From one boat person to another

“The institutional response to people seeking asylum is cruelty.”

From one boat person to another

This uncompromising and unsettling (to say the least) statement is typical of the insight and knowledge offered by guest speaker Phil Glendenning at the latest luncheon for the Assembly of Catholic Professionals.


Phil is the Director of the Edmund Rice Centre and one of the founders of Australians for Native Title and Reconciliation (ANTaR). He has served on the Board of the Australian Council of Social Service, various committees of the Australian Council for Overseas Aid, and the Centre for an Ethical Society. He is a current Board Member of the Refugee Council of Australia, and ANTaR.


Phil spoke eloquently of his experiences travelling to the places from where asylum seekers come, because it is not safe or prudent for them to stay. As he said, “They risk their lives to come here and then we risk their lives by sending them back.”


The bipartisan nature of the policy of punishment rather than protection flies in the face of the fact that almost all Australians are ‘boat people’ and it’s not so long ago that Australia welcomed refugees from Vietnam and supported their resettlement. As Phil said, “Refugees have done wonderful things for this country – Les Murray [football commentator], Victor Chang, Anh Do...”


The language around the issues, much of it politically driven, is telling. For example, Phil stated clearly that asylum seekers are simply people seeking asylum; they haven’t broken the law, they haven’t been charged, and their arrival is not illegal. To refer to them as ‘illegals’ is simply an admission of ignorance.  


He challenged his audience as Catholics or supporters of the church to “get involved in a coalition of values. After all, the man we follow was a refugee himself.”


With a background in education and political science, Phil is currently involved in human rights education, peace and reconciliation work and advocacy on climate change in Australia and internationally. He is happy to speak to groups on these topics.


Please visit, and To learn more about the Assembly of Catholic Professionals, please P Sean Scanlon 4979 1167 or E


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