Social Justice Advocates of the Sapphire Coast

Minutes of General Meeting held 10 Feb 2022

Mtg commenced at 7pm.

Present: Kylie Furnell, Karen Gillespie, Pam Skelton, Jane Adam, Mahlia Smith McPherson, Jan Midena, David Gallan, Ray Tynan, Barbara Toner, John Liston, Loretta Fella, Wendy Wait, Zoe Penton, Patrick Harris, Bob Grasby, Gavin Bell, Dianne Beckett, Mick Brosnan.  Guest speaker: Caycee Hill

Apologies: Chris Tynan, Jo Fitzer-Riley, Ian McLiesh, Peter Reid, Peter Skelton, Ross Williams, Denise Perry.

Gavin opened the meeting with a welcome and commenced by inviting attendees to briefly introduce themselves.

Mick acknowledged the Traditional Custodians of the land we meet on, the Yuin people and shared statements from the Uluru Statement from the Heart.


Gavin welcomed Caycee, Manager of the Bega Multicultural Centre.

Caycee commenced by telling us that she is a migrant and that initially people in the Bega Valley were reluctant to believe that she was American.  She described a big spread of nationalities in the Bega Valley’s population with women from South East Asia being a big proportion of the migrant community and mostly vulnerable.  Many are brought to Australia and then abandoned.  Caycee is working to create stronger networks.

Caycee outlined the challenges of working with many nationalities and the discrimination they face, together with the difficulties of coping in an unknown environment.  Isolation is a big issue.  

She is employed three days a week.   Caycee is looking forward to Harmony Day on 19th March.  This led to a discussion of how  SJA might help.

Minutes: The minutes were circulated prior to the meeting. Moved that the minutes be accepted by Gavin Bell, seconded Dianne and carried.


  1. Mick read a letter of thanks from a bushfire-impacted person SJA has assisted.

Treasurer’s Report:

Mick explained to the meeting that SJA will now pay Robyn Morales, book-keeper for the Disaster Relief Fund, to take over the book-keeping for SJA generally as the task has become too complex and time-consuming for our treasurer, Celi to complete on a voluntary basis. 

The Treasurer’s reports relating to Social Justice Advocates of the Sapphire Coast and the Bega Valley Community Disaster Relief Fund were also circulated prior to the meeting.  It was moved by Mick, seconded by Dianne that the reports be accepted.  Carried.

Asylum Seekers/Refugees

Karen told the meeting there has been one meeting this year.  We are associated with national group CRSI.  While we would like to have families settle in the Bega Valley the lack of specialist services is a barrier.

There were five participants involved in mentoring training.  The group aims to take up advocacy work on behalf of people on temporary visas and to form associations with Afghan networks.

In Search of Safety (ISOS) ran successfully some years ago and a new course will commence on 1 March 2022.  This Red Cross course enables participants to go into schools and educate school children on issues facing refugees and asylum seekers.

Youth Climate Action

Zoe would like to strengthen the youth aspect of SJA.  They share the climate anxiety highlighted by Forces for Nature.  They are working on growing the group, participating in working bees at Potoroo Palace and flying box counts.

Forces for Nature

Wendy told the meeting that the third round of solar installations is at 22.  In conjunction with Lakeside Electrical this program sees the installation of a solar system on a community building for every 30 households who sign up for a home solar system.

They are informing people on climate action in the lead up to the Bega State by-election (12 February 2022) and the Federal election widely expected in May this year.

Other action involves campaigning against the commercialisation of National Parks, particularly the Light to Light walk; reducing single use plastics in Merimbula and a Film Night to be held as a fund-raiser for Potoroo Palace to be held there on 17 Feb 2022.

Indigenous Affairs

Lobbying continues around support for the aims of the Uluru Statement from the Heart and the raising of the age of criminal responsibility.  They are waiting for a response to their submission regarding the number of indigenous children in state and foster care.

Bega Valley Advocates for Timor Leste

A report had been circulated prior to the meeting.  Possibly the most significant achievement of this group is that there are 20 Timorese teachers who are now assisting others to follow in their footsteps.  The group sees education as the most effective way to assist the people of Timor Leste.


It’s Up to Us has been a massive success with $195,000 raised in just over six months.  Congratulations to Kate and Sam Mills who raised $20,000 with Go Fund Me.

The following motion was circulated prior to the meeting and was put by Mick and seconded by Karen:


“ That this general meeting of the SJA supports the purchase of two transportable housing units as the first stage of implementation of our SJA crisis / transitional housing strategy . 

These two units will cost approx $ 55,000 plus transportation. “

Carried unanimously

Mick also outlined additional support for the campaign – three philanthropists are keen to help.  This is in addition to ongoing contributions from Greg and Judy O’Halloran and Za’s Coffee.

The group is lobbying councillors and also in discussion with Dr Alice Howe in requesting Council to make available one block of land in Eden and one in Bega so that there is somewhere to place our units.

Dave outlined efforts by the Uniting Church to have land subdivided for housing.  This land is part of the large block on the corner of Gipps and High Street, diagonally across from the Fire Station.

General Business  

Southern Cross Housing (SCH):   Paddy Harris explained his role with SCH as Community Engagement Officer.  He covers an area from Wollongong to Eden, including Cooma, Nowra and Jindabyne.  The service has 100 properties in the Bega Valley.

Sleep On It:  Mahlia is publicising the event on Facebook.

Young Advocates at Lumen Christi:  John talked about the many topics that come up among this group.  He talked about the power of young people experiencing the joy of giving and the difference that can make.


Potoroo Palace Working Bee: Saturday 12 March, a couple of hours work in this beautiful place and then a shared meal.

Australian Made: A brilliant concert on 23 April, featuring the Black Sorrows, the Figmentz, etc, etc…

Giyong:  9 April at Jigamy Farm.

International Women’s Day:  8 March.

Kate talked about the need to have a platform for community events – watch this space.

Mick lamented the continuing devastation caused by the war machine and concluded the meeting by finishing his reading of the Uluru Statement from the Heart.

Meeting concluded about 9.00.

(Next meeting: Thursday, 14 April, 2022)

Note:  Prior to the meeting ABC Reporter Keira Proust interviewed Mick regarding the homeless/housing crisis.  She also interviewed two young men, thankful to now have a roof over their heads, and Kylie Furnell of SEWACS.  Kylie related that the only help the service is able to give the homeless is a camping kit, as there is simply no shelter available in the area.

The report aired on ABC TV News on Friday, 11 February 2022.