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Marist brother returns Order of Australia to State Governor

Sydney Marist Brother Gerry Burns has handed back the Order of Australia he received a year ago because he felt hypocritical holding onto an award for his services to children because he believes Australia's dealing with the children of asylum seekers has been shameful.

The former teacher and welfare worker, who received the award a year ago, returned his medal to NSW Governor Marie Bashir last Thursday.

"It is with regret I have to say that the award no longer sits comfortably with me," said Br Burns. "I feel there would be an element of hypocrisy, if, having received an award from my country to services for children, I were to retain that award in light of what our country continues to do to a most vulnerable group of children."

Br Burns said the children of asylum seekers have committed no crime, but continue to be deprived of their freedom in conditions which, in some cases, are less human than those in which proven criminals are detained.

Meanwhile the refugee rights group A Just Australia issued a statement yesterday expressing alarm at the significant rise in children in immigration detention in the past month.

It said children now make up one third of the population of detainees on Nauru.

"Australians don't want children locked up . . . It is severely damaging to keep these children in detention any longer," A Just Australia national director Howard Glenn said.

Catholic groups are strongly represented in the A Just Australia coalition.

Religious brother hands back Order of Australia (Edmund Rice Online 9/12/03)
Numbers of children in detention on the rise (A Just Australia 9/12/03)

Marist Australia
Order of Australia (unofficial)
A Just Australia
Perth Archbishop urges Govt to free children from immigration detention (CathNews 20/10/03)

10 Dec 2003