For more than 40 years, TEAR Australia has been enabling communities around the world to use their own skills and resources to overcome poverty and marginalisation. Our values are lived out through a mission across two primary sectors of work:
TEAR Australia was originally formed as an arm of the Australian Evangelical Alliance after its then President, Dr. Leon Morris, was inspired to establish a dedicated emergency relief fund. At an AEA Board meeting in July 1971, Dr Morris laid $10 from his own pocket on the Boardroom table, and so The Evangelical Alliance Relief Fund was born. Its original purpose was: “To meet two human needs: one for spiritual direction and assurance, the other for physical help—food, medicine, shelter and clothing… Practical aid in the context of God's love shown in the Lord Jesus.”
Under the AEA, TEAR grew fast. By 1977, the first staff members were appointed, and by 1979, an independent Board was formed. In 1998, and with the blessing of its founding body, TEAR Australia was incorporated as a legally independent agency. We no longer use the original acronym, but rather carry the byline “Transformation, Empowerment, Advocacy, Relief”.
“TEAR Australia is motivated by its understanding of God, the words and actions of Jesus, and the mission that He passed on to the Church. We believe that God loves all people and offers them new life in Christ. The Bible shows us the values and characteristics of the Kingdom of God. The world falls far short of these standards. We believe that God seeks to involve us in the work of the Kingdom. This involves working for justice and hope with and alongside people living with poverty, and advocating for just social and political structures that promote the dignity and security of all people. We are aware of the interconnectedness of human society with the whole of creation and acknowledge our responsibility to respect and care for it.” (Matthew Maury, National Director)
Then, as now, TEAR was formed primarily of voluntary workers. As Tony McCarthy, Chair of the TEAR Board from 1979—2004 writes: “TEAR is, and has always been, a peoples' organisation. It is a community of disciples committed to being practical in expressing their faith; passionate about their discipleship in seeking to express God's love and concern for the poor; and rigorous in exploring the scriptures to learn and to inform both belief and practice. It is an inclusive organisation.”
Surrounding the paid staff positions and voluntary Board members is a vast network of Christians in Australia who contribute to the spiritual, directional, financial and educational work. Some of the more formal volunteer roles include TEAR Members, the International Projects Allocations Committee, which reviews international projects, TEAR Reps, TEAR Group members, and office volunteers. There are also the less formal roles of dedicated supporters who pray for TEAR's work, advocate publicly for structural change, give to TEAR's work, learn and teach others about God's work of justice and compassion, and choose to live according to principles of simple lifestyle.
Under a guiding principle to support local Christian responses to poverty, the first project supported was in partnership with the Evangelical Fellowship of India Committee on Relief (EFICOR), responding to the needs of refugees from East Pakistan. Our partnership with EFICOR continues to this day, as does the approach to work through local partners rather than establish projects of our own.
Through TEAR's international partners, projects are supported which enable opportunities for people living with poverty to engage in processes to change their lives and their circumstances. Projects give priority to the rights, interests, needs and capacities of the poorest and most marginalised people and seek to address both the symptoms and the causes of poverty.
Commonly, the projects supported through our partners address a combination of issues faced within a community, including basic health and education, income generation, food security, environmental sustainability, strengthening civil society, women's empowerment, water and sanitation, and disaster relief and recovery. At the heart of the activities, there is always a community working together to address their own needs, supported to do so through the resources of a faithful Christian group committed to enabling them to live their lives to the fullest.
In Australia, TEAR is committed to working with our partners to improve the impact and effectiveness of the work we do together. One of the ways we achieve this is through fieldworkers—skilled Australians who work with our partners, typically for three to five years, to train and mentor local staff. Since the first fieldworkers began in 1987, TEAR Australia has sent more than sixty fieldworkers from professional backgrounds in education, health, management, engineering and communications.
One of TEAR Australia's earliest projects was supporting Aboriginal people in the Lake Tyers district of Victoria in 1978. In 2007, a dedicated Indigenous Support Program was launched. “Dhumba”, as it is now known, works to strengthen Indigenous Christian partners as they strive to advocate for their rights, and engage with community development activities. Dhumba also encourages all Australians to engage with the issues faced by our Indigenous brothers and sisters and advocate with them to create a fairer Australia.
Sitting firmly alongside TEAR's international program has been a focus on engagement with Christians in Australia—encouraging, challenging, teaching, networking and resourcing to make biblically-shaped responses to poverty and injustice. This dual focus, in which it is recognized that poverty cannot be overcome unless we also make changes to our lives, and in which Australians are empowered to act at the local level to affect international change, is embedded in TEAR Australia's mission. Target magazine, first published in 1975, and distributed free to supporters, has been devoted to biblically-shaped material reflecting on God's work with our international partners and with Christians in Australia.
The first full-time staff member, appointed in 1979, was dedicated to education in Australia. Since then, TEAR staff and volunteers around the country have worked directly with individuals and churches, providing opportunities to engage. Conferences, one of the earliest titled “Living Simply is Simply Not Enough” in 1979, have enabled Christians to discuss issues relating to Australian lifestyles, on the poor locally and globally, and to biblically and prayerfully reflect on ways to respond. Similiarly, TEAR offers opportunities for supporters to visit our international and Indigenous Australian projects. The first of these exposure and learning events was in 1989, and since then hundreds of Australians have been able to visit TEAR-supported projects.
A strong commitment to advocating for just social and political structures has motivated TEAR Australia to both speak out individually, and through coalitions, on issues of injustice. Over the past two decades, TEAR Australia has acted as founding body and, at times, the lead agency for: the Jubilee 2000 Australian campaign, The Water Matters campaign, Voices for Justice, Make Poverty History and the Micah Challenge.
The vast majority of TEAR Australia's income comes from individuals, churches and Christian groups across the country. Some of this is through our major fundraising initiatives, including The World's Most Useful Gift Catalogue and through appeals for disaster relief and recovery or special events such as the End of Financial Year Appeal. Full accreditation with The Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade (DFAT) which manages the Australian Government's overseas aid program, also enables TEAR Australia to access government grants to support our partners' work.
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TEAR Australia is a Christian development, relief and advocacy organisation responding to global poverty and injustice. More >