Australian churches offer sanctuary to asylum seekers facing deportation

TEN Churches and cathedrals in Australia are offering sanctuary to asylum seekers who have suffered trauma and abuse to prevent their return to Nauru.

On Wednesday the high court ruled Australia’s offshore detention regime on Nauru had been lawfully established.

The decision means that up to 267 asylum seekers on the mainland could be sent back to the island nation, where a large number of serious sexual assaults have been reported. A Senate inquiry also raised serious concerns about conditions on Nauru, where infant children are being held.

The right to sanctuary, while not now recognised under common law in Australia or other jurisdictions, is a biblical concept that had legal basis during the middle ages.

The Anglican Dean of Brisbane, the Very Reverend Dr Peter Catt, said he was prepared to be charged with an offence for obstruction by trying to prevent federal authorities from entering the cathedral grounds.

“We offer this refuge because there is irrefutable evidence from health and legal experts that the circumstances asylum seekers, especially children, would face if sent back to Nauru are tantamount to state-sanctioned abuse,” he told ABC Radio National on Thursday.

There is an offence under Australian law for “concealing and harbouring non-citizens”, which could potentially be used against the heads of churches seeking to prevent asylum seekers from being deported.

Other Anglican churches and affiliated chapels offering sanctuary are:

  • St Cuthbert’s Anglican church, Darlington, Western Australia
  • Wesley Uniting church, Perth
  • Gosford Anglican church, Sydney
  • Pilgrim Uniting church, Adelaide
  • St John’s Uniting church, Essendon
  • Paddington Anglican church, Sydney
  • Pitt Street Uniting church, Sydney
  • Wayside Chapel, Sydney

17 thoughts on “Australian churches offer sanctuary to asylum seekers facing deportation

  1. Oh, God bless them for doing the right thing. It is disgraceful to think that children have been sexually assaulted on our watch and the perpetrators have gotten away with it. Even more so that we don’t seem to care. Shame!

    I have room to spare. Come stay with me little ones.


  2. Yesterday the Australian High Court handed down a remarkable ruling, stating that the detention of asylum-seekers by the Australian Government complied with domestic (Australian) laws recently enacted. It was remarkable because the ruling was entirely about procedure – not what is right or is wrong[size=150].

    As such, the High Court has given the green light to civil liberties activists and those who seek justice to now take matters into their own hands and do everything they can to liberate the refugees and asylum-seekers who are being held contrary to all notions of natural justice.


    • You mean the highest Court in the land made a ruling on the law, rather than a moral judgement. Amazing

      I haven’t read the judgement, can you tell me at what paragraph the Court states that those who seek justice should take matters into their own hands ??

      This exchange however, might illuminate how the Court normally views things

      MR WILSON: Down in Canberra they have erect the Magna Carta monument. Have you been to see it? You will not answer? Mr Callinan, have you seen it?

      CALLINAN J: Look, you cannot really ask me questions, but, yes, I did see it, Mr Wilson.

      MR WILSON: Well, this is a two-way thing, you were asking me questions and I am asking you.

      GUMMOW J: No, it is not a two-way thing, actually.

      MR WILSON: It is not?

      GUMMOW J: No.

      MR WILSON: You are a dictator, are you?

      GUMMOW J: No.

      MR WILSON: “You just lay down and I say nothing.”

      GUMMOW J: No.

      MR WILSON: It is not on.

      GUMMOW J: No, you are here to make your submissions on which we then rule.

      MR WILSON: Yes.

      GUMMOW J: We try to assist you by asking questions so that you can respond to what is on our mind.

      MR WILSON: Your job – – –

      GUMMOW J: Do not lecture us on what our job is, please.

      MR WILSON: Your job is to ensure fairness.

      GUMMOW J: No, it is not.

      MR WILSON: It is not?

      GUMMOW J: It is to apply justice, according to law.

      MR WILSON: And what is justice? Justice is the protection of rights and the punishment of wrongs and justice is what I am after. Justice means – – –

      GUMMOW J: Justice, according to law.

      Citation: Wilson v St George Bank Ltd (S284/2001) [2003] HCATrans 597


      • Victorian Labor Premier Daniel Andrews has written to Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull with an offer to “accept full responsibility” for the families and children brought to Australia from Nauru.
        “A sense of compassion is not only in the best interests of these children and their families. It is also in the best interests of our status as a fair and decent nation,” he wrote.

        “There are infants among this group who were born in the country. Sending them to Nauru will needlessly expose them to a life of physical and emotional trauma.

        “It’s wrong. Medical professionals tell us this. Humanitarian agencies tell us this. Over values tell us this, too. Sending these children and their families to Nauru is not the Australian way.”




      • “The long running, if muted, struggle between the High Court of Australia and the Government over refugees recalls a bitter legal battle in the early 17th century. Sir Edward Coke, the first Lord Chief Justice of England, defied King James 1 by asserting the supremacy of the common law over the King’s claims to royal powers, and indeed, over all persons and institutions. Considered the embodiment of the common law, Coke was strong, incorruptible and respected. He introduced a Bill of Liberties, including the Magna Carta, to protect the citizen against the Crown and ignored royal injunctions saying he would ‘do what an honest and just judge ought to do’. These were brave words given the frequent deployment of the axeman in those treacherous times.

        “What has this ancient contest to do with today’s High Court of Australia?

        “A contemporary version continues to play out between the High Court and the Government of the day. In June 2014, the Court issued a Writ that is seldom used against a government. In Plaintiff S297, the Chief Justice issued a Writ of Mandamus- an ancient common law judicial power – requiring the Minister for Immigration to comply with his legal obligations by deciding whether to grant a protection visa to a refugee held in detention since May 2012.”

        There is a big difference between Statute Law (decided by government legislation) and Common Law (decided by judges using precedence where possible). I think the High Court do what they can in the interests of fairness and justice, in the way they translate or interpret Statute law, but their hands are largely tied.

        This is why I don’t like the US system, where government elects judges of a preferred party!


      • We have 3 branches of government, the executive the legislature and the judiciary.

        2 of those branches can change at any moment.

        But the judiciary is the branch that is harder to change, it’s bound by the law and precedents.

        Australia was also founded upon the model of parliamentary supremacy, we have no bill of rights and very few individual rights explicitly laid out in our constitutions.

        Our founding fathers trusted that the parliament would reflect the will of the people and that will would dictate the rights that we all enjoy,

        It’s been nearly 15 years since the Tamapa first loomed large off our coast. During those 15 years there have been ample opportunities for we, the people, to demand rights and freedoms for refugees.

        We have failed to do so.


      • Hi Bryan,

        Well so far it’s been a bit like the Donald Trump campaign. For as long as Trump has been running pundits have been expecting an implosion. A tipping point where he says or does something so outrageous that his campaign can’t survive it.

        He keeps saying outrageous things and his campaign is still rumbling along.

        In a similar vein we seem to be expecting a refugee tipping point where our government does something so outrageous that people rally around refugee rights to such an exten policy changes.

        Yet governments of all stripes continue the outrageous with refugees to continued public support.


    • Interesting as how things can come back to haunt a nation/person. I hope we can change Australia day to a more inclusive date for starters.


      • Hey Alexie,

        Yeah that’s an idea. I’d like to include the concept of invasion day with Australia day though.

        We shouldn’t hide from the past.


      • If we have a holiday specifically for Invasion Day, it should be a day of mourning, not a celebration.

        Australia Day is a time to celebrate the best of our identity. Alright, there is a lot about us that gives no cause to celebrate, but we continue to struggle for that ‘best’!


      • Both is who we are. We need to acknowledge and deal with all of Australian history, good and bad.


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