Thomas More Centre Youth follow up World Youth Day

Thomas More Centre Youth follow up World Youth Day

Bridget Spinks

The Thomas More Centre (TMC) Youth is a group of young Australians with a Christian belief and pro-life ethos who receive formation to be instruments of change in Victoria, Queensland and NSW. Taking a stand on important issues is one way to bear witness to Christ. The Thomas More Centre Youth runs summer and winter summits aimed at familiarising young people with Christian social teachings so that they can make a difference in society.

Bridget Spinks is the NSW coordinator of the Thomas More Centre Youth in Sydney and is in her fifth year of a BA in Communications & International Studies at UTS.

Whether it be by helping the poor, becoming a catechist or attending the local Theology on Tap, a new generation of young Catholics is weaving its own social fabric of support with others who believe in the same ideals and way of life.

One network with a putting-your-faith-in-the-public-square attitude is the Thomas More Centre (TMC) Youth, which was recently re-ignited in Sydney to run alongside active bases in Melbourne and Brisbane.

TMC Youth provides opportunities for formation in the Catholic faith and instruction in Catholic social teachings through retreats and public lectures that better prepare young people to help shape society in line with God's plan.

To this end, earlier this year Matthew Restall, 19, presented the Thomas More Centre (TMC) in Melbourne and the Australian Family Association (AFA) with the idea of initiating a petition in order to secure a ban on sexual advertisements from roads and public spaces in Victoria and NSW. The TMC and AFA immediately gave their full support and assistance.

To coincide with this youth-driven campaign, the Thomas More Centre Youth invited Maggie Hamilton, author of What's happening to Our Girls?, to give a public lecture in southern NSW in mid-September to explain how advertising sparks the early sexualisation of children.

The issue of advertisements directed at children for new toy lines and adult theme children's clothing has been in the public spotlight all year. We all know about Millie Cyrus and Bill Henson, and have been asked if we 'want longer lasting SEX?'. It's all so in-your-face.

Not only does Maggie Hamilton's book ask 'What's happening to our girls?' but it provides practical answers for parents.

Through the voices of over 100 girls, Hamilton presents a graphic picture of what young girls are dealing with today, along with an explicit insight into their world.

Alongside the TMC and AFA, Maggie Hamilton has fully supported the petition to remove sexualised ads from roads and public spaces.

For Matthew Restall to wage a successful 21st century battle to ban sexual ads from the mainstream public eye in Victoria and NSW, he not only needs the backing of these organisations but also the support of the wider public.

Advertising standards

In the weeks leading up to Maggie's tour, when the foundations were being laid to garner support for the petition in NSW and Victoria, the Advertising Standards Bureau overturned an 18-month-old decision they had made regarding an ad for sexual dysfunction.

While not officially citing this 'Saying NO to sexual advertisements' campaign the ASB have acknowledged that community standards have changed.

'The board acknowledged that in the time since the original decision, debate in the community about the sexualisation of children has crystallised community concern about the unsolicited exposure of children to advertisements dealing with sexuality,' Advertising Standards Bureau (ASB) chief executive officer, Alison Abernethy, said in a statement in August.

Before World Youth Day, Matthew Restall drove from Melbourne to Sydney and Canberra to encourage young people to stand up for what they believe in and to take the petition to their local churches to collect signatures. He approached the Archbishop of Sydney, Cardinal George Pell, and the Archbishop of Canberra-Goulburn, Mark Coleridge. Both have given their support to the petition.

By mid-August, the campaign had gathered 1,000 signatures of support and by mid-September that number had more than doubled.

By late August, the ASB had decided to uphold complaints against the Advanced Medical Institute's 'Want longer lasting SEX?' billboards. The decision came three months after the initial circulation of the petition.

The ASB decision indicates what can happen when young people within the Church get together to bring a return to the good, the true and the beautiful.

Inadvertently, this decision has blown wind into our sails to continue to keep up the good fight, but we need more support to make real and permanent change.

One might argue that the seeds of World Youth Day were being sown when young Catholics started preparing themselves and others for the pilgrimage. Others might hold that it was the words of Pope Benedict XVI that really planted crops, inspiring those present to leave a legacy and bear witness to Christ.

Either way, the hope for the future of the Church has been germinating and this year sprouted - some seedlings earlier than others. We are, it seems, on the brink of a new Pentecost. The Holy Spirit has evidently been pouring His grace upon young Australians, inspiring them to follow their vocation, and to hear His call to bring Christ into the public square.

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