Justice, Peace & Integrity of Creation - 2015
On this page:  Gifts for future generations  | ACMRO news  |  Insert 'Australia'  |  Latest 'Act Justly'  |  Order your ACRATH calendar  |  Terror and Love  |  Jade and the Junta  |  'Both Ends of the Gun' videos on YouTube  |  CRA leads Canberra human rights meeting  |  Canberra vigil against child detention  |  Treehouse Theatre  |  For those who've come across the seas  |  Simple video explains Syrian refugee crisis  |  The Intervention book launch  |  Latest ACRATH newsletter  |  Grotesque folly  |  Migrants & Refugees Sunday  |  'Both Ends of the Gun'  |   Act Justly, August issue  |  Fine-tuning 'Both Ends of the Gun'   |  Publicity for 'Both Ends of the Gun'  |  Gift or possession?  |  Act Justly special issue  |  Laudato Si released  |  Refugee Week 2015  |  August event web site launched  | ACMRO action call on Rohingya refugees  |  Mind the gap  |  ACRATH news  |  Down, down and staying down  |  'Care 4 Creation' month  | 'What my country is doing is wrong'  |  Be a good egg  |  Save this date  |  'Aboriginal Australians at war' symposium takes shape  |  ACRATH wins top new awards  |   New hope for refugees?  |  Re-thinking Australia Day  |  Anti-trafficking day of prayer

Writing to Marist colleagues, Fr Jim Carty reflects on Pope Francis' teaching and our part in ...

Gifts for future generations
('Go, Pope Francis!)

Fr Jim Carty SM is convenor of the Combined Marist Family 'Justice, Peace & Integrity of Creation' group and Coordinator of 'MARS' (Marist Asylum-seeker Refugee Service)

Christmas 2015

Dear Marist Colleague

A few weeks ago while saying mass at St Patrick’s Church Hill a young woman with a small baby no bigger than the two loving hands that held him, approached to receive communion.

As I blessed the child I asked his name- I think the mother said “Alphonse”.

Gifts… cared for, preserved and shared

At the end of mass I suggested that the best Christmas gift we could offer Alphonse and all our children and future generations is a planet where the gifts of creation are cared for, preserved and shared by all who inhabit the world. Is it possible?

Maybe we Marists can do our small part in addressing this question.

And maybe Alphonse and his generation may look back in middle age and thank their grandparents for taking action to save the planet.

Not far from our shores

In the New Year let’s be in touch to consider one issue not far from our shores: the people of the Carterets Islands, atolls of  Bougainville.

'Laudato Si’
Pope Francis in his widely read and acclaimed Encyclical Laudato Si writes “this century may well witness extraordinary climate change and unprecedented destruction of eco-systems.

“Indeed, because of its failure to abandon fossil fuels the post-industrial world may well be remembered as the most irresponsible in human history
“The pace of consumption, waste and environmental change has so stretched the planet’s capacity that our contemporary lifestyle, unsustainable as it is, can only precipitate catastrophe.

Timely Christmas warnings

“It is timely to be reminded of these warnings at Christmas, for two reasons.

First, this has become a season which, more than any other time of the year, invites the kind of excessive material consumption that so typifies the disproportionate call on the Earth's resources by affluent Western lifestyles.

It has been calculated, for instance, that with existing technologies it would require four more planets with resources similar to our own for everyone in the world to enjoy the levels of consumption of the average American or Australian.

[top of next column...]

“Second, it is easy to forget that an essential part of the Christian message - and hence the message of Christmas - is a call to protect and nurture the natural environment as part of what it means to promote the Kingdom of God on Earth.”  (A quote from a 2006 editorial)

May our future generations inherit the earth with all its beauty, gifts and possibilities; and may our celebrations at this time be of thanksgiving and gratitude for what we have received and of sharing with those who are desperate for safety, shelter, sustenance and peace.


PS:  As I write this Gaudete (joyful) Sunday has just passed and news has come from Paris:
“Representatives of 195 countries on Saturday evening approved a landmark climate accord that, for the first time, commits nearly every country to lowering planet-warming greenhouse gas emissions to help stave off the most drastic effects of climate change.”

In a typical acerbic article in the SMH this week, the retired political journalist, Alan Ramsay, once again took up his quill, dipped it in acidic ink and retrospectively highlighted the fall from grace of our recent PMs eliciting a tad of unbidden schadenfreude.

At the conclusion of the article he adds
“As for the year ending, I think the little man with the modest flat outside Vatican City who drives himself in his undistinguished car surely has to be Person / Man / Statesman / Whatever of the Year.

“Everything about Pope Francis from Brazil argues we have not seen or heard his like before, certainly not as head of the most populous, richest, inherently most powerful, often in the past most appalling, Christian Church in the God business.

“I am neither Catholic nor religious of any kind. Yet nobody who has read what Francis has been saying this year, about climate change and personal rights in particular, can credibly deny he is someone who speaks of, and for, and in the interests of, all the earth’s people with a simplicity of language and a force that is hugely moving. Up There Francis!”

I agree with Alan: Go, Pope Francis!


(A Christmas letter to members of the combined Marist JPIC group)

Click here to download

[Dec 20]


ACMRO news

Latest news from the Australian Catholic Migrant and Refugee Office. Click here.

[Dec 02]


Insert 'Australia'

Canadian TV presenter, Rick Mercer's, two-minute rant on his country's record of facing refugee crises over the years resonates soberly with Australia's experience.

Insert 'Australia' whenever he mentions 'Canada' and see for yourself.

Click here (or for Facebook: click here)

[Nov 27]


Latest 'Act Justly'

From Sydney's Catholic archdiocese Justice & Peace office, the November issue of 'Act Justly' is now available.

Click here

[Nov 27]


Order you ACRATH calendar

Sr Noelene Simmons SM advises that 2016's ACRATH* calendar is now available.

Says Sr Noelene: 'Our hope is that the calendar will help to raise awareness about human trafficking and modern day slavery, raise some funds for ACRATH and also enable us to give some financial support to an NGO in south East Asia. The calendar would make a great Christmas gift for family and friends.'

* Australian Catholic Religious Against Trafficking in Humans

Check the order form: click here

[Nov 23]


The Solemnity of Christ the King comes days after the terror attacks in Paris.
Fr Kevin Bates
reflects on ...


Terror and Love

Fr Kevin Bates SM is pastor of Holy Name of Mary parish, Hunters Hill/Woolwich, NSW

Last weekend, the world was rocked once again by terrorist violence, this time in Paris.

French military and police responded as soon as they could, but not before a large number of people had been savagely murdered, many others injured and countless were left with their lives in trauma.

Some perhaps may never recover from their proximity to such inhumanity.

The world’s media performed their normal role in providing us with the story itself along with countless commentaries, speculations and predictions.

The terrorist outfit that has claimed so much of our attention these past two years claimed responsibility and promised more of the same.

We were left numb, wondering at the purpose of such highly organised barbarity, and feeling powerless and sad.

Nevertheless, almost immediately the human spirit, especially shown by the people of Paris, broke through. Processing down a tunnel at the Stade de France, the exiting crowd spontaneously broke into their National Anthem.

Perhaps the singing contained a note of defiance, but also of solidarity and love for their country that had once more been subjected to acts of terror.

As soon as the news broke here, the French community in Sydney organised a memorial service which offered the opportunity for anyone who wished to express their grief in public and to pray for a renewed peace.

This weekend, the Church celebrates the Solemnity of Christ the Eternal King.

A bit like the people singing in the Stadium tunnel in France, the people of the Church reach for an expression of hope as they suffer, ponder and wrestle with life’s many challenges and setbacks.

The people of the Church have a faith that looks beyond war and terror even as they suffer these evils.

This faith is able to look beyond the evil actions with which the Church has been associated throughout history.

[top of next column...]

The people of the Church are aware of the suffering caused by some of their fellow members, especially to children and to those more vulnerable, and still they continue to believe.In the image of Christ the King, we

find the sort of spirit that enabled the crowd at the Stadium in Paris to sing in the face of great evil.

In Christ the King we have one more image to help us see that God breaks through our deepest darkness, with an assurance that love and peace are still within reach.

The phrase “Amor vincit omnia”, meaning: “Love conquers all”, dates from the time of the poet Virgil. It was reprised in Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales and Carravaggio’s famous painting of the same name.

It finds further expression in the songs of John Lennon and Andrew Lloyd Webber. It was also a favourite theme of Jesus Christ!! Love underscores and outlives our deepest tragedies.

“Where sin abounds, grace does all the more abound”, cries St Paul, evoking the image of singing crowds in a dark exit tunnel in Paris.

In an era when celebrities rather than kings resonate more easily with many, the image of Christ the King can be a reassuring prompt for us all.

It’s so very natural to succumb to the sadness and fear of our own personal grief and that of our world. It’s easy to become stuck in a kind of powerless sadness.

It takes something special to get us singing again, but when we manage to rise through our grieving and sing, we give hope and a certain reassurance to one another that life is still a gift to treasure.

We have living to do and no evil can stand in the way of love and life at the end of the day.

Christ the King is one of the many images of Jesus that we have found through the centuries with which to comfort and encourage each other.

May his presence in our hearts in these days continue its saving work.


Father Kevin

Christ the King, 2015


Jade and the Junta

'Global Witness' 2 minute video on Myanmar's Nov 08 election -- and ongoing corruption of the Burmese military.

Click here (Facebook link only)

[Nov 07]


Both Ends of the Gun Conference - Professor Henry Reynolds - Keynote Speaker

Both Ends of the Gun Conference - Uncle Dave Williams - Keynote Speaker

Both Ends of the Gun - Aboriginal Australians at War - Panel

'Both Ends of the Gun' videos on YouTube

Thanks to the excellent work of Catholic Communication's XT3 administrator, Laura Bradley, three videos of 'Both Ends of the Gun' are now online on YouTube.

The August seminar on Australian Aboriginals at War was sponsored by the Marist Family Justice & Peace group at Santa Sabina College, Strathfield, NSW.

Click on links at left

[Oct 24]




CRA leads Canberra human rights meeting

The peak body for Catholic religious institutes in Australia, Catholic Religious Australia (CRA), has taken the lead in calling faith leaders to action onpressing human rights issues

CRA called on other faith bodies.to join them in holding an urgent meeting calling on politicians to restore the human dignity of refugees and asylum seekers in Canberra on Oct 15.

Click here for CRA's media release

[Oct 19]


Canberra vigil against child detention

Australians nationwide are invited to joiin or organise their own prayer vigil in support of a meeting in Canberra on Oct 15 between the Congregational Leaders of Religious of Australia and some Parliamentarians in the hope changing the Government's policy of keeping children in detention.

Click here for network of prayer vigils.  
Click here for a page for your own prayer vigil

[Oct 12]


In a Sydney high school refugee students speak with courage, candour and gratitude.
Fr Kevin Bates
reflects on the...


Treehouse Theatre

Fr Kevin Bates SM is pastor of Holy Name of Mary parish, Hunters Hill/Woolwich, NSW

It goes without saying that our world is in a very dangerous state. 

The tendrils of terror, once seeming to be so far away from our shores, have appeared in deadly form again in the past week in the person of a fifteen year-old boy with a gun.

Many of the young among us are wondering what is going to happen to them as they grow into this world of increasing violence and uncertainty.

People a bit older are looking at their neighbours with different eyes, and suspicion often enough replaces trust and acceptance.

Governments are scrambling to respond and as often enough resort to violence as if it is their only option, which in some cases it may well be as it is the only language that the violent seem to understand.

Tragically it is also the response that the violent expect and hope for.

With stories of destruction and terror forming the background to much of our life, when signs of hope emerge and catch one’s eye, they are a great relief.

This week ABC TV aired a documentary from Miller Technical High School in Sydney’s south-west.

This part of Sydney as locals know, too often features in our news bulletins as the theatre for much of the local violence that is reported.

Miller High, like the other Colleges and Schools in that area, is populated by students from many different cultures. 

The College has a significant number of young people who arrived in Australia as refugees.

In one way or another they carry within them the trauma of leaving strife-torn homelands and treacherous journeys.

Some carry these memories on the surface and some carry them hidden deep inside.

In order to free up these memories so that they could be named in a safe and creative way for the students,

[top of next column...]

Treehouse Theatre was formed at the
College four years’ ago. In the program aired on Tuesday evening, we followed a group of refugee students as they learnt to share their stories with their friends.

We watched two skilful women, one a psychologist and one a drama teacher, shape the stories into a script for a theatre presentation.

The end result was a no-holds-barred theatrical presentation of their stories, the depth of which amazed even some of the parents who attended the performance.

The candour, courage and gratitude of the students spoke loudly to the viewing audience as well and in the process laid to rest some of the attitudes that underlie the attitudes of many in our Australian community.

The students were, some of them, Moslem, some of them Christian and some from other Middle Eastern religious communities. In their shared project they were one in supporting encouraging and learning from each other.

They were a sign of hope and an inspiration.  They also blew apart, in the most humble, gentle manner, the one-size-fits-all picture that some Australians use to distance themselves from and then reject people seeking asylum here.

They are also evidence that as a nation we have the moral and financial resources needed to welcome and care for those who come across the seas by whatever means.

If we are on the look-out, we will surely find other signs of hope and grace that will not only lift our spirits in the short term, but will also create an environment where children can grow safely and where the rest of the community can realise that a little encouragement, a listening ear and when needed some courageous action, can indeed re-shape the backdrop of our lives.

If Jesus’ presence is to mean anything in our world, it holds the promise that love can and will overcome all that divides, terrorizes and destroys.

People of faith hold this mystery hidden through endless ages as St Paul reminds us.. It’s surely timely that we name the signs of this mystery unfolding wherever we can.

Father Kevin

Oct 09, 2015


For those who've come across the seas - justice for refugees and asylum seekers

Taking words from Australia's national anthem, the Australian Catholic Bishops Conference presents a powerful Social Justice Statement for 2015-16: 'For Those Who’ve Come Across the Seas: Justice for refugees and asylum seekers.'

The introduction by Bishop Vincent Long Van Nguyen, chairman of the Australian Catholic Social Justice Council, is alone worth serious reflection.

Click here for 2015-16 Social Justice Statement.
Click here for Bishop Long Van Nguyen's introduction
Cick here for Ten Steps towards justice for refugees and asylum seekers

[Oct 03]


Simple video explains Syrian refugee crisis

A six--minute animated video from 'In a Nutshell' looks at the European refugee crisis and Syria.

Its simple presentation locates world responses. Even Australia is mentioned -- appropriately fleetingly.

Scroll down when you click here on the 'In a Nutshell' page.

[Sep 22]


'The Intervention' book launch

Sponsored by the Manly Warringah Pittwater Aboriginal Support group, an anthology of Australian writers collaborating to assail Government policy on Aboriginal people will be launched on Sep 14 on Jeff McMullen.

A key focus of the book, the 2007 "intervention', has been described as 'one of the most invasive, puzzling and unprecedented actions by a government in Australian history.'

Click here for details of the launch

[Sep 11]


Latest ACRATH newsletter

Click here

[Sep 10]


Australia's treatment of refugees has been motivated by political expediency...


Grotesque folly

Editorial, 'The Age'
Aug 02, 2015

The grotesque folly of shipping asylum seekers to gated camps in poor nations, and forcibly returning others to countries that breach human rights or do not respect international conventions on refugees, has poisoned our regional relations and embarrassed Australia internationally.

It is founded on a woeful lack of integrity and heightened political expediency.

Take, for instance, the muddle-headed plan to send refugees to Cambodia.

Since June, only four refugees have taken up the offer to be transferred out of detention facilities to live at Australia's expense in a villa in Phnom Penh.

A senior Cambodian official has said his government doesn't have any plans to take more refugees.

Immigration minister Peter Dutton says he expects the Cambodian government will uphold the agreement and he hopes many more refugees will go.

But paying Cambodia $50 million of taxpayers' money to house a handful of refugees has been both foolishly extravagant and reckless.

On foreign policy grounds, on regional policy grounds and for failing to observe basic human rights, the government's treatment of asylum seekers is a stunning failure.

It is devoid of decency. It denies people their dignity. It strips them of opportunity and hope and it leaves them at the mercy of poorly trained and inadequately supervised service providers.

And it abrogates the essential and abiding duty to care for people who come here.

Take the latest report, published on Monday, of the Senate committee examining allegations about conditions at the Nauru detention centre, a series of findings that, of course, are vigorously disputed by Coalition committee members.

The committee heard allegations of terrible abuse by staff at the Nauru facility, including dozens involving child abuse, rape or  sexual assaults, physical assaults and demeaning abuse of asylum seekers, as well as allegations that staff solicited detainees for sex by offering to provide banned items.

[top of next column...]

The evidence points to a lack of accountability, a lack of transparency and a lack of knowledge or proper oversight on the part of the government, and this underscores a lack of control over what is going on.

Every person, no matter where they are from or why they are in immigration detention, has the right to be treated with care and respect.

No amount of political sophistry, legal finagling, foreign-aid buyouts or diplomatic inveigling can absolve any government of its responsibilities.

Evidence of cruel and misguided policies, of mismanagement and abuse, is before us.

The government has been called out repeatedly by the Human Rights Commission; by the UN High Commissioner for Refugees, Amnesty International and other independent organisations.

Yet it pretends it has no responsibility for what occurs in offshore detention centres.

It says the responsibility lies with Nauru or Papua New Guinea.

About 40per cent of the 2000 or so people in immigration detention on the mainland have been held for more than a year.

A further 1579 are in offshore centres. One-in-five of all detainees has been in detention for at least the entire period of the Abbott government.

This government has covertly paid people smugglers to take asylum seekers back to Indonesia.

It has detained people at sea, then shipped them back to the lands they fled after conducting only cursory checks on requests for asylum.

It cloaks its actions in secrecy. It says it is saving lives by deterring people from coming.

But beyond our shores, and fully within the government's line of control, asylum seekers – children, men and women – languish out of sight and, potentially, out of mind of many Australians.

This must change. We can and must do so much better than this.  

Aug 04, 2015


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Migrants & Refugees Sunday

The Australian Cathiolic Migrant & Refugee Office's resource kit is available here.

[Aug 30]


'Both Ends of the Gun'

On Aug 20 over a hundred people attended this seminar on Australian Aboriginals at War, sponsored by the Marist Family Justice & Peace group at Santa Sabina College, Strathfield, NSW.

Keynote speakers were Prof Henry Reynolds and Uncle Dave Williams, both experts in the history and current plight of indigenous peoples in Australia. Hosting was in the hands of Fr Jim Carty SM, Br Paul Hough FMS and Jeff McMullen.

The event also featured panel and audience exchanges, music from Fr Kevin Bates, video, sound and graphics, and suggestions for further promoting Australian awareness of aboriginal history in school and media.

[Aug 30]

Top: 'Both Ends of the Gun; seminar' in progress / Panel session   Above: Prof Henry Reynolds / Uncle Dave Williams  |  Participants listening.. / .. to Fr Kevin Bates   Below: Santa Sabina's IT support, Andrew Liang   | Santa Sabina's assembly hall / lunch in the sunshine

Act Justly, August issue

From Sydney's Catholic archdiocese Justice & Peace office, the latest issue of 'Act Justly' is now available.

Click here.

[Aug 21]


Register at Marist Family Peace and Justice group.

Fine-tuning 'Both Ends of the Gun'

A final session of the Members of the combined Marist Family Justice, Peace & Integrity of Creation (JPIC) working group was held on Aug 12 at Hunters Hill to fine-tune arrangements for 'Both Ends of the Gun'sym.

The Aug 29 symposium focuses on 'Australian Aboriginals at War' and will be held at Santa Sabina College, Strathfield, NSW.

Keynote speaker will be Professor Henry Reynolds, author of 'Forgotten War', exploring the dark history of Australia's frontier wars.

[Jul 12]


Publicity for 'Both Ends of the Gun'

Jenny Cullen (Catholic Archdiocese of Sydney Communications) identifies key issues in the Aug 29 one-day conference by the Marist Family Peace and Justice group.

Click here

[Jul 09]


Fr Kevin Bates comments on the world of property, security and border protection.....

Gift or possession?

Fr Kevin Bates SM is pastor of Holy Name of Mary parish, Hunters Hill/Woolwich, NSW

In a world where ownership plays such a prominent role in the life of nations, families, institutions and individuals, it’s worth stepping back now and then and listening for what this need to own things is telling us about ourselves.

In this world, ownership is protected by law, and some legal entities are entirely devoted to dealing with property and the rights and obligations that property entails.

Churches over the ages have been split-up because of arguments over property matters. Governments, including our own spend an increasing amount of energy on protecting what they see as “ours”.

Our newly formed Border Protection and Immigration structure is an expression of this preoccupation.

Our laws around property and ownership are by and large designed to protect us from each other, and from others beyond the boundaries we have created for ourselves.

There are societies, some of them quite ancient and wise, who sing a different tune.

Ownership is something that means little to them. Life and all that comes with the gift of life is seen precisely as that, a gift, moreover a gift that is at its best when it is shared.

The laws in these societies are designed to preserve the gift for all who care to share in it.

The values embodied in these laws are not about borders that need protecting, but rather they are about gifts that deserve celebrating.

Because as a Church, we cannot be spectators in our own culture, of necessity we have become caught up in the world of property, security and border protection.

This border protection comes in many guises and we are masters of most of them. We play the game regarding property as our society at large expects us to do.

The jury is surely out on the question as to whether this system provides real peace, dignity and a haven for all who need somewhere to call home.

Our system is pretty much built on fear, fear of losing what we have and fear of not having as much as others have.

The economy and laws of the more ancient societies are built not on fear so much as thankfulness.

[top of next column...]

One would have to think that the prevailing spirit of these societies is more at home with the Gospel of Jesus than our prevailing western culture, with its preoccupations with ownership and protection.

The self, whether it be the individual or communal self, is at the centre of the game in our society and this then shapes our law, our economy and many of our life choices.

For a Gospel that is built on love, thankfulness and welcome to break through in this setting, is an enormous task, for this Gospel is centred not on the self but rather on the Giver of the gifts with which we’ve been entrusted.

This task requires sacrifice, courage and sometimes heroism, as the Gospel flies in the face of the prevailing culture which treats life itself as a possession to be used and then disposed of according to the will of the imagined owner!

Unborn children, incapacitated elderly people, refugees, indigenous and other ethnic minorities, all fall victim to laws based on the premise that we own things, places and even people and therefore have the right to decide what to do with them.

The challenge for people of faith to be a light to the nations is profound.

Even within our own hearts we find the causes of border protection, rights and privileges at work. Within our own Church we can find the same.

Daily prayer and a deep living communion with the Giver of all Life is our only real hope of breaking through these barriers we’ve built for ourselves and re-claiming our true centre.

Only then will love replace fear and the peace that Jesus promised become possible. 

Father Kevin

Jul 05, 2015


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Act Justly - special issue

Sydney's Catholic archdiocese Justice & Peace office advises:
'To celebrate the release of Pope Francis' Encyclical, "Laudato Si" we've put together a Special Issue on caring for creation! It's full of stories and ideas about how we can all respond to the messages of the Encyclical'

For the special issue of 'Act Justly' click here.

[Jul 01]


Laudato Si released

Pope Francis' encyclical letter on the environment, 'Laudato Si', ('Praise be to You') has now been released.

For the full text click here.

[Jun 19]


Refugee Week 2015

The National Refugee Week begins on Jun 14. For the Refugee Council of Australia (RCOA) schedule of events click here.

[Jun 14]


August event web site launched

The latest Marist web site to be launched is an initiative of the Marist Family Justice and Peace group in Australia: www.maristfamily,com.au.

Led by Fr Jim Carty SM, the group's site advertises its forthcoming August 29 Strathfield event, 'Both Ends of the Gun', focussing on Australian aboriginals at war.

Click here to: Download the flyer  |   Go to the web site.

[Jun 12]


ACMRO action call on Rohingya refugees

Pleas from Australian Catholic Migrant and Refugee Office (ACMRO) chairman, Bishop Vincent Long Nguyen, and director, Fr Maurizio Pettena,

Click here for ACMRO statement.

[Jun 10]


Fr Kevin Bates warns.....

Mind the gap

Fr Kevin Bates SM is pastor of Holy Name of Mary parish, Hunters Hill/Woolwich, NSW

Soon after the 2001 attacks on the World Trade Centre, Benedictine nun and author, Joan Chittister wrote a fine reflection. 

Among other things, she noted that in the short window of opportunity that presented itself following the attacks, the United States had several options. 

One was to launch an offensive on world poverty, the underlying cause of much of the world’s terrorist behaviours, or to launch a war on terror.

The nation shaped by the Cowboy and the Wild West, with a President to match, opted for an all-out war on terror.

The results speak for themselves.
We are more nervous than ever about the threat of terrorism.

Many parts of the world are past being nervous and are subjected daily to acts of terror.

As a consequence the world is awash with refugees and the gap between the wealthy and the poor continues to increase.

In the Federal Budget this week, the Government felt obliged to set aside some $2.1b to ensure our anti-terror strategies were adequate to protect us all.

Figures released last week in the Herald, showed yet again the widening gap between the wages of people around our suburbs.

Here at Hunters Hill our average wage was well in the upper bracket. In a good number of other suburbs, the average wage is falling well below what is considered to be basic to a family’s needs.

In the middle of all this we have charities, churches, some community-minded companies and many generous individuals, trying to redress this imbalance.

Our parish and parish school take initiatives and respond to needs whenever we hear of them. 

Our community’s response to the Vanuatu cyclone, to Project Compassion, the Nepal earthquakes and to other needs that arise are unfailingly generous. 

This Thursday, the Villa Maria school hall was packed with mothers preparing birthing kits for women in the more needy parts of Africa and Asia. 

The organisation, “Birthing Kits Australia” will see that they are delivered to places where they are most needed.

[top of next column...]

In parishes and communities all around Australia, people are working to bridge the gap between rich and poor and to bring some semblance of justice and dignity to our world. 

Refugee advocates, lawyers working for families at risk, welfare agencies and medical specialists are all contributing their skills and their generous hearts, and yet the gap keeps widening.

Some funding for people in need is diminishing, while we spend more on armaments and anti-terrorist measures.

For all the good will and sacrifices that so many make, our world cannot bring itself to believe that a war on poverty will accomplish far more than a war on terror.

“Mind the Gap”, we are often warned as we hop on or alight from a train.

This could become a worthy slogan for us as we reflect on the gap that divides the community both here and globally.

As we fail to mind this gap that increasingly divides us, our world can only become more dangerous and more terror-ridden.

As Christians, we seek to return the world to the Love which created it and the Love Who is our only home.

This Love is the deepest longing of every human heart. Let’s continue to give ourselves fully to this saving mission of love at every turn.

In Jesus’ rising from the dead, we have the means both to mind and bridge the gap should we so choose.

Let’s keep praying that we do!                     

Father Kevin

May 16, 2015


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From Australian Catholic Religious Against Trafficking in Humans Sr Noelene Simmons SM reports that the latest ACRATH news is now available.

Click here

[May 15]


Fr Kevin Bates observes 'it's the wages as well as the prices that are going.....

... down, down and staying down!'

Fr Kevin Bates SM is pastor of Holy Name of Mary parish, Hunters Hill/Woolwich, NSW

This week’s Four Corners program on ABC, revealed the results of an investigation into the cruel labour practices that are operating across various food production industries in Australia.

Migrant labourers, in Australia on 417 visas are lured here by labour hire companies with the promise of work and good conditions. 

The report shows that thousands of them are being grossly underpaid, that they are provided with accommodation that is more suitable for cattle than people, and that they live in fear of losing their jobs and visas should they dare to speak out. 

Women workers are especially vulnerable as they are often subjected to harassment and sexual advances.  At times sexual favours are demanded of them in return for their visas.

These workers are employed by some of the largest food production companies in Australia. 

These companies employ many workers on award wages and proper conditions. 

They also employ these unskilled migrant workers who are paid between half and two thirds their proper wage. 
Millions of dollars that rightly belong to them go into the pockets of the shonky labour hire companies.

The food they produce comes to our tables via all the major supermarket chains and two of the main fast food outlets.

They include Coles, Woolworths, Costco, Aldi, Red Rooster and KFC among others.  

Each of them has a disclaimer on the ABC website, stating that they comply, acting ethically towards their workers and suppliers.

Some state that they have ceased hiring labour from suspect labour hire companies.

Not mentioned were Harris Farm Markets and Mercato e Cuccina, both of whom have outlets in our area, along with a number of small family-run businesses.

For people of the gospel, acting justly is one of the central moral practices that we claim for ourselves.

Revelations such as those made on the ABC this week raise questions for us that are well worth a moment’s reflection.

[top of next column...]

Shopping at the major supermarket outlets, is a convenience that we all enjoy.

We know where things are and we enjoy catching up with each other as we shop.

Hearing of the injustice inflicted on the migrant workers, and benefitting at the same time from the fruits of their labours, what choices do we have?

A couple of obvious options suggest themselves. 

One would be to cease buying our meat and vegetables from these outlets until we know that their labour practices have been reformed. 

Another option would be for us to ask to speak or write to the manager of each store we visit and raise the issue with him or her, asking what actions the company is doing to rectify the situation.

If enough people raise their voices and particularly, if enough people take their business elsewhere, who knows what good might result?

It’s worth noting that the Victorian State Government has announced an inquiry into these labour hire companies, pursuant to the Four Corners report.

The deeper question for each of us is how we respond when we are aware of unjust practices in our community.  We can leave the hard work of reform to others. 

We can avoid taking any action because it might mean an inconvenient change of routine for us.

We might take no action on an issue such as this simply because we don’t in this instance know the names and faces of workers being abused and enslaved by these unscrupulous labour hire companies.

We might prefer not to know about it and simply put our head in the sand.
However, we could act and make a difference for many and enhance the integrity of our own community at the same time.

For the moment it’s the wages as well as the prices that are “Down, Down and Staying Down!

Father Kevin

May 09, 2015


'Care 4 Creation' month

Pope Francis’ universal prayer intention for April 2015 is 'That people may learn to respect creation and care for it as a gift of God'.

The Global Catholic Climate Movement says: 'In the face of human-made climate change which is undoing God’s gift, let’s join Pope Francis praying and acting for creation together, to prepare ourselves for his upcoming encyclical on ecology.'

Click here for Climate change facts and GCCM web site.

[Apr 01]


'What my country is doing is wrong'

Australian author, Tim Winton, was part of the Palm Sunday 'Walk 4 Justice' in Perth, W.A., on Mar 29.

Click here for his speech.

[Mar 30]


Be a good egg

Much of the chocolate that finds its way into our shops and homes is made with cocoa from Cote d'Ivoire plantations that use trafficked children. They are kidnapped or their families are tricked, forced to work in the cocoa plantations from an early age, for long hours, in dangerous working conditions, without any possibility of attending school.

A global movement has begun to change this. The movement tackles poverty and empowers producers who are doing the right thing. Farmers operating with Fairtrade Certification, Rainforest Alliance or UTZ Certified are engaging in good labour practices. Join the movement this Easter.

Choose certified Traffik-Free chocolate, support the farmers and STOP THE TRAFFIK. Click here for 'Good Egg Guide'  |  'Stop the Traffik' web site

[Mar 27]


Save this date

Sat, Aug 29, 2015, 'Both ends of the Gun: Aboriginal Australians at War' , hosted by the combined Marist Family Justice & Peace network.

At Santa Sabina College, 90 The Boulevarde, Strathfield, NSW.

[Mar 04]


'Aboriginal Australians at war'
symposium takes shape

Members of the combined Marist Family Justice, Peace & Integrity of Creation (JPIC) working group met on Feb 10 at Hunters Hill to further plan for its August symposium, 'Aboriginal Australians at war'.

The symposium, to be held on Aug 29 at Santa Sabina College, Strathfield, NSW, is likely to attract lay Marists, secondary school students and members of Social Justice activity groups.

Keynote speaker will be Professor Henry Reynolds, author of 'Forgotten War', exploring the dark history of Australia's frontier wars.

[Feb 11]


One of ACRATH's awards / a proud Sr Noelene Simmons SM

ACRATH wins top new awards

In the 2015 Inaugural 'Restless Press' Southern Cross Catholic Digital Media Awards ACRATH was placed first in two sections. Best Call to Action and Best Use of Social Media. ACRATH draws on the energies and commitment of Australian Catholic religious in the fight against human trafficking.

ACRATH's Sr Noelene Simmons SM says: 'We are grateful to all who voted for us. Thank you for your interest and support. Please continue visiting our website and our Facebook and Twitter pages to stay informed about human trafficking and what can be done to work against this despicable crime.'

Click for 'Restless Press' winners page and ACRATH

[Feb 03]


New hope for refugees?

Australian Marist JPICC member, Fr Jim Carty SM, is one of Sydney Alliance's advocates to support the recent statement by NSW premier, Mike Baird, on a new deal for refugees and asylum seekers.

Click here for the Sydney Alliance statement.

[Jan 31]


The debate that never ends - the appropriateness of January 26 as our national day - is not going to go away. Professor Henry Reynolds looks for alternatives.


Re-thinking Australia Day:
where should we begin?

...a nominee in 2015's 'Australian of the Year' awards, Professor Henry Reynolds is an outspoken advocate of the rights of indigenous Australians.

He will be keynote speaker at the combined Marist Justice, Peace & Integrity of Creation symposium later in 2015.

The problems with Australia Day have been widely canvassed.

They were graphically illustrated in Sydney in the bi-centennial year of 1988.

On the morning of January 26, a vast crowd gathered to greet the fleet of tall ships recreating the arrival of the First Fleet.

In the afternoon a huge procession of Aborigines and their supporters marched from Redfern to an exuberant rally in Hyde Park to mark what they called invasion day.

The question posed in 1988 remains. Can the two conflicting views of Australia ever be reconciled?

Can indigenous and settler Australians find common ground, or more precisely, a mutually acceptable day of national significance?

New Zealand’s Waitangi Day unites most Pakeha and many, if not all, Maoris.

If we are to rethink January 26 where should we begin?

Clearly the arrival of the British fleet was an event of both local and global significance.

There is little we can do to change that. It was by any measure a great achievement of maritime logistics.

But what matters is how as a nation we relate to the historical events.

What might be done to ease the ongoing, attendant contention?

It would seem fanciful to suggest that Aboriginal Australians should ever celebrate the arrival of what was for them, the invasion fleet, the precursor to the great catastrophe which progressively engulfed indigenous society right across the continent.

Often heard suggestions that they should ‘get over it’ or ‘should move on’ are insulting rather than helpful.

So if we want change it must come from settler, or more precisely, from official Australia.

What is needed is a reconsideration of long and deeply held attitudes.

At the very heart of the problem is that many Australians are still emotionally attached to the long lost Empire, clinging to monarchy and a demonstrably colonial flag.

They want to tell a story of well-meaning Imperialists who were instructed to treat the Aborigines with ‘amity and kindness’ and whose desire for peaceful occupation was frustrated by indigenous recalcitrance.

Arthur Phillip’s undoubted humanity is endlessly called on to attest to British good will.

But this comforting view of benign Imperialism eschews that which it cannot accommodate.

And in particular the decision made, in advance, in London to claim both the absolute sovereignty and ownership of all the property over half the continent.

The indigenous owners were legally swept aside. Under the new regime they had neither property rights nor sovereignty.

It was truly radical, revolutionary behaviour. Whether it was done under the illusion that the continent was largely uninhabited or because the Aborigines were seen as less than human scarcely matters.

Chatter about gubernatorial good will and benign intentions are no more than whimsical distractions.

When Arthur Phillip arrived in Sydney he carried in his dispatch case a prospective death sentence for many thousands of Aborigines.

[top of next column...]

Those decisions about property and sovereignty were cemented into the foundations of the Australian legal system.

They had a great deal to do with the conflict over land that followed the European pioneers into every new district of the country for 140 years.

Given that the Aborigines had no legal claim to the land on which they stood, there was no reason to negotiate with them.

Because they had no sovereignty, they could not be partners in the sort of treaties which were commonly negotiated in North America and in New Zealand.

It took the Australian Courts until 1992 with the Mabo judgement to overthrow the doctrine of Terra-Nullius.

A significant, if forgotten, aspect to the case was that the Australia Act of 1986 had released the High Court from the requirement to defer to British precedent.

The vexed question of Aboriginal sovereignty remains to be resolved.

So there is a problem with January 26 if it is to be commemorated in any more than a partial and partisan way.

One great hurdle to overcome is an instinctive desire to defend the Empire.

Why this is so over 200 years later is hard to explain.

After all, Australians show no wish to defend British policies during the Opium Wars or the Crimean War or any other long-forgotten conflict.

Many Australians seem to be incapable of identifying with the Aborigines and seeing them as patriots defending their ancient homelands against an over-powering invader.

Our attitude to British settlement is compounded by the fact that it was based on the mass deportation of convicts.

They were not settlers in the normal sense. They did not choose to help usurp indigenous land.

Their suffering was not grievous as that of the Aborigines.

But they too were clearly victims of British Imperialism and they suffered disproportionately in the frontier wars during the first 50 years of settlement.

There are several symbolic and easily achieved ways in which the nature of Australia Day celebrations could be re-oriented.

There should be public recognition of British legal usurpation and the disasters that followed.

Even more potent would be the nation-wide call for a minute’s silence to remember the thousands of Aborigines and hundreds of Europeans who died in the frontier wars.

If they are too difficult to institute, it would clearly suggest that we need a new national day.


Jan 26, 2015


Anti-trafficking day of prayer

The feast day of Sudanese anti-trafficking patron, St Josephine Bakhita, has been chosen by Pope Francis as a day of prayer, reflection and action against human trafficking.

Australian Marist Sister, Noelene Simmons SM, has made available information about the Feb 08 occasion from her desk at ACRATH (Australian Catholic Religious against Trafficking in Humans).

Click here for ACRATH and its resources and more about St Josephine Bakhita and Pope Francis' message..

[Jan 22]