From one Catholic to another. Guest blogger: Bishop Hurley, Darwin.

​The Catholic Bishop of Darwin has expressed concern to Tony Abbott about the Coalition’s policies towards asylum-seekers and people in detention.  His letter to Tony Abbott follows:


Bishop Hurley letter to Tony Abbott

The Leader of the Opposition
The Hon. Tony Abbott MHR
Parliament House
16 August 2013

Dear Mr. Abbott,

I have just returned to my office from the Wickham Point and the Blaydin detention centres here in Darwin.

Sadly, I have been involved with detention centres since the creation of the Woomera centre, followed by Baxter and now, over the last six years, with the various and expanding centres here in Darwin.

I experienced once again today, the suffocating frustration of the unnecessary pain we inflict on one another. I celebrated Holy Mass with a large number of Vietnamese families, made up of men, women, children and women waiting to give birth. The celebration was prayerful and wonderful, until the moment of parting.

I was reminded of something a young man said to me during one of my visits to Woomera, all those years ago. I was saying something about freedom.

He replied, “Father, if freedom is all you have known, then you have never known freedom.”

I sensed the horrible truth of that statement again today.

I was also conscious of that beautiful speech made when the UNHCR accepted the Nobel Prize in 1981. In part it states,

“Throughout the history of mankind people have been uprooted against their will. Time and time again, lives and values built from generation to generation have been shattered without warning. But throughout history mankind has also reacted to such upheavals and brought succour to the uprooted. Be it through individual gestures or concerted action and solidarity, those people have been offered help and shelter and a chance to become dignified, free citizens again. Through the ages, the giving of sanctuary had become one of the noblest traditions of human nature.

Communities, institutions, cities and nations have generously opened their doors to refugees.”

I sit here at my desk with a heavy heart and a deep and abiding sadness, that the leaders of the nation that my father, as an immigrant, taught me to love with a passion, have adopted such a brutal, uncompassionate and immoral stance towards refugees.

I imagine he would be embarrassed and saddened by what has occurred.

It occurred to me today that neither the Prime Minister or yourself know the story of any one of these people.

Neither do the great Australian community.

I find that it is quite impossible to dismiss these people with all the mindless, well-crafted slogans, when you actually look into their eyes, hold their babies and feel their grief.

There has been a concerted campaign to demonise these people and keep them isolated from the great Australian public. It has been successful in appealing to the less noble aspects of our nation’s soul and that saddens me. I feel no pride in this attitude that leads to such reprehensible policies, on both sides of our political spectrum.

I cringe when people draw my attention to elements of our history like The White Australia Policy and the fact that we didn’t even count our Indigenous sisters and brothers until the mid 1900’s. I cringe and wish those things were not true. It is hard to imagine that we as a nation could have done those things.

I judge the attitude of our political leaders to refugees and asylum seekers to be in the same shameful category as the above mentioned. In years to come, Australians who love this country will be in disbelief that we as a nation could have been so uncharacteristically cruel for short term political advantage.

It seems that nothing will influence your policy in this matter, other than the political imperative, but I could not sit idly by without feeling complicit in a sad and shameful chapter of this country which I have always believed to be better than that.

Sometime I would love to share with you some of the stories I have had the privilege of being part of over the years. I am sure you would be greatly moved. Sadly, for so many, such a moment will be all too late.

Yours Sincerely,

Bishop E. Hurley.

Most Rev Daniel Eugene Hurley DD
The Chancery of the Diocese



John Laurence Menadue is the publisher of Pearls & Irritations. He has had a distinguished career both in the private sector and in the Public Service.

This entry was posted in Refugees, Immigration, Religion and Faith and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

1 Response to From one Catholic to another. Guest blogger: Bishop Hurley, Darwin.

  1. Dianne says:

    Bishop Hurley has written a truly beautiful letter. I thank him for it and thank you for publishing it.

    At a time when the demonization of asylum seekers is standard fare for both sides of politics, it is always moving to be reminded that these desperate people are just like us.

    The comment of the Vietnamese man quickened my breath.

    One does not know freedom if one has always known it. Of course. How can we know what freedom means to a person fleeing with his or her family out of fear for their lives or persecution?

    We are so careless with our own freedom too. We allow our politicians to erode the democracy which is the touchstone of that freedom, by lying to us, by distorting truth and by concealing truth.

    Our media participates in outright propaganda or else is supine in the face of it and thereby complicit.

    For the first time in my life we are going to end up with a leader for whom many will vote because he is not the other. In my opinion both men are unworthy of the office and have shown themselves to have unsuitable characters.

    One of those leaders is so fearful of the people he will be most likely leading next week that he refuses to clearly outline his party’s plan and how it is to be funded. I do not feel Free.

Comments are closed.