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(Melbourne Catholic/Fiona Basile)

Australians are good at responding to national emergencies with neighbourly deeds, but where is our compassionate response to the asylum-seekers and refugees living on our shores, asks Sr Catherine McCahill SGS. Source: The Good Oil.

Summer in Australia evokes a kaleidoscope of experiences, emotions and memories. End-of-year fatigue, holidays, Christmas, parties and time away from work come readily to mind. Droughts, rain, floods, bushfires, cyclones are all part of the landscape.

This summer has been no different. While parts of the country burned with out-of-control bushfires, other parts were devastated by cyclones, storms and floods.

Over recent weeks, as I have watched and listened to the media reports of these unfolding events and their aftermath, I have been thinking of the thousands of Australians who volunteer to assist in so many ways at this time.

Australians are good at this. We respond to crises with neighbourly deeds. We don’t ask about the credentials or background of the impacted person or family; we just roll up our sleeves and help.

And yet, we don’t always act this way. I am thinking of the asylum-seekers and refugees in the Australian community who live with visas called Bridging Visa E (BVE). They are not in detention, but they are not eligible to receive much support – no housing, no healthcare, no work rights and no study rights. Thousands of people (more than 10,000 according to the Refugee Council of Australia) remain in this situation.

Many Australians are probably not even aware of their existence. Many who are aware remain silent about their plight. I ask myself, why don’t we respond? Why isn’t there an outcry about the injustice of their situation?

It seems to me, that most Australians would be appalled at the injustice perpetuated on holders of BVE visas, if they encountered and had an opportunity to know such a person – woman, man or child.

Sr Catherine McCahill is the Congregational Leader of the Sisters of the Good Samaritan.


We are called to be neighbour to asylum-seekers and refugees (The Good Oil)