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Byron Shire
January 17, 2022

All’s fair in Fair Trade shopping and song

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Jessie Vintila with her 5-month-old son Arkie with Fair Trade clothes, jewellery, toys and quilt. Photo Miranda Burne.

The Uniting Church in Bangalow have a longstanding passion and commitment to Fair Trade. In Bangalow they’ve been working to promote Fair Trade for about seven years, including getting Bangalow classified as a Fair Trade Town, meaning that a number of the shops stock Fair Trade Products and that the town hosts Fair Trade events every year.

This Saturday the church will be hosting the second annual Fair Trade Fair which will have stalls full of ethical products and gifts. The event will also have Fair Trade tea, barista coffee and food as well as the Raise the Roof Choir and the Awesome Voices.

Jessie Vintila will be part of the choral performance on the day. ‘I’ve been singing my whole life and that church has possibly the best acoustics I’ve ever sung in,’ says Jessie.

Fair Trade and choirs are about community

The ethos of fair trade and choirs work together. ’It’s about community and positive ways to engage in the world, especially at a time when it’s so easy to feel hopeless,’ says Vintila. ‘Choirs are like lovely big functional families. We help each other in times of need, and singing together is very bonding and uplifting. Add to that, singing about big issues, and feeling inspired to act by the songs we sing and the people around us who share our passions.

Vintila says that ethical consuming is such a do-able way to affect change, with every dollar, every day. ‘Buying Fair Trade is easy activism that feels good! It’s something practical we can do while we’re trying to figure out some of the harder stuff. And as a 70 person choir going Fair Trade Christmas shopping, we know we’re making a difference!

Everyone can make a difference

Everyone can make a difference with their Christmas shopping. Every dollar you spend says ‘yes’ to the business you buy from, and ‘no’ to the ones you don’t support.

‘You might spend $100 or $1000 on Christmas this year: presents, food, decorations,’ says Vintila. ‘Multiply that by all the adults you know who’ll be doing the same this Christmas. ‘Collectively, we’ll direct millions of dollars, somewhere. Let’s make them count! Look for the Fair Trade logo and if you don’t find it, ask about the origin of the product. Especially with chocolate, tea, coffee and fashion. If the seller doesn’t know, chances are there’s no serious accountability in the supply chain and the risk of there being exploitation involved is high.

For fashion, download the latest free Ethical Fashion Guide which tells you which global businesses are getting on board with fairer trading, and which are lagging behind. You can even access this info on your phone while you’re out shopping.

Fair pay in safe and sustainable conditions

Vintila says that Fair Trade means everyone involved with making a product is a fairly paid adult, working in safe and sustainable conditions. ‘It’s so simple that it’s sheer madness that it’s currently not the norm.

‘Tragically, our current norm is free trade, which means freedom to exploit. Freedom to use privilege and power to push wages and conditions way under what people can actually live on, people who have no other options. Unfortunately, this paradigm also forces children into work, when they should be free to enjoy childhood and attend school.

‘Martin Luther King said, “By the time you finish your breakfast in the morning, you’ve depended on more than half the world”. It’s important to me to take responsibility for my privilege as a first world person with disposable income, and not behave as if I’m entitled to just roll with the exploitation that’s inbuilt into our world economy.

Christmas – an opportunity to make good, powerful choices

Christmas can be a time of big consuming so it’s an opportunity to make good, powerful choices with our spending says Vintila. ‘Do we know who made the gifts we buy, and were these people paid a living wage? Can we consider our whole human family when we’re choosing gifts?

‘This might mean shopping for Fair Trade and locally made gifts and enjoying knowing your gift is not only to your loved one, it’s to a chain of people operating fairly in the world. You’re enabling Fair Trade to thrive. Now we’re talking “Joy to the World!” ‘

You can get your Fair Trad shopping done this Saturday at the Bangalow Uniting Church carpark on Station Street from 8am too 1pm. All enquiries to Corrine 6629 1692.

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