babies survive abortions and are left to die without medical assistance or even pain relief because it has been decided by adults that they do not deserve to live. In response to this, three senators have presented a bill to parliament calling for legal protections to ensure that babies born alive after a termination procedure are given the same medical treatment and pain relief as other babies born at the same gestational age and clinical condition. The Australian Christian Lobby has drafted an email to the prime minister and the federal senate, requesting their support for this bill and are encouraging people to add their name to the document.
The Pacific nation of Micronesia, with 100,000 people in 607 islands, is currently caught in a political tug of war. Its location makes it a key vantage point for foreign policy. Beijing hopes to gain influence in an area of strategic importance. Yet more important than its earthly political state is the eternal state of Micronesian souls. They largely identify as Christian but cultural influences appear in their religious practice, including animism, magic, narcotics, materialism, and ancestor worship. Nominalism is high among the protestant churches and there is much cronyism among the leadership. One estimate states that 99% of the pastors in Micronesia were appointed with no theological training. The Micronesian church has many challenges, including consumerism influences from America, high delinquency and suicide among the youth, Mormon missionary activity, and the low availability of Bible translations.
Australia has a huge domestic violence problem and police spend more time responding to that crime than any other. Recently 648 people were charged in a four-day police blitz targeting ‘dangerous’ domestic violence offenders in New South Wales. Some 1,153 charges for domestic violence, drugs and weapons were made during the operation, and an array of illegal items, such as guns, daggers, a sword, metal knuckle dusters, and drugs were seized. During ‘Operation Amarok’ 164 of those charged were among the state's most wanted domestic violence offenders. Some had warrants out for their arrests; others had breached court-issued protection orders. The UN has said violence against women in Australia is ‘disturbingly common’, but experts say it is not notably different from other developed nations. The new strategy of targeting high risk offenders is aimed at stopping violence before it escalates to homicide.
There is a move to change Queensland’s Anti-Discrimination Act, and the Queensland Human Rights Commission (QHRC) has recommended removing the right of Christian schools to exclusively hire Christian teachers. They released a Report containing 46 recommendations, four of which relate to religious bodies, one of these recommendations would narrow the 'genuine occupational requirements' so Christian schools cannot require all staff to be Christian. Only certain roles would meet that criterion, like the principal or chaplain. A science teacher, for example, would not be required to be a Christian. This dramatically undermines a Christian school’s ability to fulfil their ethos. Christian schools are places where students practise their faith along with teachers and staff. The idea that staff are not required to live according to the school’s religious ethos is at odds with faith-based learning. The Australian Christian Lobby is encouraging Australians to write to their MPs and the Minister for Education to express their concerns.