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Australian ambassador commends Adventist contributions in health, education

Former deputy PM Beazley says secular country supports religion

Australian ambassador commends Adventist contributions in health, education

Australia's Ambassador to the United States Kim Beazley had the rapt attention of nearly 20 Adventist Church leaders during a protocol lunch on April 10 during a visit to the denomination's headquarters. He spoke briefly on many aspects of Australia, drawing on knowledge from his long and varied political career. From left: John Graz, director of the Adventist Church's Public Affairs and Religious Liberty department; Ambassador Beazley; Adventist Church President Ted N. C. Wilson; and Education department director Lisa Beardsley-Hardy. [photo: Ansel Oliver]

Australia’s ambassador to the United States visited with Seventh-day Adventist Church leaders last week at the denomination’s headquarters, affirming the South Pacific country’s commitment to religious freedom and discussing the government’s ongoing financial support for private education.

Kim Beazley, the former deputy prime minister, thanked church leaders for hosting him in his first visit since he became ambassador in 2010.

“There’s a wonderful sense of peace and purpose about this building and about the people in it. That comes, of course, with the experience everybody in this place has had at the cross and what it means in their lives,” Beazely told a group of church leaders during a protocol lunch on April 10.

Beazley spoke briefly on a variety of subjects, drawing on his knowledge of the country from his long and varied political career in the federal government. Beazley has served as Minister for Transport and Communications, Defence, Finance, and Employment.

He said Australia is a largely secular society, but its government funds private schools, including religious institutions. Beazley also said faith-based institutions are the most reliable in delivering aid at home and abroad, particularly through health and education initiatives. “Adventists are enormously present in both,” he said.

Church leaders thanked Beazley for Australia’s religious freedom and government funding of private schools.

“We want you to know that Seventh-day Adventists are very much part of helping to build the structure of society, …and we are extremely gratified that Australia provides full religious freedom,” said Adventist Church President Ted N. C. Wilson.

Australia’s federal and state governments fund private schools on an as-needed basis, anywhere from 25 percent to 100 percent or more, based on specials needs or populations they serve, Beasley said.

Education director Lisa Beardsley-Hardy said she was proud of Beazley’s father, who served as Minister for Education in the 1970s and introduced the government funding for schools.

“I wanted to publically thank you for what your father has done in making distinction between choice and conscience and allowing federal funds going to parents who wish to educate their children in private schools for reasons of conscience,” she told Beazley.

The Adventist Church in Australia has more than 58,000 members and operates nearly 50 primary and secondary schools, as well as Avondale College. The church there also operates Sanitarium Health and Wellbeing Company, which produces the national iconic breakfast cereal Weet-bix.

The Adventist Church headquarters and the International Religious Liberty Association periodically host diplomats to strengthen relationships in the promotion of religious freedom. In the last year alone, diplomats have visited from Cuba, Fiji, Romania, Switzerland and Zambia.