THE UNITING CHURCH IN AUSTRALIA (MEMBERSHIP OF TRUST) AMENDMENT BILL

Tuesday 17 March, 2015

Mr TARZIA (Hartley) (11:41): Top of the morning to you, Deputy Speaker, on this St Patrick's Day. I note that St Patrick was born in Great Britain, and he was venerated by the Catholic Church, the Eastern Orthodox Church, and also the Anglican and Lutheran churches. It is fitting that we acknowledge him on this special day today. I also rise in support of the bill and, like the members before me, I thought it would also be a fitting opportunity to talk a little bit about the Uniting churches in my own electorate.

Mr TARZIA (Hartley) (11:41): Top of the morning to you, Deputy Speaker, on this St Patrick's Day. I note that St Patrick was born in Great Britain, and he was venerated by the Catholic Church, the Eastern Orthodox Church, and also the Anglican and Lutheran churches. It is fitting that we acknowledge him on this special day today. I also rise in support of the bill and, like the members before me, I thought it would also be a fitting opportunity to talk a little bit about the Uniting churches in my own electorate.

As we have heard, the bill was introduced by the Attorney-General on 11 February, and it removes the provision which requires that a person over 70 has to retire as a member of the Uniting Church in a property trust. This specifically allows persons who turn 70 to continue to serve as trust members. We have heard that the Uniting Church act was passed in 1977 to make the relevant alterations to state law when the three churches—Congregational, Methodist and Presbyterian—amalgamated. It was obviously necessary to make it clear that the churches had the right authority to unite. We heard earlier how the act also established a trust to hold all of the relevant property of the then new Uniting Church. The deputy leader also alluded to the speech that was made by the attorney-general at the time, Peter Duncan, on 6 April 1977. At that time, there was a 70-year age limit placed on members of the trust.

A number of points are raised in this amendment, but firstly I would like to say that 70 is certainly the new 60. For many people, I have learnt, life begins well into retirement, sometimes around the age of 70. I would like to draw the house's attention to some of the churches in my electorate and how they relate to this bill. We have many churches of this denomination in Hartley, namely, the Campbelltown Uniting Church, the Morialta Uniting Church, and the Kensington Gardens Uniting Church.

The Kensington Uniting Church's website alludes to the fact that many of their followers are perhaps more mature than those of other churches. They are a wonderful little parish. They are fantastic for the community, and they offer a range of worship and faith education services, and pastoral care. For many years they have offered support to children, young families and young adults, and social justice. They have a hall which has been used, I believe, as a community centre in the past. They are quite a wonderful little parish and for them I think it would certainly be relevant to at least lift this threshold so that, if members over the age of 70 wish to serve in this capacity that we are talking about, they are able to do so.

Then there is the Campbelltown Uniting Church, ably led by Reverend Douglas Monaghan. He is a wonderful gentleman and, let me just say, you could never meet a more warm, accepting and tolerant church. They are accepting of a wide, diverse range of people, they have a wonderful community focus and they also engage in many outreach activities. They have members of their church who are over the age of 65 and well into their 70s, so for them, too, I think this bill is certainly appropriate.

Then we have the Morialta Uniting Church, which was formed when Magill, Finchley Park, Newton and Rostrevor churches united to form one congregation with two worship centres at Chapel Street, Magill and Bonvue Road, Rostrevor. They are also a fantastic church led by Reverend Steve Thompson. This church is a bit different. They are a little more progressive than most churches of the Christian faith, you could say, but they certainly pride themselves on being committed to providing places where people are cared for, where they are nurtured, where they are sustained and they are committed to the care, protection and safety of all people, especially children and young people. There is a beautiful community garden across the road from that church so they offer a wonderful service to the community.

I have always felt extremely warm towards not only that church but all the Uniting churches in my electorate, and I think this bill is quite appropriate. At the moment section 11(4) of the act, as we have heard, states:

No person who has attained the age of seventy years shall be eligible for appointment as a member of the Trust.

With our current values, it is relevant that this bill amends the current act. It is a little outdated and our values have certainly changed. People are living longer and people are doing more in their retirement so it is only natural that these sorts of laws are amended to reflect the greater wishes of the broader community. I think it is much more in line with community expectations that we move this bill and, accordingly, I commend it to the house.