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"He has told you, O man, what is good; and what does the Lord require of you but to do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God?"

Micah 6:8
Brochure    Minimize
Please click HERE to download a PDF of the Yarra Institute brochure

The Yarra Institute for Religion and Social Policy is an independent ecumenical organisation committed to promoting teaching, scholarship and research on the social traditions of the Christian churches, particularly as they bear on current social issues.

As the name indicates, the Yarra Institute focuses on the interaction between religious belief and areas of social policy in Australia. It also explores how religious belief and moral values bear on specific issues, including economics and globalisation, hunger and poverty, international aid and development, indigenous affairs, issues of war and peace, conflict resolution, social justice, the environment and climate change.

While it springs from Christian social traditions, the Yarra Institute recognises Australia’s secular, pluralistic and multicultural society, and commits to engaging with the broader culture in a collaborative effort to promote the common good. The Yarra Institute is the result of initiatives from the ecumenical advocacy organisation, Social Policy Connections, though the Yarra Institute is a separately incorporated body with its own Board.

The signing of the MoU. Left to right, at rear: the incoming YTU President, Fr Chris Monaghan CP,
Dr Bruce Duncan, Dr Rowan Ireland, Dr Wes Campbell; in front, Dr Larry Nemer and Dr Stephen Ames.

The Yarra Institute was formally acknowledged by the Council of Yarra Theological Union in late 2008, and a Memorandum of Understanding signed. The then President of YTU, Dr Larry Nemer SVD, nominated Dr Bruce Duncan as initial Director of the Institute. YTU has generously provided office space, a room for the Redemptorist social justice library, and access to the facilities in the new YTU Study Centre.


  • SIGNIFICANT RESEARCH CAPABILITY to focus our intellectual resources more purposefully on current pressing social issues.
  • A FORUM in which to explore how Christian social values and traditions could improve human wellbeing today.
  • RESOURCES to deepen knowledge of Christian and other traditions of social concern, and to foster more lively interaction among them.
  • A PLATFORM from which to engage in the public conversation, drawing from the deep ecumenical resources in Melbourne.
  • WIDER NETWORKS of people concerned to contribute to the formation of public policy.
The Yarra Institute has an experienced Board of Directors with excellent resources to supervise research projects and higher degree students. The Yarra Institute would be pleased to discuss possible research projects or partnerships with other agencies or organisations.

Make Poverty History

Photo courtesy mrfink at flickr.

Yarra Institute research projects

Faith and social justice - Dr Joan Daw’s project on Young People, Faith, and Social Justice was launched in 2013 and copies are available at the Yarra Institute office for $20 each plus $5 postage.

The morality of torture - Dr Cal Ledsham’s investigation on the morality of torture is in the final stages of writing.

Transforming asylum seeker policies - With funding from the Good Shepherd Foundation, the Yarra Institute published Long-term health costs of extended mandatory detention of asylum seekers by Tony Ward in 2011, and is about to publish a detailed study by Dr Tony Ward and Caz Coleman on why community detention is better for refugees and Australia

The Church’s role in East Timor
- Dr Jim and Professor Therese D’Orsa are working with Bishop Hilton Deakin on his recollections of East Timor’s struggles for independence.

Publications and the Yarra Institute Press

With a grant from the Melbourne College of Divinity, the Yarra Institute in 2011 published online The National Directory: Refugee and Asylum Seeker Support Services of the Australian Churches.

Our Yarra Institute Press has published Sufficient for the day: towards a sustainable culture, a study of climate change by Dr Geoff Lacey. The Institute has also prepared a forthcoming issue of the ATF journal, Interface, on globalisation.


The Yarra Institute benefits greatly from the pro bono contributions of its supporters and volunteers. If you have skills you would like to contribute in this way, we would be pleased to talk with you.
As our research activities expand, so do our needs in administration, marketing, funding, editing and computer entry. Please contact the Director if you think your may have skills to offer us.

Financial support

Launched by the Hon Brian Howe AM in 2009, the Yarra Institute has developed with much good will and the involvement of key groups on an honorary basis. Our financial support has come mainly from a number of lay people and several Catholic religious orders. We would especially like to acknowledge the support of the Redemptorist Congregation, the Brigidine Sisters, and MacKillop Family Services. In addition, we wish to thank Bernadette Reeders, Dr Jim and Professor Therese D’Orsa, and John and Paula McLeod for their timely contributions to this project.

As a research body within Melbourne's University of Divinity, the Yarra Institute is part of the national university system, and benefits from DGR tax deductibility in advancing the research aims within the University. The Yarra Institute can apply for research grants from government and private sources, and enter industry partnerships with church or other organisations for research.
Your donations can help us make a significant difference.

How to donate
Donations to the Yarra Institute can be made through The Finance Manager, the University of Divinity, 21 Highbury Rd, Kew VIC 3101, with the request that the donation be forwarded to the Yarra Institute. The University will issue a receipt.
Or write to us at the Yarra Institute and we will forward your gift to the University.

Contact details:
The Director,
Yarra Institute for Religion and Social Policy,
PO Box 505, Box Hill, VIC 3128.
Email: admin@yarrainstitute.org.au
www.yarrainstitute.org.au Ph: (03) 9899 7444(03) 9899 7444. Mobile: 0409 897 9710409 897 971; ABN: 41 920 916 986 CRICOS: 01037A

Members of the Yarra Institute Board

Rev Dr Stephen Ames (President) is an Anglican priest and Canon of St. Paul's Cathedral. He is an honorary Senior Fellow at the University of Melbourne, where he lectures in the History and Philosophy of Science programme. He has special expertise in the relationship between science and religion.

Rev Dr John Bottomley is a minister of the Uniting Church in Australia.  He has had parish ministries in Knox and East St. Kilda, and is a founding  member and Director of the Creative Ministries Network.  The Network integrates faith with the arts to address issues of justice at work in a social, political and environmental context.

Dr Jim D’Orsa is involved in pastoral planning in the Diocese of Sale and chairs its Diocesan Strategy Team. He is also involved with Broken Bay Institute in the areas of leadership and missiology. His current research concentrates on the Theology of Mission as it applies to education; secularisation/secularity and their implications for education; and issues around ‘Catholic identity’ in schools.

Professor Therese D’Orsa is head of the Missiology Department at the Broken Bay Institute Sydney. She recently completed eleven years as Director of Catholic Education in the Diocese of Sale and also her term as Executive Director of the Catholic Education Commission of Victoria. She gives a special focus to justice education and mission. She is also a professorial fellow of ACU National.

Anne Elvey’s research interests focus around ecological hermeneutics and biblical studies. Anne is editor of Colloquium: The Australian and New Zealand Theological Review. She holds adjunct and honorary appointments at Monash University, Trinity College Theological School and University of Divinity, Melbourne. A list of her publications can be found at <anneelvey.wordpress.com/research/>

Major Brad Halse   has served as an officer within The Salvation Army for more than 30 years.  He has worked in Victoria, South Australia and Western Australia, in areas of aged care, homeless youth, editorial and journalism work and church leadership. He is currently the Australia Southern Territory’s Director of Government Relations and is a representative on Commonwealth and State government advisory bodies and taskforces. He has been involved in reform proposals around responsible gambling and in advocacy for asylum seekers and refugees.  

Dr Rowan Ireland is an Honorary Associate in the School of Sociology at La Trobe University in Melbourne. He has had extensive field work in Latin America, and is investigating urban social movements in three Brazilian cities. He is also involved in studying the processes of secularisation and new forms of religious life and civil society in Australia.

John D'Arcy May has returned to Australia after leaving his position as Associate Professor of Interfaith Dialogue at the Irish School of Ecumenics. He has written extensively in may areas: Buddhist-Christian dialogue, religious pluralism, ethics in multicultural societies, Christian dialogue with Asian religions; religion in Australasia and the Pacific Islands, tribal religions, and religion and ecology. The Yarra Institute is delighted that he has accepted the role of Associate Director of the Institute.

Dr Paul Rule taught Religious Studies and History at La Trobe University where he remains an associate, and is now engaged in major research projects on Christianity in China for the Ricci Institute, University of San Francisco and Macao Ricci Institute. He is a former member of the Australian Catholic Social Justice Council and the Melbourne Justice and Peace Commission.

Director: Bruce Duncan CSsR has lectured in history and social ethics at YTU since 1986. He has written on issues of religion and politics, war and peace, and on economics, poverty and global development. His latest book is Social Justice: fuller life in a fairer world (Garratt Publishing, 2012).

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 Click HERE to read about the mission 
 of the Yarra Institute
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Ethics Policy
Courtesy 'Sacred Destinations, clickr CC

Click HERE to read our ethics policy
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