Time and chance happen to all (Ecclesiastes 9:11). This truth applies to my own story.
From an early age, I had a desire to make a difference for people facing tough times. I chose a Social Work degree over architecture and law, in the depth of my heart wanting to effect change for people, families, communities, and (little did I know then) the nation I love — Australia.
Over a period of twenty-five years, I worked across Greater Western Sydney serving people struggling with abuse, addiction, family relationships and disadvantage. I had the privilege of seeing many people find solutions and overcome significant challenges to step into a better future. In the course of advocating for the people and communities I served, I had built strong working relationships with members of parliament. This provided the opportunity and chance that lead to a door opening for me to run as a candidate for a federal seat in the Australian Parliament for the Liberal Party.
At first glance, this process seems rather smooth. However, I can assure those reading this story that I experienced many bumps and blessings along the road to that point. Additionally, since stepping into the public eye, I have experienced stark opposition. The decision to take on the challenge, walk through the door, and grasp the opportunity required a resolution in my heart. I believed that in taking on this role I would continue to fulfil what I firmly believed the Creator of heaven and earth had called me to do: Serve the community.
I said yes. And now 12 years later as the Federal member for Macquarie, I sit at the table with leaders of this nation to influence our future. To list all the opportunities I have had to serve people, win policy debates, fight for and secure outcomes for the people I represent, would require many more words. I must say I have not achieved any of this alone. The ongoing support of my family, the Liberal Party and their numerous members, wonderful staff, many volunteers and supporters, my church family, and my parliamentary colleagues have all played a part in the battles I have won.
In a modern democracy, power and influence do not belong to any one person. In fact, each of us can and ought to contribute to the democratic process. This was demonstrated during the late 1700s and early 1800s by a champion of Faith and Freedom who was not afraid to step into the political sphere. William Wilberforce provides us with a great example of how oppressive practices can be strategically challenged to bring about freedom. Indeed, if we truly value our democratic freedoms, we all will take seriously our responsibility to influence lawmakers and legislators to ensure that we and the people we share the planet with have the freedom to pursue their dreams. Now it is important to note that the rule of law is not just about freedom to pursue one’s dreams– It is also about protecting citizens from the harmful practices of those who act to cause harm to their fellow human beings.
William Wilberforce provides us with a great example of how oppressive practices can be strategically challenged to bring about freedom.
Firstly, he did not achieve a change to the law on his own. The people were inspired to join with him in voicing their aspirations for change. Fellow champions who stood with him, planned strategies, prayed, volunteers who travelled far and wide to win the public debate and collect signatures, all who signed the petition and attended public meetings. He also had built significant relationships with parliamentarians, in particular, Prime Ministers William Pitt and William Grenville, both of whom would assist to facilitate a change in laws that would begin the end to the trade in people as slaves.
Unfortunately, the fight against slavery continues today. I had the privilege of hosting the launch of the Australian Freedom Network in Parliament House Canberra on the 2nd of December 2015. This unique Australian Network has been inspired by the work of Mr. Andrew Forrest, Chairman of the Global Freedom Network. The Campaign lead by the Salvation Army in Australia was attended by the Hon Julie Bishop, Minister for Foreign Affairs and the Hon Tanya Plibersek, together with a broad range of leaders from our nation, representing Christian, Jewish, Muslim, Buddhist and Hindu Faiths . The Church and Faith leaders, including Commissioners from the Salvation Army and Pastor Joel A’Bell, representing Hillsong Church, signed a declaration to advocate and take action against slavery. When speaking to the group assembled that day, I reflected on the exhortation to us all in James Chapter 2,verse 17 which reads:
So too, faith, if it does not have works (to back it up), is by itself dead (inoperative and ineffective).
What will we do now? Of course, each of us only has so many hours in the day and there is much that needs changing in our world. The battles led by William Wilberforce spanned 20 years. One speech, one meeting, one signature, one vote in parliament did not change lives. There were many people, meetings, plans, signatures, and failed attempts to pass a bill. But prayers brought change. There are people waiting for you to take up the challenge to fight for their freedom.
Will your faith be evident by action?