Lifting the veil

The group, Australian Catholic Religious Against Trafficking (ACRAT), is hoping to put the issue of trafficking of women and children much more firmly on the federal political agenda from this week.  Arriving in Canberra on Monday (October 16) for four days of intensive lobbying, the mostly Religious group planned to leave Members of Parliament in no doubt about the seriousness of human trafficking.

The first politicians to receive them were the Shadow Minister for Foreign Affairs, Kevin Rudd; the Status of Women ALP Committee and the Minister for Justice and Customs, Chris Ellison.  On day two, they were scheduled to speak with the Attorney-General, Philip Ruddock; the leader of the Democrats, Lyn Allison and the ALP Social Policy Committee.  The Minister for Immigration and Multicultural Affairs, Amanda Vanstone, the Shadow Minister for Child Care, Youth and Women, Tanya Plibersek, Greens advisors and advisors to the Prime Minister were also on the visiting hit-list.

According to Christine Carolan, a group member from the Good Shepherd Social Justice office, in Melbourne, the Canberra visit had three aims:

*   To raise the awareness of politicians and parliamentary groups about human trafficking.

*   To persuade the Federal Government to implement a new visa framework for people who have been trafficked. The group wants a new visa framework with a human rights basis rather than a criminal justice basis.

*   To lobby the Federal Government to implement the United Nation’s Convention on the Elimination of all forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW) Committee’s recommendations relating to trafficking, particularly to provide support to every trafficked woman. (See

The lobbyists are: Good Samaritan Sister Pauline Coll, chair of ACRAT;  Brigidine Sister Louise Cleary, world leader of the Brigidine order and well-known commentator on issues relating to refugees and trafficked women; Good Shepherd Sister Tania de Jong, a non fee levying migration agent, was part of the Melbourne ‘trial watch’ – a group who sat through each day of the eight-week court case in Melbourne which resulted in Australia’s first conviction on sex slavery laws; Josephite Sister Margaret Ng, a community visitor at Sydney’s Villawood Detention Centre, is working on repatriation support to young Thai women; Charity Sister Joan McKenna is resources coordinator for ACRAT; Mercy Sister Carmel Heagerty, who has experience working on safe housing; Mercy Sister Carole McDonald who is part of the community education team; Brigidine Sister Mary Mooney who is part of the Sydney trial watch team; Franciscan Sister Monica Weedon who coordinates ACRAT’s community education campaign from Melbourne and Christine Carolan.

Many of the religious orders represented in the lobbying group were founded to care for people on the margins. This lobbying visit to Canberra is seen as carrying on those strong traditions of standing with the poor or the vulnerable.

ACRAT, which represents more than 40 religious congregations, now has two offices, one in Melbourne and one in Sydney, and has galvanised support from the community.  In looking to Canberra, it was confident that many MPs wanted to better understand the issues about trafficking and appeared to welcome the group’s visit.

Let’s hope and pray that as the visit unfolds their confidence is well-founded.


Penny Edman.



Throughout the month, the Pope's general prayer intention is: "That all those who are baptized may mature in their faith and manifest it through clear, coherent and courageous choices in life."  The Pope's missionary prayer intention is: "That the celebration of World Mission Day may everywhere increase the spirit of missionary animation and cooperation."

TODAY St Thomas More’s Forum: Peacemaking for Christians in the 21st century, Peter Garrett, Shadow Parliamentary Secretary for Reconciliation and the Arts; St Thomas More’s School Hall, White Crescent, Campbell, ACT; 7.30-9pm  (cost $10/$3 student/concession)

Public lecture:  Designing public and sacred space, Romaldo Giurgola and Rosemary Crumlin (both involved with the rebuilding of St Patrick’s Cathedral, Parramatta); The Oratory, Newman College, Melbourne University; 5.15-6.30pm

19 Public lecture:  Pope Benedict XVI’s first encyclical, Deus Caritas Est, with Rev. Dr Gerard Kelly (Catholic University of Sydney) Setting and agenda for the Church and its mission and Pro. Neil Ormerod (Australian Catholic University) The argument has vast implications:  unpacking part 2; Ryan Auditorium, Catholic Institute of Sydney, Strathfield; 7.30pm.   Donation: $5.

Public lecture: Laity and transformation of the Church for Mission, with Professor Dean Hoge; Marymac Community Centre, Annerley; 7.30pm   (cost: $10, includes supper)

19-22 Pace e Bene Engage Workshop on non-violent living, co-hosted by the Lourdes Hill College Social Action Office.   (further information: Angela Ballard, telephone 07 3891 5866)

Make Indigenous Poverty History Campaign, Brisbane launch, West End Uniting Church, Sussex Street, West End; 6pm

20 Ecumenical forum and panel discussion: Young adults – signs of hope, with guest Professor Dean Hoge; Marymac Community Centre, Annerley; noon-2pm   (cost: $15, includes lunch)

20-22 Rachel’s Vineyard healing retreat (emotional and spiritual healing after abortion); Sydney

International human rights conferenceBuilding World Peace – The Role of Religions and Human Rights, Edmonton Alberta, Canada, presented by the John Humphrey Centre for Peace and Human Rights

21 Launch of The Emmaus Series in Broken Bay Diocese, led by John Thornhill sm; Caroline Chisholm Centre, Pennant Hills Road, Pennant Hills;   10.30am - 2pm (bookings, Cheryl Martin at The Broken Bay Institute 9473 4570)

22 80th World Mission Day

23 Professor Dean Hoge, American sociologist, visits Melbourne

for youth adults: Contemporary Women of Faith, led by Marie Biddle rsj, Croydon; 7.30-9.30pm (further information: or 02 9747 4199)

23-27 Biennial convention of the National Council of Priests, Imagining Pastoral Leadership, The Lakes Resort, West Lakes, SA.

24 Professor Dean Hoge, American sociologist, visits Ballarat

United Nations Day

ACTIV8 Catechesis with Bishop James Wingle (Canada): Activ8 2008! How World Youth day can inspire a new generation of witnesses for Christ; an evening of prayer, adoration, reconciliation, music and the talk; St Mary’s Catholic Church, Concord; 7-9pm

24-30 Disarmament Week

26 The Centre for Progressive Religious Thought:  What!  Do you mean there is more? Judas, Mary and the non-canonical gospels, with Rev’d Dr Greg Jenks; St James Church, Gillies Street, Curtin, ACT; 7.45pm   ($5 CPRT members / $8 non-members)

26-29 Pace e Bene Engage Workshop on non-violent living, co-hosted by the Toowoomba Diocesan Social Justice Commission.  (further information:  Mark Copland, telephone 07 4613 0895)

27 Activ8 (WYD) national tour of Canada’s Bishop James Wingle, Brisbane

27-29 West Papua Variety Benefit Concert, St Ignatius Centre, Richmond (Melbourne); 7.30pm (cost: $20/$15 concession; information, Paula 0409945482)

Rachel’s Vineyard healing retreat (emotional and spiritual healing after abortion); Melbourne

28 Workshop: Climate Change, Spirituality, You & Me, St Thomas’ Anglican Church Hall, North Ipswich; 1-4.30pm.  Free.

Activ8 (WYD) national tour of Canada’s Bishop James Wingle, Townsville

29 St Patrick’s Sunday Music Series: Refuge in poetry and music - Nobody know the trouble I’ve seen; featuring Thomas Keneally, Angela Chan and Godelieve Ghavalas, the Solidarity Choir of Sydney and James Nightingale; St Patrick’s Church, Grosvenor Street, Sydney; 1.30-2.30pm





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