Fair trade shops address God's heart for justice

Fair trade is about right relationships with God, with people and the planet, says Melbourne woman Donna Parker.

By Emma Halgren

May 19 2016
Only Just volunteer Vera Snelders and Manager Donna Parker.

The Bible is full of references to justice, says Donna Parker – and the two fair trade shops she manages in Melbourne’s north east are a very practical way of living out that call to justice.

The Only Just stores – in Montmorency, Eltham and online – stock gifts, jewellery, toys and homewares made by people in developing countries. The shops are run almost entirely by a team of around 50 volunteers.

“The products in our shops are created by some of the most disenfranchised artisans in the world – people who have been trafficked, who have leprosy, who have been homeless or affected by landmines,” said Donna.

“They make beautiful products and in doing so provide valuable work that is dignified and uplifting. All are handmade and all help communities to earn a fair wage and trade out of poverty.”

Donna opened the first Only Just shop in Montmorency in 2009. She had been involved in a campaign to encourage her local council to become a recognised fair trade council, and that sparked the idea of opening a fair trade shop.

“Through that project I thought, ‘there’s potential here’”, she said. “In telling people about fair trade it just became apparent to me that it resonated with them. People wanted to buy fair trade but they didn’t have a local option. Back then there was some tea and coffee in supermarkets but otherwise they would have had to go into the CBD.”

In 2015, she opened a second store, in nearby Eltham. She also gives presentations about fair trade to school, community and church groups.

For Donna, Only Just is a very practical expression of a personal faith.

“I’m not a business person – all this was completely new,” she said. “But I really felt that God was calling me to do something more. The Bible is littered with references to justice – and when I read the Bible that’s what speaks to me.”

In a culture that has become “very used to $2 shops”, “it is countercultural to say no to that and to think about who made my T-shirt, where did my coffee come from,” Donna said.

“When you pay people a fair wage they are better able to lift themselves out of poverty. When people have a sustainable income over time they’re able to invest in their family’s health and education.”

In spring, Only Just will introduce fair trade clothing by tonlé, a zero-waste, fair fashion label from Cambodia, and Global Mamas from Ghana, as well as a range of men’s T-shirts.

Donna said the collapse of the Rana Plaza factory building in Bangladesh in 2013 had made people more aware of the issue of the use of sweat shop labour to make clothing.

“It brought to light what a lot of big companies are doing, and people were affected by that,” she said.

Donna believes that fair trade promises real change for people in developing countries, and addresses God’s call for justice.

“To me, it’s about right relationships with God, with people and the planet. That just makes good sense.”

See http://www.onlyjust.com.au