Australian Lutheran World Service is the overseas aid and resettlement agency of the Lutheran Church of Australia. It operates under a constitution approved by the General Synod of the LCA, and is consistent with the objects of the LCA Constitution.
OUR STORY - Celebrating 60 years of service to people in need
The origin of ALWS can be traced back to 1947 when the local pastor at Albury, New South Wales, Pastor Bruno Muetzelfeldt, commenced a ministry to European migrants and refugees who were being resettled through the Bonegilla Migrant Centre, a short distance from Albury. Acknowledging the need to assist these people settle in Australia, the Lutheran World Federation established a Lutheran World Service (LWS) office at Bonegilla with Pastor Muetzelfeldt as its first representative, in 1950.
In the mid-1960s the office continued its service at Bonegilla but also expanded its role to be the principal channel for overseas aid for the Lutheran Church of Australia.
In 1971 the Bonegilla Migrant Centre was closed and the LWS office was relocated to Albury. The primary role of the LWS office was now overseas aid.
Recognising that the LWS office was now Australian staffed and funded, it was agreed that it should become an agency of the LCA. The process of handover commenced in 1985 with the office taking the identity of Australian Lutheran World Service and was finalised in 1990 with the official closure of the LWS office and the placement of the first Australian-appointed executive secretary to ALWS.
Location, staff and governance
The main ALWS office is located in Albury, New South Wales. Its positioning is partly historical as outlined above, but also strategic being central to Canberra, Sydney and Melbourne. This provides easy access to government, and enables close cooperation with other aid agencies who are predominantly located in Sydney and Melbourne.
ALWS also has staff located in Brisbane, Melbourne and Portland (VIC). In addition, ALWS has established an office with a small staff in Lae, PNG to manage the Church Partnership Program with the Evangelical Lutheran Church PNG.
ALWS is governed by a LCA appointed board made up of directors from South Australia, Victoria, New South Wales and Queensland, and its chairperson Pastor Peter Hage.
ALWS has a small staff because it implements the majority of its refugee and development aid through the global program of Lutheran World Service. It is based in Geneva, Switzerland and operates field programs in over thirty countries around the world.
For emergencies ALWS channels its assistance through ACT Alliance which is the joint emergencies office of the World Council of Churches and Lutheran World Federation. It is also headquartered in Geneva and through its membership has the capacity to extend emergency assistance to people almost anywhere in the world.
As highlighted above, ALWS has developed a significant partnership with the ELC-PNG and its various departments to assist them deliver effective health, education and development services. Similarly, ALWS is developing closer ties with the Lutheran churches in Indonesia through a unique Centre of Learning to assist them enhance their capacity to serve the communities with whom they live and work.