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NSW 2140

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ERC Just Comment Vol 19 No 3: Nuclear Waste Dumps

Poisoning the heart of our home – dumping the world’s nuclear waste

Our planet is deeply burdened as it harbours 390,000 tons of high level nuclear waste produced by nuclear reactors and weapons programs over the past 70 years. Spent nuclear fuel, one of the most dangerous materials on earth, is stored underwater in numerous cooling ponds throughout the world.

Nuclear waste is dangerous to all life for unthinkable periods of time. Plutonium has a toxic lifespan of 240,000 years. A further 10,000 tons of spent fuel is added annually to the world’s accumulated stores of deadly waste.

Spent fuel from nuclear reactors, vast amounts of lower-level radioactive waste is also scattered in mining sites, tailings dams, undersea dumps and soil-borne contamination on every continent. We have no idea what to do with the stuff.

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ERC Just Comment Vol 19 No 2: From Just War to Just Peace

Though our world is studded by acts of violence and conflict from the Middle East to West Papua, from the Philippines to parts of Latin America and Sri Lanka to Africa, people remain convinced that the default position of responding to violence with more violence is unviable and ineffective. It is not in accord with being a follower of Jesus, who incarnates the God of Peace.
In April 2016, on the 50th anniversary of Pope John XXlll’s release of the encyclical Peace on Earth (Pacem in terris), a ground-breaking and unprecedented conference was held in Rome called Nonviolence and Just Peace: Contributing to the Catholic Understanding of and Commitment to Nonviolence. Co-hosted by the Vatican’s Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace and Pax Christi International the conference hosted 85 nonviolence and peacemaking practitioners from around the world. 
In the Catholic Church, the move away  from the just war theory as ‘settled teaching’ to a more expansive call to proactive peacemaking is not really new. It has been questioned by Popes John XXlll, Paul Vl, John Paul ll, Benedict XVl and now Francis. 
The ‘just war’ doctrine was deceptive. It led people to think that because a war was declared as just, that it was actually a good thing. However, even when a just war may have been permissible, it was still an evil. Pope Francis began to question this thinking before the conference when he said that ‘many powerful people don't want peace because they live off war… Some powerful people make their living with the production of arms… It's the industry of death’. In this he challenged the military-industrial complex – those who make and export armaments as well as exporting poverty.
Pope Francis has alluded to a world war that occurs in instalments: “In order to seek solutions to the unique and terrible ‘world war in instalments’ which, directly or indirectly, a large part of humankind is presently undergoing…” we need ‘true peace’ where it is necessary to bring people together concretely so as to reconcile peoples and groups with opposing ideological positions. It is also necessary to work together for what persons, families, peoples and nations feel is their right, namely, to participate on a social, political and economic level in the goods of the modern world.
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ERC Media: Dutton must be reprimanded for fear-mongering about refugees -- 18th May 2015

Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull must immediately reprimand Immigration Minister Peter Dutton over comments he made last night that refugees are uneducated, unemployable and at the same time “taking Australian jobs.”
In an interview with Sky News last night, Mr Dutton said: “They won't be numerate or literate in their own language, let alone English. These people would be taking Australian jobs, there's no question about that.”

Phil Glenndenning, Director of the Edmund Rice Centre (and President of the Refugee Council of Australia) has condemned the comments as a blatant attempt to appeal to the lowest common denominator of society – prejudice and bigotry. “Not only are these comments inaccurate, they are deeply offensive to the hundreds of thousands of refugees who have come to our country over many generations,” Mr Glendenning said.

“The fact is Australia can and should take more refugees – in 1949 alone we resettled 90,000 refugees. This is a desperate attempt to blow the dog whistle and the Prime Minister must show the leadership to pull him into line.”

“Every election since 2001 has been dominated by the politics of fear and emotion when it comes to immigration, refugees and people seeking asylum. In years to come, we will look back on this chapter of Australian politics and hang our heads in shame,” Mr Glendenning concluded.
Read more.

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ERC Just Comment Vol 19 No 1: Nuclear Weapons

Nuclear weapons and global signs of hope

There is much happening globally to address the threat posed by the over 15,000 nuclear weapons that still exist, however Australia is a part of the problem, rather than a part of the solution, in getting rid of these worst of all weapons. The results of any nuclear weapons use would be catastrophic beyond measure, and beyond the capacity of any meaningful humanitarian response. Repeated studies have warned that unless nuclear weapons are abolished they will be used again. The Canberra Commission stated that “the proposition that nuclear weapons can be retained in perpetuity and never used – accidentally or by decision – defies credibility”.

Nine nations possess nuclear weapons but only the US keeps some of its weapons on other nations’ territory. The US also offers “extended deterrence” to some of its allies including Australia. This means that Australia accepts “protection” by US nuclear weapons.

Australia has opposed and sought to undermine the Humanitarian Initiative process that is heading towards a nuclear weapons ban treaty. At the heart of Australia’s resistance to a ban treaty is our continued reliance on “extended nuclear deterrence”, that is, the threat of use of US nuclear weapons in our “defence”. A threat can only deter if it is credible, and the threat in this case is to incinerate cities and their inhabitants - children, women and men – indiscriminately. The Australian government refuses in international forums to agree that nuclear weapons must never be used “under any circumstances”. This raises the questions: Under what circumstances does the Australian government believe nuclear weapons should be used, and against whom?

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ERC Event: Justice through the Arts -- 13 May 2016

Justice through the Arts
A day of inspiration and celebration
Fri, 13th May 2016 - Burwood, NSW

In our society the arts hold a powerful role in raising awareness in social justice, human rights and eco-justice themes, and consequently in building capacity for social change. In this one-day event we will meet and hear the lived experiences in this journey of outstanding people in diverse artistic fields including literature, film, theatre, art, music, poetry, photography.

This day is open to ALL who are concerned about social justice, human rights and eco-justice, age 15+ through to adults. (i.e. Also suitable for students in Years 9, 10, 11 & 12. There is a limit of 10 students per school.)

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ERC Media: COP21 Paris: Australia fails on real increase in support for most climate-vulnerable neighbours. 1Dec2015

Media Release
Sydney, Tuesday, 1st December 2015

The AUD$1billion that Prime Minister Turnbull announced Australia will contribute over the next five years is not a new commitment and is not new money but will be drawn from the Government’s existing aid budget towards building climate resilience and reducing emissions.

"In his Paris speech Prime Minister Turnbull has highlighted the increasing vulnerability of some of our nearest neighbours, however his aid announcement means that Australia's response to their situation is to continue previous contributions, and not increase support in real terms," Edmund Rice Centre Director, Phil Glendenning, said today from the COP21 UN Climate Summit in Paris.

"Whilst Australia's decision to ratify the 2012-2020 Phase II of the Kyoto Protocol is welcome and a positive initiative, it is still disappointing that Australia’s recognition of the increased vulnerability of our neighbours like Kiribati and Tuvalu should be addressed with funds drawn from Australia’s existing and diminishing aid budget," Mr Glendenning said.

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ERC Media: Kiribati youth leader hopeful for UN Paris climate summit -- 14Oct2015

Pacific Calling Partnership partner calls for empathy from Australia.
Sydney, Wednesday, 14th October 2015

The Edmund Rice Centre’s climate advocacy initiative, the Pacific Calling Partnership, is hosting a Sydney visit of Tinaai Teaua a youth leader & climate advocate from climate-vulnerable Pacific atoll nation of Kiribati.

Ms Teaua is visiting Sydney as the guest of Oxfam Australia, in the lead up to her participation in the UN COP21 Climate Summit in December in Paris, which she will attend as part of the Pacific Calling Partnership delegation - representing the Kiribati Climate Action Network ('KiriCAN').

"We can work together to make sure that in this world no one will be harmed in the future, I know it is not just Kiribati, but also the whole world. Kiribati is not drowning yet. We are still fighting for our lives."

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ERC Media: Climate change no laughing matter -- 11th Sept 2015

The Edmund Rice Centre and the Pacific Calling Partnership have condemned the Australian political leaders laughing and making jokes about the impact of climate change on Pacific nations.

“The people of the Pacific look to Australia - as the region’s largest developed nation - to support them as they struggle to cope with climate change and developmental challenges. Laughing at their plight is simply cruel.”

“I am utterly staggered that senior politicians in Australia see fit to regard climate change as a laughing matter. Having recently been in Kiribati and seen the human fall-out that occurs when sea level rise threatens the very existence of a people and their culture, it truly beggars belief that Minister Dutton and Prime Minister Abbott regard the reality of climate change as something to joke about,” ERC Director Phil Glendenning said today.

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ERC Just Comment Vol 18 No 3: 'Palyasin' - Go away mining corporations!

‘No to mining, Yes to life’……..Palayasin ‘Go away’

As mining companies engage in human rights abuses, land grabs, environmental destruction, community upheaval, loss of traditional life, militarisation, pollution of vital ecosystems, and vilification and killing of human rights defenders and activists, in the Philippines the Tagalog word ‘palayasin’ (go away) rings out… and is heard throughout Asia, Latin America, Europe, Oceania and Africa. Though companies claim they are responsible corporate citizens, the branding does not match the reality. 

Amidst much suffering to indigenous communities and local people, mining corporations, in amassing much wealth, wield economic and political power over governments, whilst being protected by international trade and financial institutions. But voices, cry out, ‘go away’, ‘no to mining, yes to life’.

The extraction of minerals pollutes areas beyond the actual mining sites and for years after closing operation. Pope Francis referred to the ‘mess’ in our planet in his recent Encyclical Laudato Si’. Governments promote mining and provide incentives to corporations in the name of ‘the national interest’ and ‘economic growth’, whilst the harm and cost to ordinary peoples’ lives, communities and future generations of all species is barely recognised. For governments it is ‘yes to mining, and no to life’ for their people.

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PCP Media: Australia's emissions targets shock Pacific Islander -- 14th Aug 2015

Shocked Pacific Islander fears for the future of her country.
Reaction to announced minimalist 28% climate commitment from Australia.

"I am very frustrated and extremely disappointed at this news," said Ms Maria Tiimon Chi-Fang on hearing the announcement of Australia’s commitment to reduce its carbon pollution by just 26-28% by 2030 from 2005 levels. Ms Tiimon Chi-Fang who is from Kiribati is spokesperson for the Edmund Rice Centre’s Pacific Calling Partnership. "I strongly fear that this means our people’s future in Kiribati is at risk and they will face an even harder life than they have now."

"It is so unjust. We are all part of this globe and we are supposed to care for our neighbours," she continued. "My country is a developing country with few resources and is trying so hard to survive. Every day, the people of Kiribati continue to live with the impacts of climate change: coastal erosion, stronger storm surges, longer droughts, sea-water inundations, and increasing shortages of fresh water and food."

"Australia has the highest per capita green-house emissions in the world. Kiribati people live with the consequences of high emissions. If Australia were to take its responsibilities seriously then the people of Kiribati will have more chance to build up their resilience by initiating more extensive adaptation measures."

“For many years Kiribati President Anote Tong has voiced the fears of his people and has fought for climate justice. I ask Australians to listen to the people of Kiribati and other countries that are vulnerable to climate change. Kiribati and other atoll nations need and depend on serious and effective action right now from Australia and the global community.”

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ERC Deportations Research: Australian sponsored torture in Sri Lanka -- Aug 2015

August 2015: Australia is placing its esteemed international reputation on the line to pursue a cynical policy of “stopping the boats” at any cost. This policy not only uses the respected Royal Australian Navy to enforce a cruel policy on the high seas at the expense of the lives of the asylum seekers but also uses tax payer money to sponsor brutal regimes to contain asylum seekers.

The Australian Government has provided money and material worth millions of dollars to a regime which had, in 2012, a staggering 5671 cases of outstanding involuntary disappearances.

Moreover, Australia toed the line of the Sri Lankan government and opposed an independent investigation by the United Nation’s Human Rights Council in 2014. It did so despite co-sponsoring the human rights council resolution against Sri Lanka in 2012 and despite the fact that many other nations such as the United Kingdom, the USA and Canada voted in favour of investigation.

There is no evidence that Australia's posture reflects any improvement of human rights record of Sri Lanka's Government. The time has come for Australia to acknowledge the errors of this unprincipled relationship between the Governments of Australia and Sri Lanka.

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Invitation: A Climate Change Conversation -- Fri, 21st Aug 2015

The Pacific Calling Partnership invite you to:-

A Climate Change Conversation
with Ursula Rakova, executive director of Tulele Peisa

Located 86km north-east of Bouganville the people of Papua New Guinea's Cartaret Islands made world headlines in 2009 as rising sea-levels of climate change caused them to commence a forced migration away from their atoll home.

Coordination of the ongoing staged relocation of the 2,700 inhabitants to Bouganville is being undertaken by the community organisation established for this purpose, Tulele Peisa Inc. The Carteret Council of Elders adopted the name “Tulele Peisa” - which in the Halia language means “sailing the waves on our own” - as defining their goal: “striving for strength and action through capacity building of our own people”.

"Our goal is to empower the Tulun/Carteret islanders to strive for prosperity and well-being for their families through community organising, skill development and training so that they are able to make informed decisions for their future," says Ursula Rakova the dynamic and courageous founding executive director of Tulele Peisa - herself a daughter of this matrilineal atoll community.

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Small graphic of flyer for the Tulele Peisa Climate Change event

ERC Just Comment Vol 18 No 2: Border Force Act & Whistleblowers

Australian Border Force Act - protection or defense of injustice?
This law has been passed with bipartisan support. Professionals working in immigration detention centres are prevented from raising concerns about detention centre conditions and the physical and psychological treatment of asylum seekers or risk two years in jail.

Despite the wall of secrecy to prevent public scrutiny, a growing chorus of voices is emerging against abuses and poor conditions and in condemnation of this law that is not about stopping the boats or protecting our borders but protecting politicians.

If we witness child abuse in Australia we are legally obliged to report it to child protection authorities. If we witness child abuse in detention centres, we can go to prison for attempting to advocate for them effectively.

The disclosure of illegal, dangerous or unethical activities by governments or corporations is crucial for accountability.  It is important in exposing corruption, mismanagement and fraud. Putting people above the institution and speaking out can save lives, protect dignity and save resources.

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Just Comment Vol 18 No 1: Laudato Si' - Pope Francis' Earth Encyclical

Pope Francis’s new encyclical, Laudato Si’, subtitled ‘On Care for Our Common Home’ underscores its main message: that we share a small interconnected planet which can only become a reality in ‘relationship’ with all creation, people and the Creator.

This relationship calls all to a change or conversion of heart - both individual and communal. The Pope is making a challenging call to all people who seek justice and integrity of creation - not just people of faith.

There is a call to make a space that allows dialogue and engagement to occur. There is a call to inclusion. An exclusion derived from a politics dictated more by special interests and powerful elites has resulted in our most vulnerable sisters and brothers being marginalised.

Clearly here is a response to the cry of the earth and the cry of the poor.

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Stronger Targets towards a Carbon Pollution Free Australia -- 16th Jun 2015

An Open Letter from NGO's to Australian Parliamentarians calling for commitment for Australia to achieve net zero carbon pollution by 2050.
Dear Australian Parliamentarians,

We are a diverse group of 51 leading civil society organisations, representing a broad cross section of Australians. We encourage our leaders to take on the responsibility to do more to cut Australia's carbon pollution and do our fair share to limit global warming.

As world governments prepare to commit to new pollution reduction targets at the United Nations meeting in Paris, December 2015, we call on you to commit to carbon pollution reduction targets for Australia that:
  • are in line with limiting global warming to the globally agreed upon goal of less than 1.5-2°C above pre-industrial levels.
  • reduce emissions by at least 40 per cent below 2000 levels by 2025, at least 60 per cent by 2030, and to lay out a clear pathway for Australia to achieve net zero carbon pollution as soon as possible, by mid-century at the latest.

A net zero carbon pollution pathway to 2050 is achievable, affordable and desirable.

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Open letter to Australian Parlimentarians calling for zero carbon emissions by 2050 -- 16 Jun 2015

Patrick Dodson: Tribute to Faith Bandler -- 24th Feb 2015

Hers was a life of activism in Australia, whether for equal wages for Aboriginal workers, the rights of those who had been stolen into slavery from the islands of her father or the recognition of Indigenous people in the Constitution of the nation. For this Lady injustice was not defined by colour nor creed, nor racial origin. Injustice for her was simply unacceptable and when identified could not be tolerated or left in place to fester and corrupt the soul of the nation.

... This dear Lady was confronted with the reality of injustice from the day of her birth and fought against its tide for her entire life.

Her message of justice and humanity will not disappear with her passing into the spirit of the land and waters of her country where she travels today but will have its echo in hearts of future generations.

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ERC Media: End detention of asylum children once & for all -- 13th Feb 2015

MEDIA RELEASE, Sydney, Friday, 13th February 2015
"End mandatory detention of children once and for all"

In response to the Australian Human Rights Commission’s National Inquiry into Children in Immigration Detention which was released yesterday, the Edmund Rice Centre joined with 201 other Australian organisations and community groups to sign a joint statement calling all members of the Australian Parliament to take action to end the detention of children.

"The Australian Human Rights Commission report The Forgotten Children is a well-researched, detailed and deeply disturbing account of the harm inflicted on vulnerable children as a direct result of decisions taken by successive governments. Human Rights Commissioner Gillian Triggs and her team should be congratulated for their work in once again bringing the nation's attention to the horrors inflicted on vulnerable children," Mr Glendenning said.  

"Both of Australia’s major political parties are responsible for deliberately putting in place policies and practices that harm children. The Rudd and Gillard Governments set new records for the numbers of children detained, while the Abbott Government has seen the average length of detention blow out from three months to more than 14 months in its relatively short time in office. The Australian Government has no plans to expedite their release. This is unacceptable. This is wrong. It must stop," Mr Glendenning affirmed. "Every individual member of Parliament has a duty to act. Cruelty to children can never again be seen as an option. The country has had enough."

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ERC Media Release - Asylum children out of detention.

ERC International Human Rights Immersion: Central America -- July 2012

A formation program for people wishing to develop new and profound perspectives to their existing frameworks and commitment to social justice & reconciliation. The program will emphasise the use of a rights-based approach in development work and in systemic advocacy for social justice.  
The immersion aims to foster engagement with the international partner organisations visited, and to bring about transformational education for justice. International immersion experiences develop a new and internalised sense of our world, and of structures of inequity within it, from the perspectives of the economically excluded.    
El Salvador & Guatemala: Within processes of post -conflict social reconciliation, few places provide better examples of the use of programs of ‘recovery of historic memory’ as human rights strategies to confront structural impunity and to build social justice.  In our visit to the region we will meet with people who have risked all in the struggle for social justice in these countries. These are people who continue to be willing to put their lives on the line for the construction of a better society.

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ERC Human Rights Immersion - July 2012

A Well-Founded Fear -- Nationally televised documentary on Asylum Seekers

Sign the on-line petition to reopen the cases of Asylum Seekers that Australia has "deported to danger"
Please donate to ERC so we may continue our work to support refugees and asylum seekers

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SIDS2014 -- Initial perspectives - Sat, 30th Aug 2014

We were met at the airport by the friendly SIDS bus team and arrived at the Wesley Motel at about 1.00am to a very warm welcome.

Accreditation. After breakfasting late, we met up with Apisaloma who had arrived from Kiribati a few hours earlier than us and headed for the conference centre.

As we went through the process of registering our accreditation as representatives of Edmund Rice International, we talked excitedly about the fact that this was the very first time for Api to be accredited to a UN conference. It was a big moment for him and one we rejoiced in as we believe that as a young leader he may well be bringing the voice of the Pacific to the UN many more times in the future.

Planning and exploring possibilities Api showed great promise when he took part in the leadership training program that PCP held in May, the Kiribati-Australia-Tuvalu Exchange Program (KATEP).

The rest of the day we spent getting familiar with the venues, sorting out how to use the specially provided SIDS SIM cards in the 2 phones we are going to communicate and organise with over the next few days.

We also took many opportunities to tell Api stories of previous UN conferences and shared with him some of the lessons we had learned and explaining to him our ideas on how we could best make a contribution.

Latest News: (1) Just Comment 19.3: Nuclear Waste Dumps (2) Schools' Resource July 2016: Asylum Seekers & Refugees (3) PCP Open Ltr: Zero emissions by 2050


Recent Publications from ERC

Asylum Seekers - Schools Resource

ERC Asylum Seekers and Refugees Education Resource Student Activities


ERC's publication Asylum Seekers and Refugees Education Resource provides activities for students which are practical, engaging and focused on increasing awareness about human rights and advocacy. 

This 60 page resource is available for download at no cost, and offers 35 cross-curricular activities, adaptable to all year levels in secondary school. Some activities can also be used with primary classes, with students with special needs, and with community groups.

Students are encouraged to think about asylum seekers and refugees with compassion, to move their understanding from the head to the heart.

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Donate to support ERC's work

URGENT! Support our work for asylum seekers.

Update: ERC Director, Phil Glendenning, recently returned to Australia from Afghanistan after 10 days interviewing returned asylum seekers again in Kabul.

ERC is redoubling our efforts to find a third-country resettlement option for those returnees from Australia with whom we have been able to make contact. We need financial support to achieve this.

Such work uncovers high levels of risk for the deportees (and for our researchers). Research publications are available here.

Listen to Phil speak of the visit to ABC Radio National's Phillip Adams.

Please donate now so that this work may continue. Your donation is tax deductible!

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