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Bishop Morris, Acting Chairman of the Australian Catholic Social Justice Council, today issued the following statement for Australia Day:

Australia Day is a time to reflect on who we are as a nation, and who we want to be.  Our national anthem reflects both our past and our aspirations.

We are blessed to live in a free and beautiful land.  It is our responsibility to protect and care for nature’s gifts, and to promote the rights and freedom of all.  We can never take human rights for granted, and must keep asking ourselves if everyone’s rights are consistently protected.

We have earned a good international reputation by our commitment to a fair go for everyone, our friendliness, and by our welcoming of people from all over the world.  This heritage is something to be proud of and to build on.  It should not be squandered through closed attitudes and harsh policies towards those in need who seek to be part of Australian society.

In the second verse of Advance Australia Fair we sing, “for those who’ve come across the seas, we’ve boundless plains to share” – this has been true, and we must work to ensure that it remains true.  Our international reputation is in jeopardy because of our shabby treatment of asylum seekers.

We do aspire to be a free, equal and open society that responds with humanity to all in need.  To realise these aspirations we are challenged today to build respect for the dignity and rights of Indigenous Australians, and to welcome asylum seekers and refugees.  In the words of our national anthem, “with courage let us all combine, to advance Australia fair”!