17 December 2004


The past week has brought both good and bad news from Baxter Detention Centre. First the good news. After more than four years in detention an Iranian family whom we met on our recent visit to Baxter has just been released on temporary protection visas and has arrived in Melbourne. The Edmund Rice Refugee Services group who made the visit to Baxter have undertaken to provide support for the family and are currently in the process of assisting with finding accommodation and arranging schooling for the son and daughter.

On a less happy note a number of Iranian men, including some whom we met on our visit have climbed onto the roof of their compound and commenced a hunger strike to draw attention to their ongoing detention and lack of progress in consideration of their appeals for asylum.

Whilst the release of one family is welcomed it is not necessarily a sign of hope for other families and individuals still detained even though their background and stories may be similar. If anything it increases their anxiety as it highlights the apparent arbitrary and non-transparent nature of the system that decides their fate.

It is hoped that even in the midst of this busy festive and holiday season that readers of this bulletin may find a few minutes to write or email the minister and members of parliament to express their concern about this issue.

Contact details for members of parliament may be found at the Parliament of Australia website.

Information about the current situation of those held in detention can be found at the Baxter Watch website.


In their statement "Having Faith in Democracy - Building a Better Australia" released during the year, the Australian Bishops urged the cultivation of a culture that respects life. This has also been a consistent theme in the preaching of Pope John Paul II expressed in his opposition to the war in Iraq, to capital punishment and abortion.

The debate on abortion has been re-ignited in Australia recently with calls to address the inconsistency and anomaly that exists in regard to abortion laws and the Medicare funding of abortion. Although the law varies from state to state, abortions may be legally performed after 20 weeks of pregnancy whilst at the same time advances in medical technology now make it possible for premature infants to survive even before 24 weeks.

Bioethical issues such as abortion, euthanasia, IVF, cloning, and maintaining patients on life support present a challenge to society and to a church that attempts to provide clear moral guidance balanced with compassion for those who are faced with agonizing decisions. In many cases the choice faced is not between right and wrong but between bad and worse.

Further information about these issue can be found at the Respect Life Office website of the Archdiocese of Melbourne.


In a media release to mark World Human Rights Day Bishop Christopher Saunders of the Australian Catholic Social Justice Council (ACSJC) has renewed a call for justice for David Hicks and Mamdouh Habib who have now been detained for over three years in Guantanamo Bay.

Noting that grave concerns about the treatment of the prisoners have been raised by organizations such as Amnesty and Red Cross and that recent rulings in the US have cast doubt on the lawfulness of their continuing detention and the ability of the military tribunals to ensure a fair hearing, Bishop Saunders called upon the Australian Government to ensure Hicks and Habib have immediate access to the ordinary process of justice in a non-military court.

Bishop Saunders stressed that respect for fundamental human rights underpins the Australian way of life and that it is the Australian way to settle questions of guilt or innocence in a court of law that ensures all the proper protections of the rule of law, including the presumption of innocence.

The full text of the statement can be found at the ACSJC website.


As we recall the birth of our Saviour this Christmas we are reminded that all baptized Christians are called to share in the mission of Jesus – the task for which he came into the world and which he himself described in Luke’s gospel

The Spirit of the Lord is upon me,
Because he has anointed me to bring good news to the poor.
He has sent me to proclaim release to captives
And recovery of sight to the blind,
To let the oppressed go free,
To proclaim the year of the Lord's favour. (Luke 4: 18 - 19)

The work for social justice is therefore not just an option but an integral part of living the gospel message and of the mission of the Church.

The commencement of a new year also provides the opportunity for a renewal of commitment to continue to work for the building of a world where all enjoy dignity, equality and freedom.

This will be the final Edmund Rice Justice Bulletin for the year. Bulletins will resume in late Jan.

Wishing peace, joy and blessings to all readers of this bulletin and their families for this Christmas season.

3 December 2004


A further seven Afghan children in Australia and ten Iraqi children in Nauru just have been granted refugee status. Whilst the news is welcome, it again raises the question as to why the Afghan children were held in detention for almost four years and why the Iraqi children - three girls and seven boys aged six months to 16 years – have also been detained since 2001, which in some cases means for their whole lives.

At the same time Dr David Fletcher lead surgeon at Australia's Fremantle hospital has publicly called for the Immigration Minister to alleviate the stress on Asylum Seekers held on Christmas Island for over 19 months.

After visiting the Christmas Island detention centre with former Olympic Champion, Ms Betty Cuthbert, Dr Fletcher said he was "simply amazed at the lack of respect for human dignity shown by the authorites" and "there were presents taken to be given to the children and we were not allowed to hand them out".

Dr Fletcher went on to say that "In my career as a doctor I have witnessed people in the greatest of despair and have never seen the levels of stress as displayed by these people as a result of treatment by Australian authorities". As a result of his observations on the stress evident in the detainees he encountered he is convinced that the detention policy applied by Australia in this remote processing centre is "excessive and a total waste of taxpayers money". He went on to say " here we have a group of families who are contributing to Australian society by growing fresh vegetables for the local Australians and it is ridiculous that Australia feels the need to lock families behind razor wire for so long".

There are still 108 children held in detention including the Iranians at Baxter mentioned in a previous post. In releasing the latest group of detainees Senator Vanstone has demonstrated some belated compassion. All readers of this bulletin are again urged to contact the minister to ask that this compassion be extended to all long-term detainees.


The Long Walk from Melbourne to Canberra commenced by former AFL footballer Michael Long has succeeded in its immediate objective of obtaining a meeting with the Prime Minister.

Long commenced his walk to draw attention to the continued desperate situation faced by Aboriginal people in Australia today and to request that the government provide some leadership, compassion and hope in addressing the problems faced by indigenous Australians.

At the same time concerns continue to be expressed about the Australian Government’s intention to return to the failed paternalistic policies of the past. According to ANTaR National President Phil Glendenning, the Government’s coercive approach to welfare and service delivery reform for Indigenous communities will usher in a renewed era of racially discriminatory treatment of Indigenous peoples.

"The Government still fails to see that unless change comes from Indigenous people themselves and solutions are ‘owned’ by Indigenous communities, outcomes will be piecemeal and unsustainable" he went on to say.

For the full text of his comments visit the Edmund Rice Centre website.


One aspect of the tragedy of the conflict in Dafur and in so many other parts of the globe is the role played by the arms industry. Manufacture of weapons is a lucrative source of income for many of the worlds developed nations, so much so that as Arundhati Roy the winner of the 2004 Sydney peace prize commented "once weapons were manufactured to fight wars now wars are manufactured in order to sell weapons"

There are around 639 million small arms and light weapons in the world today. Eight million more are produced every year.

Without strict control, such weapons will continue to fuel violent conflict, state repression, crime, and domestic abuse. Unless governments act to stop the spread of arms, more lives will be lost, more human rights violations will take place, and more people will be denied the chance to escape poverty.

The Control Arms campaign supported by Oxfam and Amnesty International is now one year old. In the first year over 200,000 people from around the world joined the call for tough controls on the international arms trade. With the UK Government recently adding its support, eight governments have now publicly pledged to establish the Arms Trade Treaty.

You can sign the "million faces" petition in support of arms control at the above website.


As part of its campaign to persuade retailers and manufacturers to sign up the Homeworkers Code of Practice, Fairwear sent leters early in Nov to four well-known companies which had refused so far to sign, warning them they were being targeted – Ojay, Satch, Scanlan & Theodore, and Witchery. Of these, only Witchery had responded by the deadline, so a small demonstration was staged outside branches of the remaining stores. Pictures and a report on the demonstration can be found here

There are about 330,000 homeworkers /outworkers making clothes in homes and garages across Australia predominantly women, and earning on average about 2$ - $5 an hour, often working 12-16 hour days .without holiday pay, sick pay, super or workers compensation. The fashion industry alone is worth around $10 billion a year.

The Homeworkers Code of Practice is a voluntary agreement which manufacturers, suppliers and retailers can sign. The Code makes companies responsible for the conditions through the supply chain under which they make clothing.

A list of companies which have signed as of 27 Oct 04 can be found at the Fairwearwebsite.


AIDS is by far the leading cause of death in sub-Saharan Africa. More than 15 million Africans have already died from AIDS out of a total of 20 million deaths worldwide. In 2003, 2.2 million adults and children died as a result of AIDS in sub-Saharan Africa out of a total of 3 million worldwide. Nearly two-thirds of the world's HIV-positive people live in this part of the world despite only containing around 10% of the world's population.

To mark World AIDS Day the most recent edition of Ozspirit focuses on how the unequal status of women contributes to both the transmission of HIV and the impact of AIDS itself. The UN campaign for this year seeks to give a voice to women who are more and more at risk of contracting the disease as well as carrying the bulk of the burden of the effects of HIV and AIDS in the community.

Among the resources and information available at the website is an online quiz which aims to raise knowledge and awareness of AIDS.

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