26th May, 1999

  Facing the 21st Century
  Spirit of Mission Dinner presentation

As we enter a new decade, a new century and a new millennium, we are not just passing through a door marked TIME: we are entering a totally foreign land. The social, economic and political challenges of the new era are totally different than anything ever faced before.

Wesley Mission enters the twenty-first century tackling the toughest tasks Australia faces. The trouble is that all our nations brainpower, technological developments and scientific achievements are not answering our human relationship problems. We bring all the most experienced people together in a Statewide Drug Summit, but does anyone believe their recommendations hold answers for our kids? American scientists at the National Aeronautic and Space Administration built a gun specifically to launch dead chickens at maximum velocity at the windshields of airliners, military jets, and the space shuttle, to simulate the frequent incidents of collisions with airborne fowl to test the strength of the windshields. British engineers were eager to test it on the windshields of their new high-speed trains. When British engineers fired the gun they stood shocked as the chicken hurtled out of the barrel, smashed the shatterproof windshield to smithereens, blasted through the control console, broke the engineer's backrest and embedded itself in the back wall of the cabin. The horrified Brits sent NASA the disastrous results of the experiment along with the designs of the windshield, and begged the U.S. scientists for suggestions. NASA responded with a one-line memo: "First, thaw the chicken." We can be smart yet dumb as hell.

That is why we opposed the illegal shooting room in The Wayside Chapel. We do not help addicts die. We invest our resources in nightly outreach programs on suburban and rural streets, conduct counselling programs, hold seminars in suicide prevention, provide education, training and rehabilitation programs for the homeless, addicted and unemployed. This approach prevents addictions developing, helps rehabilitate those on drugs and educates people about the consequences of addiction. Our call is to restore and reform, the individual. The Wayside Chapel should help clients get over their addictions, not encourage them in them.

The focus of the current Drug Summit has been on making it easier, cheaper, cleaner, healthier, for people to continue to inject drugs. This does not take into account the impact of drugs on the lives of people injecting them, their families and the community at large. Continuous use of drugs, no matter how easy, cheap, clean, disease free... will still lead to death. Wesley Mission emphasizes helping people change their lives, be rehabilitated and find new life. Yesterday the UK's head of research and treatment into drugs Keith Hellawell said that pilot projects found that issuing Drug Treatment and Training Orders instead of simply jailing drug users, dramatically reduced re-offending rates. He found criminal activity halved after treatment. For every 1 spent on drug treatment, 3 is saved on the costs of crime. Treatment orders are to be extended nationwide. Here is a positive response rather than our making drugs more available, easier to use, and more socially acceptable.

Our Premier Bob Carr is willing to listen, and he does seek advice. Recently, he asked me to spend an hour privately with him in giving him insight on several social problems we face going into the twentyfirst century. I told him about those issues. After the Drug Summit, Mr Carr said "The view I reached is that life is an inherently disappointing experience for most human beings. Some people can't cope with that. Epidemic levels of illicit drugs were now available. My view is that this comprises the problem: a propensity of human beings to compensate for the mediocrity of their existence." That is precisely the point. For most people, life is inherently disappointing and they use drugs to compensate for the mediocrity of their existence.

I said in a major article in the Sydney Morning Herald we would support trials of shooting galleries, if they were under the control of the Health Department, not in Church vestries and charity basements, in communities that will accept them, and where adequate referrals can be made for rehabilitation. But we have to do more in prevention, education and rehabilitation. That is why we intend to launch a state-wide program: "How To Drug-Proof Your Kids" in conjunction with "Focus On The Family." It is up to organizations like Wesley Mission to provide both the rehabilitation programs and a message to help people find life meaningful without drugs. That is a tough task. But hundreds of thousands of people turn to Wesley Mission Sydney every year with frustration and feelings of powerlessness and inadequacy seeking something better of life. For them this is as good as it gets.

The twentyfirst century is like nothing else humanity has ever encountered before. The future is not what it used to be. Once the future just came to us. Today the future overwhelms us. Things are changing for all of us. Who is planning for the new millennium? Who is tackling the tough tasks? Any planning must start with recognition of the changes about us. The Australian society we grew up in is rapidly changing. Those changes impinge upon everything we value. Hugh Mackay in "Reinventing Australia" (A & R) says: "Australians in the last quarter of the 20th century have become a nation of pioneers; some heroically, some reluctantly, some painfully. We have been plunged into a period of unprecedented social, cultural, political, economic and technological change in which the Australian way of life is being radically redefined. Everything is being questioned. Whether we realize it or not, all Australians are becoming New Australians as we struggle partly to shape the future to our own liking." (p6) Many Australians are coping badly with these social changes. People feel themselves to be operating on a short fuse.

The general level of anxiety in the community is such that it only requires a small spark to ignite feelings of irritation, helplessness, frustration, anger or violence. Many Australians are suffering from the Last Straw syndrome. The last couple of decades have been a period in which Australians have been swept along on the tide of relentless change. We have been forced to "reinvent the Australian way of life on the run." Wesley Mission is tackling these tough tasks.

We have had 50 people or more every single day in Randwick and Kenningston cleaning up after the East Sydney hail damage. Our Work for the Dole people have been helping the 1.9 million chicken and bird kill at Mangrove Mountain to contain the dreaded Newcastle disease. Our financial counsellors are working among Aborigines out of Cooper Pedy who are taken down by unscrupulous second hand car dealers from Adelaide. Wesley Legal Counselling Services has been fighting in court on behalf of compulsive gamblers where the licensed club has failed in its duty of care and where a 79 year old gambling granny was sent to jail for poker machine debts.

Wesley Mental Health programs are caring for people with psychiatric illness, including in our Wandine and Wesley Private Hospitals. Families in crisis are increasing in number and Wesley Dalmar Child and Family care has been helping families and children by the thousand. Wesley Mission has been tackling the problem of homelessness with innovative ideas and effective programs. Hundreds of homeless adults, woman and children and street kids now have adequate private dwellings, or have been restored to their families. For three years I served in the Prime Minister's Task Force establishing pilot programs all over Australia, researching the problems, discovering what does and does not work, then providing adequate support for a new national program in 80 centres in city and rural Australia. We have tackled the tough tasks and won. We soon will auction the first Home for Hope which will provide funds for housing the homeless.

This year 1,500 underprivileged kids will find hope and training in our Vision Valley, Mangrove Mountain, and Pendleton Farm Retreats. Meanwhile we continue daily with the heavy nursing of more than 2000 aged people in our nursing homes, hostels, hospitals, retirement villages, and for hundreds of homebound people through Wesley Home Care. Our Home Maintenance and Modification Service brings carpenters and handymen into people's homes to adapt them and repair them so that older people, disabled people and those suffering strokes can continue to live at home. In our Lottie Stewart Hospital Wesley Mission has become
the State-wide centre of excellence in caring for sufferers of Huntington's Disease, and our Spinal centre provides on-going care for paraplegics confined to wheel chairs.

Wesley Mission is tackling the tough tasks of acceptance of all kinds of people in our congregations. Wesley Centre provides a mid-city place where thousands of people come each week for friendship, meals, education and worship. We are the largest provider of Counselling services in the nation, through LifeLine, our telephone counselling, CreditLine our financial Counselling, our Life Force Suicide counselling, our Compulsive gambling counselling service and so on. We now cover the nation with trained counsellors who listen and guide people into better options.

Today, in Wesley Centre, the Commonwealth Minister For Employment Tony Abbott, announced new national employment strategies.

He chose Wesley Mission, because he acknowledges the work of Wesley Employment Centres through the State as being among the most effective organizations for getting people into real jobs. At the same time we continue with all our other work in the media, in film and video production, in training prisoners in the justice system, in recycling clothing for the poor, and this year we will start establishing a new Wesley Centre for child and family care in Cambodia, and our work parties will build a school and community library in the Pacific island of Rotuma.

Wesley Mission is tackling the tough tasks. The result is that we enter the twentyfirst century at the strongest point in our 187-year history. We continue to grow. God has been faithful throughout all this time. We have undertaken during this past twenty years of my ministry hundreds of millions of dollars of buildings in order to do the work of ministry. No church in the world has spent so much on new buildings as we have. There is no church in the United States, for example, that has over 2,200 paid staff. How can we possibly afford all this? God's work, done in His name, never lacks God's supplies. Over all the years, God has been faithful, and enabled us to accomplish great works. We are a people of commitment, personal discipline, obedience to the Word, proclaiming the Gospel and serving those who cannot repay. We pray for God's provision, and He is always faithful. We tackle the tough tasks, and as a result we are in good shape to face the twenty-first century.

Rev Dr Gordon Moyes

Send an e-mail to Gordon Moyes - gkmoyes@wesleymission.org.au

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