Recognition for tireless refugee advocate

Sr Pat Sealey

She might be only 4 foot 10, but Sr Pat Sealey isn’t afraid to speak up for what she believes in. And that includes telling it how it is to the Premier and other officials when she was named South Australia’s top volunteer last month.

- The Southern Cross

The 81-year-old Josephite nun told the audience that the world faced a new holocaust in Afghanistan and that the Hazara people trying to flee the war-torn country were the 'new Jews'.

She is well-equipped to comment, working as a volunteer seven days a week to help refugees, many escaping persecution and death, to establish their legal status and make a life in Australia.

'Because of Pat’s work, South Australia now has dentists, artists, engineers, nurses, carers and a range of other people contributing to our society and embracing a chance for a life in safety,' said Premier Weatherill after presenting her with the Joy Noble Award.

The Blackwood Circle of Friends, a volunteer organisation assisting refugees, nominated Sr Pat for the award. In their citation, they said Sr Pat began volunteering to assist refugees in 2004 and qualified as a registered migration agent in 2007.

After 11 years of living and working with Aboriginal people in the Kimberley, Pat returned to Adelaide in 2004 and was confronted by the plight of refugees. She set off to Port Augusta to work as a visitor at the Baxter Detention Centre where she became such a trusted supporter that she was the only one allowed to visit a hunger striker.

Supported by a local Circle of Friends group, she also worked at a system level maintaining a data base of Baxter detainees and lobbying politicians for change. The result was two-fold: changes to the Migration Act so that babies and toddlers could live in the community with their families while their claims were assessed; and a Government review of all cases of people who had been in Baxter for two years or more. About 90 per cent were deemed genuine refugees and this led to them being granted a permanent visa.

For the past six years she has helped refugees obtain visas to remain in Australia and has assisted family members in migrating to Australia. From her home in northern Adelaide, she investigates and documents cases, arranges translators, submits applications for visas, for reviews and for Ministerial interventions.

FULL STORY Recognition for tireless refugee advocate (The Southern Cross)

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