Forty Australian Christian women leaders made an historic visit to Canberra on Wednesday to meet with politicians to discuss issues including violence against women and children in Pacific island nations.

The delegation, which included representatives from the Baptist, Anglican, Catholic,  Uniting and Seventh Day Adventist churches as well as the Australian Christian Churches, Hillsong, The Salvation Army, Churches of Christ, Bible Society, TEAR Australia and World Vision Australia, is the largest of its kind to ever visit Parliament and was coordinated through the efforts of Micah Australia

Womens delegation

The delegation of women Christian leaders outside Australia's Parliament House. PICTURE: Supplied.

They met with almost 45 political representatives, including Federal Government ministers and MPs from both of Australia's major political parties, to advocate for policies supporting and protecting women and children in the Pacific. 

Data contained in a recent report released by NGOs World Vision, Save the Children, Plan International and ChildFund shows that more than 70 per cent of children living in eight countries in the Pacific experience violent discipline at home - including 75 per cent of the child population in Papua New Guinea - and that one in four adolescent girls regularly experience physical violence and one in 10 girls experience sexual violence.

Among those in the delegation was Kate Harrison Brennan, CEO of Anglican Deaconess Ministries. She said it was hoped the meetings would encourage the various women leaders "to continue exhibiting compassionate leadership – keeping women and children in the Pacific front of view when making decisions that will affect them.”   

“If we’re to heed the call to love and care for our neighbour, we must see the great need of our neighbours in the Pacific – particularly women and children – who are often living in very vulnerable situations," she said.

Rev Dr Seforosa Carroll, who is charged with looking after theological research and church partnerships at Uniting Church organisation UnitingWorld, said since more than 90 per cent of the Pacific identify as Christian, "we’re compelled to speak up for justice as well as emphasise the importance of churches as critical and integral partners for empowering women".

“It’s essential for us to ensure our government’s ‘Pacific Step Up’ policies reflect the voices and needs of the vulnerable and marginalised in the Pacific, and that women are given a seat and have a voice at the table.” 

The women urged the government to make sure its commitment in the Pacific does not come at the cost of support to other parts of the world and called for an increase in the Australia foreign aid budget, which they say is now at its lowest level in history.