Standing up for social justice

From left: Benson Igua Saulo, David Ritter, Melissa Castan and Ruth Barson.

DISCUSSION and debate abounded as Stand Up presented its Social Justice Summit last weekend.

The event, co-hosted by Plus61J, offered a smattering of ideas by social justice trailblazers who are creating impact, “beyond the tribe”.

Kicking off with an opening dinner on Saturday evening, CEO of the Asylum Seeker Resource Centre Kon Karapanagiotidis gave an inspiring keynote address, followed by reflections from Caulfield Hebrew Congregation’s Rabbi Ralph Genende. Sunday saw a jam-packed program which tackled everything from gender roles and identity, and the issues of homelessness and the environment.

Several panels were also held throughout the day. Topics included, “Working towards solidarity in Indigenous Justice” presented by academic Melissa Castan, human rights lawyer Ruth Barson, Indigenous leader Benson Igua Saulo and Greenpeace CEO, David Ritter; “Challenging racism and ethnic stereotypes: Walking in the shoes of Melbourne’s Sudanese community” was examined with Stand Up’s Sudanese program Coordinator Lisa Buchner, Haja Adam who immigrated from Darfur and Shema Mohamed, the daughter of a Sudanese refugee; and “The good, the bad and the ugly: How the media impacts on social justice conversations,” which was moderated by Plus61J editor, Michael Visontay, and featured Benjy Preiss journalist from The Age and Rebecca Davis, features editor of The AJN.

Preiss and Davis spoke on the importance and challenges in reporting on social justice stories, humanising tragedies and the positive impact that media can have in affecting change.

“As a journalist, it is wonderful to see people engaged in conversations about the media and the role that it plays,” reflected Davis.

Zara Sarzin held a discussion which also highlighted those in the margins, sharing her insights from working in the field of international development with the World Bank.

She spoke on her post in Tanzania where she led a team that designed and improved urban infrastructure and expanded access to urban services across 7 major Tanzanian cities; to the $100 million project that she managed with the objective of improving local services and governance to South Sudan.

“I am motivated by moral imperative to act and address these problems,” Sarzin said, continuing “further, if we don’t act, I believe that these problems will arrive on our doorstep.”

Stand Up CEO Gary Samowitz mused that the Summit had “exceeded all expectations”.

“The speakers were engaging and inspiring, the attendees were deeply enthralled, and there was just a vibrant energy pervading the event,” he enthused.