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Extended General Council for Oceania (I)

06/05/2008: New Zealand

At the beginning of its mandate the General Council decided that there should be an Extended General Council (the General Council including Provincial or District Councils in each region), at the end of its first visit to the administrative units of each Marist region. In consultation with the provincials and district superiors during the General Conference of 2005, it was decided to preserve the same structure for the second visits.

Consequently, Africa and Asia had their Extended General Council (EGC) in December 2006, while the one for Europe took place in December 2007. It is now the turn of Oceania, where the EGC will take place from May 6- 9. Later the EGC will be held in the regions of Brazil and Cono Sur (October 2008) and then in Arco Norte (November 2008).
The Marist presence in Oceania goes back to the time of Fr.Champagnat. It was he himself, in fact, who sent the first Brothers in 1838. Today we have 4 administrative units: the provinces of Melbourne and Sydney in Australia; the province of New Zealand which comprises Fiji, Samoa and the Kiribati islands; and the District of Melanesia (Papua-New Guinea, the Solomon Islands, New Caledonia and Vanuatu).

In Oceania, where as an Institute we look after approximately 30.000 children and young people, we have the following number of Brothers:
* Melbourne: 89
* New Zealand: 113
* Sydney and Melanesia: 243

New Zealand, the country hosting the EGC, is made up of two large islands and a great number of small ones, and is located about 1.600 kms. to the south east of Australia. It has a surface of approximately 270.000 km.²: a little larger than the United Kingdom and a little smaller than Japan.

It is said that New Zealand is the youngest country in the world, since it was the last great land mass to be discovered by humans. In fact, it was only about 1.000 years ago that the first inhabitants arrived, coming from Polynesia: the Maoris. About 800 years later large groups of emigrants began to arrive, coming from Europe.

Today this country has a population of about four million inhabitants, 15% of whom are descended from the Maoris. Besides English, Maori is also the official language, and it is spoken by approximately one quarter of the Maori population.

The country is one of great natural beauty: a third of its surface being protected by parks or reservations. Very close to one of these parks in Auckland, and beside the ocean, is where the CGA for Oceania will take place: in Vaughan Park, a retreat house and conference centre belonging to the Anglican Church.

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