Katrina Harris from Parkes in Parliament to talk about the Pacific Step-up initiative

CANBERRA: Parkes Christian School teacher Katrina Harris (third from right) - pictured with Riverina Member and Deputy Prime Minister Michael McCormack (centre) - joined 200 Australians and 15 Pacific church leaders in Parliament last month to discuss important issues relating to the Pacific. Photo: Submitted
CANBERRA: Parkes Christian School teacher Katrina Harris (third from right) - pictured with Riverina Member and Deputy Prime Minister Michael McCormack (centre) - joined 200 Australians and 15 Pacific church leaders in Parliament last month to discuss important issues relating to the Pacific. Photo: Submitted

A teacher from Parkes Christian School joined 200 Australians and 15 Pacific church leaders in Parliament at the end of last year to discuss what it means to be a part of the 'Pacific family'.

The advocates shared their support for Australian Aid and discussed what the Pacific Step-up initiative - a relationship that is one of Australia's highest foreign policy priorities - means for Pacific people.

Katrina Harris from Parkes was among those present.

Led by Tim Costello, almost 100 face-to-face meetings with the nation's politicians, including senior ministers, were held as a part of the Voices for Justice Conference hosted by Micah Australia.

Micah Australia is a coalition of churches and Christian organisations that raise a powerful voice for justice and a world free from poverty.

"I went to Canberra because I am one of many who want Australia to be known as a generous and compassionate country which is committed to looking after the vulnerable in our region," Katrina said.

"Pacific church leaders and everyday Aussies standing together in support of Australian Aid is a powerful message that I believe was heard in the halls of Parliament."

The delegation was able to discuss how the Pacific Step-up can be done in a smart and inclusive manner, that puts people and relationships at the centre.

CANBERRA: Parkes Christian School teacher Katrina Harris joined 200 Australians and 15 Pacific church leaders in Parliament last month to discuss important issues relating to the Pacific. Photo: Submitted

CANBERRA: Parkes Christian School teacher Katrina Harris joined 200 Australians and 15 Pacific church leaders in Parliament last month to discuss important issues relating to the Pacific. Photo: Submitted

Mr Costello said "it's by coming together and actively listening to the issues our Pacific brothers and sisters say need addressing most - like work on gender equality, development partnerships and climate change. That's what we've been doing in Parliament with our delegation."

General Secretary of the Pacific Conference of Churches Rev James Bhagwan said the Pacific leaders want to encourage conversations about how Australia can best love its Pacific neighbours.

"The truth is we don't want a 'hand out', or even a 'hand up'. What we want is genuine consultative partnership," he said.

Katrina had a meeting with Member for Riverina, Deputy Prime Minister Michael McCormack in Canberra to discuss how the Parliament can empower local communities in the Pacific to lead their own inclusive and sustainable development, as well as recognise the needs of the most vulnerable, though often resilient members of the Pacific family - women and children.

"It was a privilege to represent the electorate of Riverina and speak out for those whose voices are sometimes not heard in Canberra," Katrina said.

The delegation was in Canberra in early December on the back of news there will be an upcoming aid review, which has been welcomed by Micah.

Mr Costello said "in the geopolitical competition for the Pacific, we must ensure poverty reduction is not lost. We must retain our focus on improving the lives of our Pacific friends and neighbours".

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