A Uniting Church project that aims to stand in solidarity with native forests and all who depend on them has now launched.
Initially based on the Mid North Coast, where logging is escalating, and with a vision to expand across the warm temperate and sub-tropical coastal forest ecosystems of NSW from the Hunter River in the south to the Queensland border in the north, the project will also connect with efforts for forest protection in other areas of the state. This includes the Campbelltown-Macarthur area of the Sydney Basin, where koalas are increasingly under threat, and the Great Southern Forests.
Known as the Forest Advocacy Ministry, the project has three main goals. The first is to work with others to achieve a rapid end to industrial native forest logging in NSW. The second is to increase the involvement of Christians in efforts for forest protection. And the third is to acknowledge, encourage and support spiritual connection with Earth.
Uniting Church members from across the east coast of NSW visited the threatened forest ecosystems of Gumbaynggirr land in September. The group was welcomed to country by Gumbaynggirr Elder Uncle Micklo Jarrett and met with members of the Forest Ecology Alliance, Friends of Tuckers Nob, Friends of Pine Creek, Friends of Conglomerate and the Kalang River Forest Alliance. Activities included a time of celebration with the forests at Gleniffer Church, verification of a native forest remnant inside the Tuckers Nob plantation area near Bellingen, and a convergence at the forest protection camp at the Kalang Headwaters.
Jeff Kite, chair of the Forest Advocacy Ministry Implementation Committee, said, “The weekend was a wonderful opportunity to listen to the concerns of First Nations Elders and forest defenders, and to see firsthand the magnificent native forests and headwater catchment areas of parts of the proposed Great Koala National Park.”
The Rev. Phil Dokmanovic from Bangalow-Byron Bay said, “Local people are standing up to protect the places that they love and on which we all depend. It is important that the churches offer them our support and add our voices to theirs.”
Dr Miriam Pepper from South Sydney Uniting Church said, “Forests are critical to maintaining Earth’s life support systems but they are in crisis because of climate change and logging. Industrial native forest logging operates at a loss of millions of dollars a year in NSW. For the sake of forests, the communities in forested regions, and ultimately all of us, including those living in urban areas, industrial native forest logging needs to end.”
Jessi Mervyn-Jones, a ministry candidate from Port Macquarie, said, “The native old growth forests are so precious and important to all of life, and in the immediate to life forms that are endangered. So much has already been lost. We all need to look after what remains. And care, appreciation and nurturing of life, especially vulnerable life, is an important element of worshipping God.”
The Rev. Dr Jason John, resident of Hydes Creek near Bellingen, said, “The Uniting Church affirms that all creatures and ecosystems have rights and that God’s Creation is good in and of itself, as well as in sustaining human life. The churches are called to serve the ‘reconciliation and renewal of Creation’ – that is, the healing and wholeness of the Earth. We are committed to challenging the destruction of the forests.”
For more information about the Forest Advocacy Ministry, see https://www.unitingearthweb.org.au/forests/.