Phil Glendenning, Director of the Edmund Rice Centre (ERC) and President of the Refugee Council of Australia, has been made a Member of the Order of Australia (AM).
Phil has been the Director of ERC since its establishment in 1996 and has been the President of the Refugee Council of Australia since 2012. In 1997, Phil co-founded Australians for Native Title and Reconciliation and served as President for 10 years, He authored the Australian Citizens Statement on Native Title which formed the basis of the Sea of Hands.
“This award is about all those who work for social and environmental justice and human rights across Australia and beyond and I am humbled to accept this award on their behalf,” Mr Glendenning said.
“While it is important this work is recognised, what’s more important is that we recognise this work is not finished. There is still so much work to be done.
“Australia is a great country, but until we come to terms with our history and the unfinished business of Reconciliation, our nation will never be complete.
“We need to find another date to celebrate Australia Day. It is no longer appropriate for a modern democratic nation like ours to celebrate its national day on the date that conflict, violence, dispossession and genocide began.
“On this day 229 years ago, the British arrivals fired gun shots at the Eora people to instil a sense of fear and the violence continues to this day – the violence of racism, the violence of rising Indigenous incarceration rates and the violence of a 10 year life expectancy gap between Indigenous and other Australians.
“We remain a nation built on the taking away of land, culture, language, heritage and eventually, children. In spite of this, and through their own efforts primarily, Aboriginal people have survived, something that is not often discussed in Australia but something a reconciled nation might one day find a way to celebrate.
“When we deny the truth of our past, we simply repeat the crimes of the past. It’s why 1,500 people remain on Manus Island and Nauru, unable to find safety in Australia. It’s why Muslim Australians are increasingly the targets of racial abuse. And it’s why we still refuse to take seriously the call from our neighbours in the Pacific who are looking to us to act on climate change.
“We live in challenging times. This week alone we have seen the emergence of ‘alternative facts.’ But we have a choice: either we can crawl up in a ball because it’s too hard, or we can respond.
“Last weekend millions of people around the world took to the streets to voice their opposition to the extreme policies of President Trump, misogyny and xenophobia. This can only be the beginning of our response. We must commit to working together to overthrow injustice, and strive for the rights of the most vulnerable. We must not be silent.”