30 July 2008


Asylum seekers will now be permitted live in the community while their claims for asylum are assessed under sweeping new reforms of Australia’s immigration policy announced this week.

The announcement effectively ends the policy of mandatory detention (except for exceptional cases) that has been a long-running source of considerable controversy and which was seen to be a violation Australia’s international human rights obligations.

Announcing the policy changes, Senator Evans (Minister for Immigration) rejected the notion that "dehumanising and punishing of unauthorised arrivals with long-term detention is an effective or civilised response" and went on to say that "desperate people are not deterred by the threat of harsh detention - they are often fleeing much worse circumstances."

Policy changes also include regular reviews of the cases of those held in detention (every three months), the provision of legal assistance to asylum seekers and an end to children being held in detention.

The policy changes were widely welcomed by refugee support groups and advocacy groups such as the Refugee Council of Australia and Polmin.

Spokesman for the Australian Catholic Bishops Bishop Joe Grech who said "The new risk based detention policy will do much to restore balance to the treatment of asylum seekers in this country so that people who pose a low risk can live in the community while their claims are being tested, rather than being locked up indefinitely."

Whilst also welcoming the move the Director of the Edmund Rice Centre Phil Glendenning, pointed out that "This is unfinished business. Australia still has a responsibility to those people it has damaged through this policy, whether they are still on these shores or still running for their lives in other countries"

The decision provides hope and encouragement to all those engaged in advocacy for a better and more just world and demonstrates that with patience and persistence it is possible to bring about change.


In another encouraging example of the effectiveness of advocacy, the UK based Stop the Traffik coalition is reporting on a landmark decision of the chocolate industry that will result in a 20% increase in fair-trade—Traffik Free—chocolate worldwide.

"Royal Verkade", a Dutch household name and subsidiary of United Biscuits, announced that they will be using 100% Fair Trade cocoa and sugar in their products from later this year. This is the first A-list chocolate producer worldwide to make the transition to Fair Trade production on a large scale.

The Chocolate Campaign encourages chocolate manufacturers to include a symbol on their chocolate wrappers confirming that the cocoa beans used in the manufacturing of the chocolate have not been harvested using child labour.

It is estimated that currently more than 12,000 children have been trafficked to cocoa farms in the Ivory Coast – the source of 50% of the world’s chocolate.

In Melbourne the issue of child labour and the Chocolate Industry will shortly be discussed at a public forum organized by Vision Generation the national youth movement associated with World Vision.


Politicians sympathetic to the plight of the world’s poor need the active support of concerned citizens in order to create a space which enables them to implement appropriate policies said Rev Jim Wallis, the visiting American evangelical Christian author and activist at a promotion of his most recent book “Seven Ways to Change the World” that I attended in Melbourne this week.

He pointed out that whilst the cost of maintaining the war in Iraq is $10 billion per month it would cost only $20 billion to educate 800 million of the world’s children who are currently denied that opportunity. He then went on to say that many of us feel uncomfortable when confronted with such statistics or when we experience at first hand the plight of those living in poverty.

The challenge is to move people from discomfort to engagement with the political process in order to make a difference.

Wallis is best known for his advocacy of peace and social justice and founder and editor of the influential publication Sojourners whose mission is ”to articulate the biblical call to social justice, inspiring hope and building a movement to transform individuals, communities, the church, and the world.”


The overwhelming scientific consensus suggests that planet Earth is facing an unprecedented and potentially catastrophic crisis as a result of the climate change produced by global warming.

The Australian government is currently developing policies to respond to the issues raised by the recently released Garnaut Report on climate change.

At a time when it might be hoped that a bi-partisan policy could be developed to ensure an effective national response to the issue, it would seem that the government is considering ignoring some key recommendations of the report in order to appease some powerful lobby groups with a vested financial interest in opposing those recommendations.

A significant factor in the determining the government’s stance seems to be to combat the apparent desire of the opposition to exploit popular fears about the impact of the proposed recommendations on the electorate.

In order to help further ignite the grass-roots movement demanding action on climate change Get-Up has launched a 'climate-torch relay'.

Visit the above website to find out how you or your town/suburb can participate. The site also contains information and invitations to action around the Garnaut report and long term solutions to fuel prices.

11 July 2008


At the recently concluded Chapter of the new Oceania Province of the Christian Brothers held in Brisbane, a series of directions were set for the life and mission of the Congregation in this region for the next six years.

"Proclaiming Liberation and Justice” was identified as one of these five priority areas thus re-affirming the Brothers’ commitment to liberation and justice as a driver of decisions for ministry.

The direction also re-affirmed the value of working in partnership with those similarly committed within and beyond Oceania which includes Edmund Rice International


A new international financial crimes tribunal with similar powers to the war crimes tribunal would make a huge contribution to reducing world poverty according to Cardinal Rodriguez of Honduras who is currently in Australia to attend World Youth Day.

"Many dictators enrich themselves with the goods of their nation and keep them," he said. "The money is needed to develop the nation."

According to a report in the Melbourne “Age” Cardinal Rodriguez went on to say that such a tribunal, with power to repatriate money, needed agreement by powerful nations.

The cardinal’s comment draws attention to the importance of addressing all human rights. Western nations (including Australia) have frequently been accused of focusing on Civil and Political Rights such as the right to life, freedom of speech, freedom of conscience and religion etc but downplaying Economic, Social and Cultural Rights such as the right to an adequate standard of living, the right to health, to education, to participate fully in cultural life etc.

For the most part civil and political rights are respected in our western world which perhaps enables us to be comfortable in criticizing nations which do not respect them.

Perhaps our perceived reluctance to be similarly concerned about economic rights stems from a recognition that it may cost us if they are taken seriously?


Mkombozi is a NGO involved in service and advocacy with street children in northern Tanzania. The Christian Brothers have some contact with Mkombozi through their shared interest in the education of disadvantaged youth in Arusha.

The following article is taken from the June edition of "Mkombozi News". The article highlights the potential value of advocacy in working for positive change to ensure a more just world. For that reason this article was also reproduced on the Edmund Rice International blogsite

"In May 2008, Mkombozi sent out a press release detailing the escalation of violence directed at street youth in Arusha town preceding the Leon H. Sullivan Summit. That press release was an appeal to eliminate the violence and unprovoked detention of street youth, as well as a call for cooperation between the Leon H. Sullivan Foundation, the Government of Tanzania, civil society organizations and the citizenry.
Notably, since the press release went to the public, Mkombozi’s street educators and social workers have witnessed a termination of regular violence and brutality carried out against our clients. The Sullivan Summit is now passed, and Mkombozi has still not witnessed any round-ups since we exposed the episodes which preceded it. In fact, during the Sullivan Summit, we at Mkombozi were contacted by the Inspector General of Police, Dar Es Salaam, who had received a copy of the press release. As a reaction after having read it, he offered us a window for dialogue around the street child issue, expressing great concern about how the situation was currently being handled.
Mkombozi is optimistic about the recent events which have taken place. We are hoping to achieve good results in the future as an effect of improved teamwork with all the stakeholders in ensuring a safe and enabling environment for children, free from abuse and violence."


In a recent statement Catholic Religious Australia the peak body representing the more than 8,000 members of Religious Congregations in Australia has called for a bold transformation of Australia’s immigration laws to fully respect the dignity and rights of people.

"The great challenge for us as a nation is that we must now move beyond repealing the worst features of our immigration laws and policies," the President of Catholic Religious Australia, Fr Mark Raper SJ, said.
"We hope for an immigration system in which asylum claims are assessed in ways that are compatible with Australia's ordinary legal system, international human rights principles, and Australia's international treaty obligations.

The need for change in Australia’s attitude and treatment of asylum seekers has also been highlighted by the Edmund Rice Centre at the launch of the film "A Well Founded Fear" which follows the ERC Director Phil Glendenning as he attempts to discover the fate of Australia’s rejected asylum seekers.

The film was launched at the Sydney film festival in June and will also be screened on SBS Television in Australia later in the year.

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