20 December 2006


As we celebrate the birth of the Christ child, we again have the opportunity to reflect on our commitment to living in peace with those around us, both at a personal and a global level.

Sadly the level of conflict around the globe, whether it be in Darfur, Iraq, Palestine, Sri Lanka or one of the many other places caught up in violence suggests that the peace for which humans yearn is as elusive as ever.

Noted peace activist Fr John Dear SJ reminds us that "Our task, in these dark times, is simple: to speak the truth, resist war and injustice, practice nonviolence, walk with the poor, love everyone, say our prayers, and uphold the vision of a new world without war, poverty or nuclear weapons"

Pace e Bene Australia a body that was established earlier this year in order to promote the spirituality and practice of active nonviolence, will facilitate 'Engage'‘ and 'From Violence to Wholeness' workshops around Australia. They have also sponsored a visit from Fr Dear to Australia early in 2007. Details are available from the above website.


Next May/June will see Australia host the largest military exercises ever held in peacetime. Talisman Sabre 07.

Twelve thousand Australian soldiers and nearly fourteen thousand US troops and sailors will be involved. Military exercises will include firing live ammunition and explosives from both land bases and aircraft, sinking of decommissioned vessels at sea, the use of high power sonar and active sonobuoys, amphibious assaults, parachuting and land force manoeuvres, much of it in the pristine Shoalwater Bay Training Area near Rockhampton, Qld.

Despite the public environment report commissioned by the Department of Defence which claims such war games can be compatible with environmental protection Friends of the Earth and other environmental groups have expressed concern at the risks posed to a range of wildlife including the endangered dugong and green turtle, as well as to the adjacent Great Barrier Reef marine park.

Both the Department of Defence report and the Friends of the Earth response to the report can be viewed at the above website.

Peace Convergence is an activist group which is mounting a campaign to oppose the Talisman Sabre 07 exercise.


An average person in the developing countries of Nigeria and Bangladesh can expect to live ten years longer than an Indigenous person in the ‘developed world’ country of Australia. This disturbing statistic taken from the ANTaR website is a reminder of how far Australia still has to travel in order to achieve true justice and reconciliation with its Indigenous people.

In a year when little progress seems to have been made, there were small signs of hope. For example the Senate Legal and Constitutional Affairs Committee tabled a report in the Federal Parliament which recognized that the practice known as stolen wages, "seriously discriminated” against Indigenous people “across generations” and that “there was compelling evidence that Governments around Australia systematically withheld and mismanaged Indigenous wages and entitlements over decades."

The picture below includes some members of the Seeds of Change group who participated in the recent Long Walk in Melbourne to raise funds for the Sir Douglas Nicholls Fellowship for Indigenous Leadership program and to again attempt to highlight the need for effective action to achieve justice for indigenous Australians.

The Long Walk


Each year, coffee companies make billions of dollars. Starbucks alone earned almost $5.8 billion in net revenues during the first three quarters of 2006. With as many as 15 million Ethiopians dependent on coffee, Ethiopia has decided to get its farmers more of what they deserve.

The country's government has asked Starbucks to sign a licensing agreement that will allow Ethiopia to control the names of its coffees. That way, Ethiopia can help determine an export price that makes sure farmers see a larger share of the profits enabling them to feed their children, send them to school and get them better health care.

and a coalition of allies are asking Starbucks to sign this agreement which has the potential to increase Ethiopia's coffee export income by more than $88 million annually - an amount that could go a long way to help lift millions of Ethiopians out of poverty.

An online petition that can be sent to Starbucks is available at the above website.

12 December 2006


The Edmund Rice Centre has been awarded the Human Rights and Equal Opportunity Commission (HREOC) Human Rights Award for Community Organizations 2006.

The award was made at the annual Human Rights Lunch and Awards ceremony to mark Human Rights Day on Dec 10th.

The award recognised the Centre's work uncovering the fate of deported asylum seekers, as well as the broader human rights work of the Centre.

Another cause on which the Centre has provided strong advocacy is that of the rights of Indigenous Australians. In June 2006, after two decades of consultation with Indigenous peoples and negotiation with delegates from around the world, the United Nations Human Rights Council passed the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous People. This document was due to go before the UN General Assembly for adoption in late 2006 and it outlines fundamental responsibilities that national governments have towards Indigenous peoples. Amnesty International has described it as a ‘critical turning point in global efforts to support the human rights of Indigenous peoples’.

In the latest edition of Just Comment the Edmund Rice Centre examinees how Australia compares to international human rights standards in relation to its own indigenous people.


Thousands of Australians rallied on Dec 9th, the fifth anniversary of David Hicks’ apprehension by the Northern Alliance in Afghanistan, demanding his immediate return to Australia.

Hicks, who has not been found guilty of any offence, and who is currently is not facing any charges, continues to be held in solitary confinement in Guantanamo Bay in conditions that fall far below the standards afforded to even those convicted of the most heinous of crimes in our own country.

There is no immediate prospect of his being brought before the military commission that will be set up to hear his case, and in any case, the proposed process has been almost universally condemned by the legal profession as a violation of the basic right of every person to receive a fair trial.

The treatment of David Hicks was also again condemned by the Australian Bishops in a statement issued following their most recent Conference. In their press release the Bishops acknowledged the growing concern for Hick’s physical and mental health, and noted the conditions in which he is held which "reputable human rights agencies have said are tantamount to torture".

Calling for the Australian citizen to be given a prompt and just trial or returned to Australia, the Bishops stated that "a continuation of the current situation is not acceptable."

Readers of this bulletin can support the call for justice for David Hicks by signing the online letter to the Prime Minister or by supporting other actions described on the Amnesty or the Get Up websites.

As with so many issues raised in this bulletin, change is only likely when enough people demand it of our political leaders.

The photograph below is of members of 'Seeds of Change' - the action group which arose in part from readers of this bulletin - participating in the Melbourne rally.

Rally for David Hicks


In what is believed to be world first, 16 Australian faith communities representing the world's great religious traditions have united to speak out on climate change.

Representatives of organisations from 16 Australian faith communities including indigenous Australians, Catholics and Orthodox, Baptists and Anglicans, Buddhists and Baha'is, the Australian Evangelical Alliance, the Uniting Church, the Salvation Army, Jews, Muslims, Hindus, Sikhs and Lutherans recently launched a joint publication entitled "Common Belief – Australia’s Faith Communities on Climate Change" in an initiative of the Climate Institute Australia and which can be viewed on their website.

The document is a collection of theological and spiritual statements which argues that addressing the issue of climate change is a moral imperative and inaction by Australians cannot be justified.

Among the points raised in the document Catholic spokesman, Columban Fr Charles Rue of Catholic Earthcare said that "the right to a safe ecological environment is a universal human right".

In describing the initiative, Climate Institute founder Mark Wootton said that "Australia's faith communities demand a firm government response to climate change which protects our children's future and prevents further harm to the world's poorest people who are already living with the impacts of climate change."

For practical steps and actions that you can take to contribute to the reduction of global warming visit the Cool the Globe website.


As Melbourne geared up last month for its biggest race of the year - the Melbourne Cup, several companies who make 'fashions in the field' faced prosecution for alleged breaches of the Federal Clothing Award for their failure to comply with the outworker provisions of the Award.

Up to 300,000 outworkers produce as much as 90% of the clothing sewn in Australia, but receive as little as $3 an hour. This exploitation occurs through a lack of transparency down the clothing supply chain and creates conditions where low wages and poor conditions for outworkers are common.

"Fashion is a fun at this time of the year, but not for outworkers making clothes for slave wages," said Daisy Gardener of the FairWear Campaign. "Whilst a few companies have cleaned up their act, the majority continue to ignore their responsibilities comply with a system designed to protect vulnerable clothing outworkers. Fair Wear calls on companies to do the right thing and become accredited to the Homeworkers Code of Practice", Ms. Gardener continued.

According to a recent Fairwear newsletter the media exposure and pressure of prosecution has meant that many of these companies are now in the process of becoming accredited to the Homeworkers Code of Practice.

Four significant clothing companies: Lush, Rich, Ojay and Scanlan & Theodore continue to resist signing the Code and remain the focus of an ongoing FairWear campaign.

At this time of year when many of us are engaged in shopping for Christmas, the Ethical Shopping Guide which can be downloaded from the Fairwear website, enables the buying of clothing made in Australia from the companies which have signed the Homeworkers Code of Practice.

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