News Archive 2019
Casual Ex-Religious Support Meetup in Gardens
28 Dec 2019 – In 2019, our Ex-Religious Support Network (ESN) met on 11 occasions in Melbourne. For our last get-together for the year, four of us gathered on Saturday morning 14 December in the beautiful surroundings of the local gardens. As we sipped our coffees, we shared our experiences with religion, our current challenges and delights and our plans for the future. Our diverse previous life experiences (one Muslim, two Christian and one humanist) provided for a rich and engaging conversation. We want to thank all of our members for their wonderful support of this group. In a little over a year, the Facebook group has grown to 126 committed members and our Melbourne Meetup group has grown to over 100 dedicated members. This year, we’ll continue with a variety of events and opportunities for developing lasting friendships. We encourage you to share with us new ideas for this year as well. Find out more and join up at Ex-Religious Support Network.
Premier’s Volunteer of the Year Champion’s Award 2019
5 Dec 2019 – Humanists Victoria Editor and Past President, Rosslyn Ives (pictured front left), attended the fifth Premier’s Volunteer Champions Awards at Government House on 1 December. These Awards recognise Victorians who give up their own time and resources to support others in every aspect of community life, including sport, health, emergency services, youth, aged care, multiculturalism, animal welfare and the environment. Ros attended on behalf of Dr Max Wallace (Rationalist Association of NSW) who, in association with Dr Meredith Doig (Rationalist Society of Australia) (pictured front right), was responsible for the nomination of Steven Unthank for an award in the Impact category. This is the first time a former Jehovah’s Witness has won an award for protecting children. For the award, Steven was described thus: “As a volunteer ‘bush lawyer’, counsellor, mediator and researcher, Steven holds institutions accountable for protecting children. In 2008, Steven commenced action in the Magistrates Court in Victoria to force organisations to comply with Working With Children Check laws. Since then, he has continued to work with families and the government to strengthen child protection laws and is now sought-after internationally as an expert in institutional culture that adversely affects child safety. Thanks to Steven’s work, more than 150 small organisations and 2,000 volunteers working with children in the community now comply with Working With Children Check requirements.” Steven (with Lara Kaput) has addressed Humanists Victoria in 2018 on Supporting Survivors of Religion and in 2019 on Religious Institutions and the Harm They Do. Humanists Victoria congratulates Steven on his well-deserved award.
Ex-Religious Support Network Share Stories
17 Nov 2019 – On Sunday morning, eight of us gathered in Melbourne for our 15th meeting of our Ex-Religious Support Network (ESN). This month, we viewed the moving story of Chris Johnson. Chris was a missionary in Japan for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (Mormon Church) for a number of years. After his older brother committed suicide, a member of the church promised that he had a special calling to bring his brother back to life. That failed attempt started Chris on a journey examining the mental gymnastics of preserving faith in the face of evidence. After his life hit rock bottom, it took him another year to find new joy and meaning in a life without God. Watching the video of Chris’ journey prompted a lot of discussion and reflection from the attendees. You can watch Chris’ short video, ‘How I discovered truth‘. We thanked everyone who helped with the cleaning and packing up afterwards. Find out more and join up at Ex-Religious Support Network.
29 Oct 2019 – For the second year running, Humanists Victoria proudly sponsored the annual Science Talent Search (STS). The competition is open to all students enrolled in Years Foundation to 12 in both Government and non-Government Schools in Victoria. Our sponsorship encourages young students to work collaboratively on today’s and tomorrow’s challenges. We especially seek to encourage young girls and women to become scientists and teachers of science. The awards were presented on Monday 28 October in the Union Hall at La Trobe University, Bundoora Campus. Leslie Allan (Vice President), Rosslyn Ives (Victorian Humanist Editor and Past President) and Stephen Stuart (Secretary and Past President) attended the exhibitions and awards. They were very impressed by the amount of effort put into the displays and the outstanding quality of the student exhibitions. This year, our Humanists Victoria sponsorship provided bursaries to 29 students. Read Full News Item …
Ex-Religious Support Network Meets LGBTI Activist
20 Oct 2019 – On Sunday morning, we gathered in Melbourne for our 14th meeting of our Ex-Religious Support Network (ESN). LGBTI activist, Geoff Allshorn, shared with us his personal journey from living as a committed Christian to becoming an atheist campaigner. After dealing with years of suppression and dehumanization within the church, he finally broke free of the church’s psychological stranglehold. Geoff talked about his efforts over the last several years in combating the now discredited gay conversion therapy, putting religious privilege within the LGBTI community in its place and winning equality for gay and lesbians. Geoff’s talk inspired many questions from the audience and lots of discussion. We thank Geoff for sharing so openly and Brian Jones for organizing the refreshments. Find out more and join up at Ex-Religious Support Network.
New Humanists Melbourne Meetup Formed
6 Oct 2019 – Today, Humanists Victoria launched Humanists Melbourne in the international Meetup network. Humanists Victoria intends this Meetup as a place for humanist-minded people to congregate in our great city. It is a great opportunity to get the humanist philosophy into the public consciousness and helps us satisfy our strategic objective of improving our public profile. We welcome all freethinkers to our Meetup, including atheists, agnostics, secularists, rationalists and progressive religious. There are no joining fees and there’s no fuss. The Meetup is all about getting together with a great bunch of people. By joining, members will get instant notifications of upcoming Humanists Victoria Public Lectures and other events associated with Humanists Victoria. You’ll also get to explore many other Meetups in Melbourne and elsewhere. Find out more and join Humanists Melbourne Meetup.
Joint Education Project with Rationalist Society of Australia
1 Oct 2019 – Humanists Victoria and the Rationalist Society of Australia (RSA) are engaged in a joint project to produce education materials for Australian school teachers and students. The materials will be targeted initially at Years 7 to 10 and will draw on the abundance of high quality content already developed by the National Secular Society (UK) and Humanists UK. Our aim is to engage an education consultant to map selected content to the Australian curriculum and adapt it for the Australian context. We are aiming for the materials to be released for the start of the 2021 school year. This project is a significant project for us as it substantively moves us toward our Strategic Goal No. 2 (Improve HSV public profile).
Successful Meetup of Ex-Religious Support Network
15 Sep 2019 – For our 12th meeting of the Ex-Religious Support Network (ESN) on 12th September, ten of us met in a cosy little pub in Melbourne. Over a tasty meal, we were treated to our special guest who flew down from her hometown in Queensland. Claire Ashman told her story about living within two Catholic Communities, the latter one turning out to being a restrictive and abusive cult. She spoke openly and honestly about the travails of challenging the leaders and then making the final break, with all of eight children in her care. She is now making a new life writing about her experiences, helping others leave their cult behind and enrolling in a university to study. Many of us closely identified with Claire’s experiences and the questions and conversation could have gone on all night. We thanked Claire for being so giving of her time and for being so open with us. Find out more and join up at Ex-Religious Support Network.
Radio Interview on 3WBC 94.1 FM
10 Sep 2019 – On 5 September, Humanists Victoria Vice-President, Les Allan, was interviewed by Iain Messer on his radio show, Messeround. Joining him was fellow Humanists Victoria member, Paul Tonson. For an hour, they discussed their take on the current freedom of religion debate, the work of our Ex-Religious Support Network, religion in schools and a variety of other issues. They also talked about how the religious can work with humanists on common social causes and our respective differences. You can hear the podcast in the Podcasts section of our Resources web page.
St Leonard’s College Student Talks on Humanism
5 Sep 2019 – Humanities Teacher and Head of Comparative Religion at St Leonard’s College (Brighton), Megan Scott, invited Humanists Victoria to talk to the College’s students on Humanism. From 16 August to 4 September, Humanists Victoria President, Rod Bower, and Vice-President, Les Allan (pictured), delivered a series of six talks to Year 9 students. These talks contributed to the subject the students are studying titled: ‘The Good Life’. As part of their studies, they examine a variety of viewpoints, including Humanism, Christianity, Utilitarianism, Virtue Ethics and Consumerism. The short talks covered three areas: Why I’m a Humanist, What Is Humanism? and the Humanist View of the Good Life. Rod and Les were delighted with this seminal opportunity to present Humanism to the next generation of citizens. They left behind 30 copies of our new fold-out pamphlet and authorised the school to place a transcript of the talk on the school server as a resource for teachers and students. You can download the transcript of the talk, Humanism and the Good Life, from the Learning Resources section of our Resources web page.
Humanists Victoria Online Membership Portal Now Live
1 Sep 2019 – We are delighted to announce implementation of TidyHQ, our online membership management system. The new system makes managing membership and administration tasks easier for our members and our Committee. Joining for new members is also now so much easier. All members with an email address will now receive automated reminders from TidyHQ when their membership is due for renewal. New and renewing members will now be able to pay their membership fee online using their credit card. Paying by cheque and direct debit remains available options. Visit our membership page for more information.
Hurstbridge Wattle Festival Stall
30 Aug 2019 – On Sunday 25 August, Humanists Victoria held a stall at the Hurstbridge Wattle Festival and we were delighted with the response. We had a prime spot for the stall, for which our new banner, A-frame and tri-fold brochures provided a consistent and attractive look to promote Humanists Victoria. Many thanks go to Humanists Victoria member, Annie Whitlocke, who generously donated three big boxes of glass-blown wind chimes and light catchers for us to sell at the stall and raise funds. Our featured ‘energy bicycle’ enticed passerbys to pedal to power a desk lamp with the help of a small generator. It was a great hit, especially with the children. And with some of the grown-up kids as well!
Ex-Jehovah’s Witness Shares What It Was Like
18 Aug 2019 – Twelve people attended the 18 August meeting of the Ex-Religious Support Network (ESN) in Melbourne. Our special guest, Sarah Blaire, shared her experiences living within the Jehovah’s Witnesses religious sect. She told of the restrictions to normal living imposed by the Elders, her abuse within the church and the unconscionable way she was treated. Fuelled by ever-increasing doubts, she eventually left the church that was home to her family for four generations. She shared how she is adjusting to life outside the cult and the work she is doing to reach those still trapped inside. Her growing collection of Responsible Witness YouTube videos appeal to followers remaining within the church, with the intention of encouraging reform from within. There were many questions and lots of discussion from the participants. We thank Sarah for her openness and sincerity in sharing her story and all of the helpers who assisted with the event. For our September social meetup, our guest will take us on her journey as she escaped from a Catholic apocalyptic sect. Find out more and join up at Ex-Religious Support Network.
July Ex-Religious Meetup Q&A
23 Jul 2019 – Twelve of us met for the 11th meeting of the Ex-Religious Support Network (ESN) in Melbourne on 21 July. For this session, Les Allan interviewed former leader of the Zion Full Salvation Ministry cult, David Ayliffe. David was first drawn into the cult just prior to its break from the Anglican Church. The cult leader, Violet Pryor, quickly gained a following with her flamboyant and confident style. Her claimed stigmata also gave her credibility as God’s representative on Earth. As the cult gathered substantial assets, Violet became more and more unpredictable and controlling. On her death in 1996, David took the reins as leader. His doubts grew till they reached tipping point when he revisited the volumes of notes dictated by Violet. The notes, supposedly recording Violet’s conversations with God, revealed a woman who was completely mentally unbalanced. David disbanded the group, distributed the assets and went on to lead a (mostly) normal life. During and after the interview with David, there were many questions and comments from the participants. We graciously thank David for his openness and honesty in retelling his story. We also thank Brian Jones for supplying the refreshments and for the many hands that helped clean up. Find out more about the Ex-Religious Support Network. To be notified of our upcoming events, join our ESN Meetup group.
22 Jun 2019 – Humanists Australia has awarded this year’s Australian Humanist of the Year award to celebrated animal rights campaigner, Lyn White. At the award held on 22 June at Humanist House in Chippendale, Sydney, Ms White expressed her deep appreciation: “I am deeply honoured to be chosen as the 2019 Australian Humanist of the Year. In so many ways, my efforts and that of my organisation Animals Australia to create a kinder, more ethical world, align with the important work of the humanism movement. While my work as an animal advocate often entails witnessing great cruelty, I am sustained by an unshakable belief in the human potential, and an unquenchable desire to see that potential fulfilled. The recognition by the Humanist Society of our human responsibility to consider the interests of all of the vulnerable in our society and ensure their well-being, means a great deal.” Read media release …
June Ex-Religious Meetup Success
16 Jun 2019 – For our June gathering of our Ex-Religious Support Network (ESN), 10 of us met in comfortable surroundings. In our popular Q&A format, ESN convenor, Les Allan, interviewed Sunday Assembly organizers, Matt Fraser and Caoimhe Geraghty about their transition from Pentecostalism and Roman Catholicism respectively. We explored with them the circumstances that persuaded them to break free from their religious upbringings and how they’ve made a new life for themselves independent of their former religious communities. Lots of questions and discussion with the other participants ensued. Find out more about the Ex-Religious Support Network. To be notified of our upcoming events, join our ESN Meetup group.
New Members’ Social Gathering
1 Jun 2019 – On Tuesday 21 May, an informal gathering for new members was held at the ACMI Café on Federation Square. Nine people who had recently joined the HSV came along with three committee members, a Secular Spiritual Care representative and our community Engagement Officer, Sue James. The informal social nature of the event enabled everyone to mix around and exchange views, especially on the whys and wherefores of how they had been attracted to Humanism. Many thanks go to Sue, who organised this very successful event.
May Ex-Religious Meetup with Rod Bower
20 May 2019 – Ten of us met for the ninth meeting of the Ex-Religious Support Network (ESN) on Sunday 19 May. We welcomed three new members to the meeting. In our popular Q&A format, ESN Facilitator, Les Allan, interviewed current Humanists Victoria President, Rod Bower. Rod shared openly his long journey beginning with his very active involvement in Methodist and Pentecostalist Churches through to his initial periods of doubt to his eventual embracing of Humanism. Many questions were raised by interested meeting participants who saw some significant parallels with their own journey from faith in the unseen to belief in the seen. We continued the lively discussion over coffee and biscuits. Thank you, Rod, for being open and honest with your experiences. Next month, we will meet the ex-Pentecostalist who tagged up with an ex-Catholic. Find out more about the Ex-Religious Support Network. To be notified of our upcoming events, join our ESN Meetup group.
Refugee and Humanitarian Program
15 May 2019 – The Refugee Council of Australia is the peak body for around 200 support and advocacy organisations. It has launched its “I CHOOSE HUMANE” pledge campaign and is seeking support for a better approach so it can represent more strongly the pro-refugee voice to government.
The five key policy areas that must be changed for Australia to return to a fair, egalitarian nation that will prosper into the future are:
- permanent end to offshore processing
- fair process for claiming asylum
- reform of the immigration detention system
- larger and more responsive Refugee and Humanitarian Program
- Australia’s improved engagement in Asia
The campaign’s volunteer representatives aim to secure as many signatures as possible in support of these objectives through public meetings, street stalls and other forms of engagement. To assist the “I CHOOSE HUMANE” campaign, visit the Choose Humane pledge web site or contact Kevin Bain at 0413 427 851.
Vale – Marietta Elliott-Kleerkoper ( 31 Dec 1937 – 12 April 2019)
10 May 2019 – Marietta was born in Holland to Jewish parents. This led to her and a sister being placed with foster families during the war years of Nazis occupation. After the war, the re-united family migrated to Australia. Marietta was a highly intelligent, creative person who, after graduating from the University of Melbourne, spent her working life initially as a teacher and then as lecturer in education. She married, had a daughter and son who have produced four much loved grandchildren.
She was an avid reader, played several musical instruments, wrote poetry and, more recently, became a creative photographer. Marietta was an actively involved member of the Humanist Society of Victoria who made an invaluable contribution to Humanist ideas for the school curriculum. At a celebratory gathering on Wednesday 24 April, family members and friends spoke movingly of Marietta’s life.
New Humanists Victoria Logo
22 Apr 2019 – Today, we released our new logo. The traditional Happy Human logo is instantly recognizable and served the international and local humanist communities well since their beginnings in the 1950s. With a desire to tap into modern logo styling approaches, more and more large and small humanist societies have been updating their logo. We also wanted a more modern look to take our local community into the future. Our aim was to create a logo that had flair and inspired us all to work together in spite of our differences. Do you think we have succeeded? What do you like best about our new logo? Tell us what you think by contacting us. Along with our new logo comes a new name. We’ve adopted the new, friendlier title of Humanists Victoria. Our official name remains as Humanist Society of Victoria Inc.
Casual Ex-Religious Support Meetup in Gardens
13 Apr 2019 – Thank you to all who attended our April gathering of the Ex-Religious Support Network (ESN) on 13 April. This time, we met in a popular cafe in gardens close to the city. Eight adults and four children enjoyed the trees and plants of the surrounding gardens while sipping coffees and hot chocolates with a bite to eat. A cloudy start finally led to the sun poking through. With some newcomers, we got to share our stories of escaping the clutches of religious dogmatism and social isolation. We give a special thanks to Lara for spreading the message about the ESN and encouraging newcomers to attend. Find out more about the Ex-Religious Support Network.
March Ex-Religious Meetup with Jacquie O’Brien
20 Mar 2019 – For our March meeting of the Ex-Religious Support Network (ESN) held on Sunday 17 March, we hosted fifteen enthusiastic attendees. Jacquie O’Brien, Director of Public Affairs at Marie Stopes Australia, took us through the findings of a recent White Paper released by Marie Stopes Australia. This White Paper on reproductive coercion gathered many submissions and recommended a number of key actions. Jacquie discussed some of the structural issues in Australia that prevent some people from making decisions about their sexual and reproductive health. Using the Catholic Church as a case study, she discussed the many ways the cultural, theological and political influences of the Church restrict reproductive choices both at the personal and the social level. Participants asked many questions both during and after Jacquie’s talk. Thank you, Jacquie, for your very informative and challenging talk and Brian for organizing the morning tea. Find out more about the Ex-Religious Support Network.
Name Change from IHEU
5 Mar 2019 – After 67 years of activity, the International Humanist and Ethical Union
(IHEU) will be now called Humanists International (HI). This name change is the result of three years of discussion among the membership and is intended to give the organisation a fresh look with a new logo. IHEU, formed in 1952, is made up of over 160 affiliated societies in 80 countries around the world. Australian Humanists are affiliated with HI through the Council of Australian Humanist Societies (CAHS). Since its formation as IHEU, it has had non-government status at the United Nations and has actively supported those facing religious discrimination. HI now also produces an annual The Freedom of Thought Report that covers the legal status and discrimination against humanists, atheists and the non-religious from anywhere in the world.
The explanation for the original IHEU name can be found in the organisations that co-sponsored the 1952 Congress held in Amsterdam. Three used the word ‘Humanist’ in their name (American Humanist Association, Dutch and Belgium Humanist Leagues, Indian Radical Humanists), while three used ‘Ethical’ (British Ethical Union, American Ethical Union, Vienna Ethical Society). Why they decided on ‘Union’ rather than ‘Society’ was probably a reflection of the times and inclinations of those active in the formation of IHEU.
Vale – Rudolf Anders (1938 – 21 Feb 2019)
5 Mar 2019 – Rudi was born in the Netherlands and spent his very early years living though German occupation during World War II. In the 1960s, along with other members of his family, Rudi emigrated to Australia. In his retirement years, Rudi became involved in a number of community groups and enjoyed spending time in the country where he and Shirley had a second home.
For many years, he was a very active HSV member, attending most meetings, writing articles and poems published in the Australian Humanist and Victorian Humanist. He was also a regular helper with the newsletter mailout. Rudi made useful suggestions on how to promote Humanism. He prepared several flyers to be placed in libraries and community centres. In recent years, he also made generous donations to the HSV. His quiet demeanour, thoughtful contributions and willingness to assist will be greatly missed. He was an exemplary humanist.
Informative February Ex-Religious Support Network Meeting
20 Feb 2019 – A cosy group of eight attended the sixth meeting of the Ex-Religious Support Network (ESN) on 17 February. In our Q&A format, our speaker, Margaret Livingstone, shared her experiences growing up in a Free Methodist household in USA. After losing her religion early on, she spoke of how she became involved with Sunday Assembly in Australia much later. She is the current President of the Melbourne Chapter and organizes the monthly speakers. The Sunday Assembly, she explained, also contributes to charitable activities. Meeting on the last Sunday each month in the Richmond Library Meeting Room, it attracts a diverse range of atheists and agnostics of various political persuasions and ages. Margaret emphasized how meetings are informal and include a mix of activities, including short addresses by invited speakers, sing-a-longs, short meditations and readings. All are welcome. Visit the Sunday Assembly Melbourne web site to find out more. We thank Margaret for her informative talk and Brian for organizing the morning tea. Find out more about the Ex-Religious Support Network.
Successful Ex-Religious Support Network Meeting
1 Feb 2019 – The fifth meeting of the Ex-Religious Support Network (ESN) was held on the last day in January in a casual pub surrounding. It was exceptionally well attended, with 20 people sharing a meal and great conversation. Many new friendships were formed. In a casual interview format, HSV Vice President and ESN Facilitator, Les Allan, asked our guest speaker, Peter Veitch, about his experiences growing up Seventh-day Adventist and eventually breaking with the church. Our special thanks go to Peter for so eloquently and honestly telling his story. Many in the room nodded in sympathy, recalling their own experiences growing up in a religion. HSV also thanks Lara Kaput, Leah Boulton and others for getting the word out there.
Secular Spiritual Care
20 Jan 2019 – Are you interested in becoming a non-religious support person for people dealing with illness, trauma, transition or loss? A free two-day training course for ‘secular spiritual care volunteers’ will take place on 6 and 13 March 2019 at Caulfield Hospital. To learn more about the program, contact Joe Sehee (Program Director) on 0429 933 391 or at firstname.lastname@example.org
Committee of Management
HSV Strategic Planning
15 Jan 2019 – Last year, the HSV Committee consulted Lyn Allison (AHoY 2008) about building our public profile. As a result, the HSV Committee and interested members took part in a forward planning workshop in which our principal challenges were identified. The new Committee held a special meeting on 11 December 2018 to plan for 2019 and beyond, and agreed on six strategic objectives, as follows.
- Build membership – attract new members with a compelling value proposition.
- Retain membership – keep members engaged and actively contributing.
- Improve HSV public profile – effectively utilize online and offline activities to raise public profile.
- Implement targeted programs – drive key programs and projects to completion for social benefits.
- Improve governance – ensure compliance with regulations and improve procedures and training.
- Consolidate financial position – protect the assets of the Society, raise income and ensure prudential spending.
A team of active members will advance each of these objectives, coordinated by a ‘strategic champion’ on Committee. Further, Committee meetings will be streamlined to receive progress reports from the champions.
My GodForsaken Life: Memoir of a Maverick
11 Jan 2019 – Outspoken humanist and campaigner on many causes, Barbara Smoker has written the story of her life. My GodForsaken Life: Memoir of a Maverick is available now in bookshops and online. Barbara’s autobiography is a compelling account of her intellectual journey, her ruthless focus on ethics and principles, and her eccentric bloody-mindedness in challenging the accepted and wrong wisdom of the day. She has been at the forefront of radical movements for seventy years, standing against religion, nuclear weapons and illegal wars. And fighting for humanism, abortion, prison reform, freedom of speech, voluntary euthanasia and LGBT rights. At 95, she is still campaigning. Throughout her life, she has been 20 years ahead of her time in promoting the causes many of us now take for granted.