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Catholics were reading the leaked Nauru Files in public when the Senate proposed an Inquiry into the document

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Public action: Refugee advocates including Dominican Father Pan Jordan (left), Mercy Sister Dolores Creevey and Michelle McDonald (far right) supported a 10-hour public reading of a document detailing abuse allegations of offshore detention refuges. The document will now be examined by a Senate inquiry.

CATHOLIC refugee advocates including a Dominican priest who last week delivered public readings of the Nauru Files say a Senate inquiry into the leaked document needs to demand closure of the camps.

During a 10-hour reading of more than 2000 reports outside the Department of Immigration and Border Protection in Brisbane on September 12, the Upper House passed a motion to examine the allegations detailed in the Nauru Files. 

The report was published by The Guardian and outlined allegations of sexual and physical abuse, self-harm and a range of assaults between 2013 and 2015.

The Senate inquiry, supported by Labor and the Greens, was passed 35 to 27.

Following his own reading of the files, Dominican Father Pan Jordan said it was time the public heard the abuses detailed in the files.

“These abuses violate fundamental human rights of individuals,” Fr Jordan said.

He criticised Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull’s decision to back a royal commission into abuse in Northern Territory detention centres at the same time alleged abuses were happening on Nauru.

“It is contradictory that our Prime Minister orders a royal commission into the detention of Australian indigenous children on one hand, but turns a blind eye to the abuse of children on Nauru, as detailed in the Nauru Files,” Fr Jordan said.

Member of Brisbane archdiocese’s Catholic Justice and Peace Commission Erin Kennedy said Australians had been “blinded to the truth” of abuse in offshore detention centres.

The former Catholic school teacher was among a group of lay Catholics who publicly read the leaked report in Brisbane in an exercise organised by advocacy group Love Makes a Way.

“I decided to read from the Nauru files because I felt it was a powerful way to honour the stories and experiences of people who are suffering on our watch,” Mrs Kennedy said.

She welcomed a Senate inquiry to examine the reports, but said Australia was “at a crisis point without the luxury of time to act”.

“People have already been waiting years and years; any inquiry will only be of any help if what follows is action to end offshore detention,” she said.

Catholic mother Michelle McDonald, who was also at the public reading on September 12, said the public already knew enough to demand immediate closure of the camps.

“The profound suffering of the innocent adults, babies and children incarcerated in these centres must not be prolonged any longer,” Ms McDonald said.

Reading the reports of sexual abuse and self-harm of children was “confronting”, she said.

“As a Catholic mother, I simply cannot fathom the state-sanctioned abuse of children that persists on Nauru,” Ms McDonald said.

“Following the leaking of the 2116 files, more than half of which involve children, the Government can no longer sweep the abuse suffered by these children under the carpet.”

Ms McDonald said a refugee who thanked them for bringing the allegations to the public described his time in detention “as hell”.

“He said that years later ‘his mind and body are still broken’,” she said.

By Emilie Ng

Catholic Church Insurance

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