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Secret Santa scrapped for special child

Time to give: Carmel Carden and Michael Bruynesteyn with a small portion of the items staff at Queen of Apostles Catholic primary School have donated to support an Iranian refugee couple awaiting the birth of a child in Brisbane. Photo: Emilie Ng

Time to give: Carmel Carden and Michael Bruynesteyn with a small portion of the items staff at Queen of Apostles Catholic primary School have donated to support an Iranian refugee couple awaiting the birth of a child in Brisbane. Photo: Emilie Ng

By Peter Bugden

A GROUP of Catholic school teachers in Brisbane are eagerly awaiting the birth of a special child at Christmas, a child most unlikely to be called “Jesus”.

This child will be born to a refugee couple being held in immigration detention in Pinkenba, near Brisbane Airport.

When Carmel Carden, a teacher at Queen of Apostles Primary School, Stafford, heard that the couple would have no clothes for their new-born child she suggested to her workmates that they do something about it.

Assistant principal for religious education Michael Bruynesteyn said Ms Carden put the challenge – “Why do we have to keep buying rubbish presents for ourselves in our Secret Santa? Why don’t we buy clothes for this baby instead?”

Mr Bruynesteyn said the teachers and staff agreed and the idea snowballed.

“I can imagine we’ll have a room full of clothes by the time we’re finished,” he said.

“One teacher accidentally left the receipt in the bag of clothes she’d brought in, and she’d spent $146.”

As well as baby clothes the staff have donated a range of items for infants and toddlers, including toys.

If they collect more than is needed by the Iranian couple they are supporting there will be other babies at the detention centre who could benefit from the donations.

Queen of Apostles staff learned of the refugees’ plight through Mr Bruynesteyn who visits the detention centre each week as a volunteer supporter.

“There’s a huge contingent of Iranians there,” he said.

“Iranian Christians are very much persecuted in their home country.”

Mr Bruynesteyn said he tended to support refugees from that group on his visits.

Part of that support included prayer sessions with the refugees.

He said pregnant refugee women detained by the Australian Government on Nauru or Manus Island were brought to the Pinkenba detention centre so they could give birth in hospitals in Brisbane.

“After several weeks they are then sent back (to Nauru or Manus Island), and the conditions there are horrific,” he said.

He was keen for more people to be aware that refugees were being detained in Brisbane.

“They’re tucked away (at the back of the airport) and most people don’t know they’re there,” Mr Bruynesteyn said.

He said when he told the expectant couple that he and his workmates were collecting clothes for their baby “they were amazed that people are thinking of them”.

“(The mother) had tears in her eyes and gave me a big hug,” he said.

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