CWL Board meets

Left to right; Kathy Bell National Treasurer; Colleen Petricevich Auckland Diocesan President; Jenny Muschamp National Mission Secretary; Susan Dickson National President; Kathleen Emerson Wellington; Zella McGirr National Secretary; Anne McRandle Dunedin Diocesan President; Pat O’Connor Palmerston North Diocesan President; Colleen McMurchy WUCWO International Secretary; Tricia Stevenson National Chaplain; Dawn Mullins Social Issues; Sylvia Mellish Christchurch Diocesan President. Absent Margaret Brownsey Hamilton Diocesan President.

The Catholic Women’s Board members began the new year and decade by meeting at the Home of Compassion in Wellington in January.

National president runs for victims of human trafficking

Susan Dickson with HAGAR fundraising coordinator, Anna Button after completing the half marathon in Cambodia.

On a dark Cambodian morning in December 2019, Susan Dickson, National President of CWLANZ, and husband, Bruce, joined around 10,000 runners and walkers participating in the Angkor Watt Charity Half Marathon events. Susan and her husband Bruce both completed the half marathon.

They had spent several months raising awareness of human trafficking and exploitation both in NZ and overseas while fundraising for HAGAR. Hagar is a Melbourne based organisation that works primarily with victims of human trafficking and exploitation in Cambodia, but also in Vietnam and Afghanistan. This run was the culmination of their efforts. The HAGAR group, styled RUN for Freedom, included twenty other runners and walkers from NZ and a similar number from Australia.

Catholic Women’s League of Aotearoa New Zealand has in recent years worked to support WUCWO’s, (World Union of Catholic Women’s Organisations) call to fight against human trafficking and exploitation.

Pope Francis April 2019 said, Human trafficking is a “crime against humanity.” He went on to say, “in its multiple forms, it is a wound in the humanity of those who endure it and those who commit it.”

The trip organised by Anna Button the New Zealand Fundraising Co-ordinator for HAGAR New Zealand, was an ideal opportunity for the Dicksons to support a frontline organisation while fulfilling their passion for running around the world.

Susan and Bruce were privileged to spend time with some HAGAR Staff in both Phenom Penh and Sein Reap. These wonderful, dedicated women shared their stories and gave insights into the work they do as emergency foster parents to children who are uplifted from dangerous situations. They also meet adult survivors and were humbled by their stories of courage and resilience.

Susan and Bruce sincerely thank all those who sponsored them for their run and ask all to do what they can to support the fight against human trafficking and exploitation.

For more information both in NZ and overseas visit:


Justice and health for who? The proposed abortion legislation bill

There are two Bills currently before parliament that if passed will signal a major shift in the moral values that underpin our society.

The End of Life Choice Bill is currently going through the Committee of the Whole House stage. There has been much rigorous debate including, at times, rather heated discussion around coercion and how the vulnerable can be protected. This Whole House Committee comes after a very lengthy process of select committee and consultation. There is still a long way to go with this possible legislation including a likely referendum.

In contrast, the Abortion Legislation Bill, appears to be being fast tracked. It was introduced to the house and sent immediately to a Special Select Committee with the minimum time, six weeks, allowed for submissions. One must wonder why.

Many women, including many Catholic women, would like to see abortion removed from criminal law. The proposed bill does this but what it fails to do, is to make any reference to the life that is lost at any abortion. There is no reference to or acknowledgement that the unborn child has rights.

Abortion is both a justice and a health issue. There are two human lives involved in any pregnancy – that of the mother and her unborn child. The State has an interest in preserving all human life. This has always been recognised in law.

The current law provides statutory protection for the unborn child while acknowledging and balancing these against the rights of the mother.

The New Zealand Catholic Bishops have asked us to respond to this Bill in three ways. Politically, to make a submission to the special select committee and contact our MPs. With prayer for those who find themselves contemplating abortion and for our MPs to make a wise decision. Pastorally, to show love, compassion and care to the women facing the challenge of abortion.

The Nathaniel Centre has produced resources to help us make submissions.

More background information on the proposed law can be obtained on Family First’s campaign website, ‘Love them Both’:

A good option for making a submission is directly online. There are links on the Family First website, or you can go to the parliament website: (or search for “Abortion Legislation Bill New Zealand Parliament” and follow the steps)

The passing of these Bills will document a shift in the moral compass of our society. We will not like the society we will become.

Roderique HopeTrust

Michelle Ramage being introduced to the Conference by the Diocesan President, Pat O’Connor.

Michelle Ramage, the chairperson of the Roderique Hope Trust was a guest speaker at the Diocesan Conference of the Palmerston North CWL held in New Plymouth. She was awarded the ‘Taranaki Person of the Year’ in 2018.  Michelle is also an ex-pupil of Sacred Heart Girl’s School in New Plymouth and is employed as a whanau support worker with Tu Tama a Wahine o Taranaki.  In this role she and her colleagues had to put mothers and children in unsuitable accommodation or even turn people away which was distressing.  With Paul and Joy Russell,  the Roderique Hope Trust was born.

The Roderique HopeTrust is a Charitable Trust in the Taranaki region which was formed to assist the growing number of homeless in Taranaki, especially families with children, who do not meet the criteria of other local emergency housing services.  At this time the Trust has bought, refurbished and have available three houses but it will not stop there. to view the TV 1 Good Sorts award in February 2018.

National Newsletter

What a joy it was to meet and talk to you all during my round of Diocesan Conferences. We can all be so proud of all the work you are doing both locally and overseas.

I hope you have had the opportunity to reflect on and discuss the issues that I raised with you. Promoting CWL by raising the profile of Margaret Fletcher especially with a new modern look, contributing to a rejuvenating Kete for branches,

looking at different ways of running our branches, developing modern promotional material, and a possible new membership badge and organization logo. The Board needs your help with all of these. Please feed ideas to your regional representatives and Diocesan Presidents. The range and quality of the guest speakers and workshops were inspiring. Each conference had its own gem.


Pillars Award

Verna McFelin of the PILLARS Trust receiving a cheque from the National President Kay Blackburn.

Congratulations to Verna McFelin and Pillars for winning the Community of the Year award received at the Mitre 10 New Zealand Awards in 1918.

Verna is the Founder and Chief Executive of Pillars, guiding the organisation for over twenty-five years.   The focus of Pillars is to be a strong advocate for the rights of Children of prisoners in New Zealand and to develop best practice in order to prevent inter-generational offending.

Catholic Women’s League is proud to have chosen Pillars as the recipient of the 2018 At Home Appeal.  This meant members were able to learn more about Pillars, support those working in the field of helping Children with imprisoned family members and to raise funds to further Pillars’ aims.  A cheque was presented to Verna at the National Conference in Wellington by the retiring National President, Kay Blackburn.

National board plans, reports and prays

Back Row Jenny Muschamp, Christchurch Diocese. National Mission Secretary. Dawn
Mullins, Auckland Diocese. National Social Issues Secretary. Tui Pasco, Dunedin Diocesan
President. Christine Paterson, Wellington Arch Diocesan President. Colleen Petricevich,
Auckland Diocesan President.
Middle Row Kathy Bell, Hamilton Diocese. National Board Treasurer. Margaret Brownsey,
Hamilton Diocesan President. Pat O’Connell, Palmerston North Diocesan President. Colleen
McMurchy, Auckland Diocese. WUCWO International Secretary. Sr Patricia Stevenson,
Christchurch Diocese. National Board Chaplin.
Front Row Zella McGirr, Christchurch Diocese. National Board Secretary. Val Langley,
Christchurch Diocesan President. Susan Dickson, Christchurch. National President

Twice a year all members of the National Board meet for up to three days of planning, prayer, reporting and discussion.

The first National Board meeting was held in Christchurch at the end of January.

The theme for the meeting was taken from WUCWO 2018 Resolution 4, A Call to Holiness.

Tricia Stevenson, Board Chaplain, led us in a study of the story of Jesus healing the mother-in-law of Peter.

We returned each day during the three days of our meeting to unpick further the story.

Jesus goes to the house after preaching in the temple. He finds the woman sick with a fever and is asked to heal her.

Jesus orders the fever to leave and then Peter’s mother-in-law gets up and serves them.

On the surface this appears to be a story about God healing a sick person and women’s work. However, the Greek word for serve is the same or closely related to the word for to be raised up.

This is a resurrection story about being part of the body of Christ, being raised as Christ was raised and to live as Christ lived.

A Call to Holiness.

Two new board appointments

National President Susan Dickson (on the right) presents the badges of office to Colleen McMurchy (left) and Dawn Mullins.

The Catholic Women’s League board is very happy to announce two national appointment

National Social Issues Convener

Dawn Mullins is from Auckland  and  worked in Social Services during my working life and as a volunteer advocate when asked by people for help.

On learning of her appointment she says she is humbled to be appointed to this position and look forward to sharing a perspective on the pertinent issues as they may arise.

Interestingly, Dawn’s mother was a member of CWL for many years which gave me an appreciation of the CWL function and activities.

International Secretary

Colleen McMurchy, also from Auckland Diocese has been a CWL member almost continuously since leaving Papatoetoe Homemakers in 1976.

Currently an Associate member she held various positions in the Maori CWL in Auckland from late 1980s until it disbanded in 2001. She has served several terms on the Auckland Diocesan Council returning late 2017 as Diocesan Secretary.

Colleen was privileged to be a member of the NZ delegation to WUCWO in Mexico in 1991 and the Asia Pacific WUCWO Assembly in Canberra 1996.

She was on the organising committee of the Asia Pacific WUCWO conference in Hamilton in 1993 and edited the Conference proceedings.

Colleen comes from a background of Teacher Education and Maori Education. After retiring from University of Auckland she trained tutors in Adult Literacy & Numeracy.

She has been a JP for 34 years.

Slavery-free Easter chocolate – Be a good egg this Easter

Children as young as 12 years old are picking cocoa in West Africa to make the chocolate we eat. Some of these children are trafficked.  Most are forced to pick cocoa from an early age for minimal or no wages, for long hours, in dangerous working conditions, without any possibility of attending school.  Most of these children have never tasted chocolate and they never will.

Chocolate eaters around the world have made a difference already. A decade ago, slavery-free chocolate was hard to find in our shops.

Some successes are:

  • Cadbury dairy milk chocolate bars made in Australia have been certified Fairtrade.
  • All Mars bars made in Australia are now certified Rainforest Alliance.
  • All Nestle chocolate made in Australia and New Zealand is now UTZ certified.
  • Waikato Valley (suppliers of Easter Eggs and Bunnies to the Warehouse) say their chocolate is ethically sourced and human trafficking free. Their coca supplier, “Cargill has made a number of strong commitments in regard to their coca sourcing and supply, particularly around human rights, land rights and child labour.” Waikato Valley spokesperson.
  • Whitakers Dark Ghana chocolate block is a Fair Trade.
  • Often local or craft chocolatiers use ethically sourced coca products.

For more information about slavery-free chocolate landmarks, the slavery-free certification program, the need for a living wage for cocoa farmers and the treatment of children in chocolate production, read A Matter of Taste.

What You Can Do?

  • Join with millions of people around the world who now buy and eat only slavery-free chocolate. To buy slavery-free Easter chocolate look for any of these certification labels on the wrappers: FairTrade, Rainforest Alliance and UTZ.
  • Talk about slavery-free chocolate – tell five friends or family members about slavery-free chocolate.
  • Invite others in your community to join the Slavery-free Easter campaign.
  • Pick your favourite chocolate Easter Egg. Find out if it is slavery-free chocolate.
  • If it is not slavery free chocolate, then write to the manufacturer i.e. Lindt, Cadbury etc and ask them when they plan to make the product using cocoa certified to be slavery free.
  • If your favourite chocolate is slavery-free write to the manufacturer and congratulate them on what they are doing towards the reduction of child slavery in West Africa.
  • Visit your local supermarket or café (if they stock chocolate) and congratulate them. Also ask them to commit to doubling the amount of slavery-free chocolate they stock next Easter.
  • Promote a Slavery Free Easter in parish and school newsletters.
  • Consider getting a hamper together to raise money to support groups that fight human trafficking and modern-day slavery.
  • Create awareness by asking people to contribute only slavery-free chocolate to the hamper.
  • If you are making up the hamper let people know that all the chocolate is slavery-free. This is a great way of spreading the word.

People Trafficking in New Zealand CWLANZ and ANZRATH Raise Awareness

CWLANZ and ANZRATH (Aotearoa and New Zealand Religious Against Human Trafficking) have joined together to raise awareness about the crime of people trafficking in New Zealand.  The subject is raised regularly so members can keep membership and their communities alert for the signs that exploitation is happening in their area.  The following is a precis of a talk given to the members of the Lower Hutt Branch last year.

An estimated 40.3 million people were victims of modern slavery in 2016 worldwide.  Of those 40.3 victims, 24.9 million were in forced labour.  They were deceived and forced to work under threat or coercion in industries such as construction, agriculture, horticulture, viticulture and fishing.  It is also particularly rife in the service industry.  Almost two thirds were in the Asia – Pacific region.  Therefore, New Zealand is not immune to this crime.

It is one of the world’s largest criminal industries, earning exploiters $150 billion a year.  With only 9,000 convictions globally in 2015, it remains a low risk, high profit crime with no signs of slowing down.  It is happening in New Zealand.

What is modern slavery and human trafficking?  Modern slavery is the umbrella term to refer to human trafficking, slavery and slave like practices such as servitude, forced labour, forced marriage, the sale and exploitation of children and debt bondage.

The definition of People Smuggling is the facilitated entry of an unauthorized migrant into New Zealand for financial or other material benefit. (Immigration NZ)

The desire to migrate for better opportunities is exploited by recruiters, agents, and employers.  Why don’t they complain or leave their exploitive situation?  Victims rarely identify themselves as victims.  The first trafficking conviction was in 2016 and the accused was jailed for nine and a half years and ordered to pay $28.000 to his victims.  At the same time another case was before the courts involving a New Zealand couple accused of exploiting five victims.  The case was brought by Immigration NZ.  There have been a number of arrests and court cases since.

What are we doing to address human trafficking and modern day slavery in New Zealand?  There is a growing Influence within Immigration NZ and the Ministry of Business and Innovation to work through an all government approach, partnering with stake holders in New Zealand, and to engage regionally and internationally.

If you or anyone you know, suspects that human trafficking or exploitation is happening you have three contacts to choose from – If an emergency,

  • Call 111 for police;
  • Labour Inspectorate contact centre 0800209020;
  • Crimestoppers