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About Us





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Australian Churches Refugee Taskforce Values 

Drawing on core Christian values and traditions, the Taskforce is committed to offering a strong Christian moral voice into what has become a heated and hostile public debate fuelled by divisive political rhetoric and constantly changing policies. 


Why Churches care about Asylum Seekers 

Many Australians support ‘tough’ positions against asylum seekers who arrive by boat and rank asylum seeker issues as one of the top issues facing our country.

Some Christians, like many other Australians, are concerned about unsustainable numbers of asylum seekers arriving by boat and a fear of the ‘floodgates’ opening if we were to have more compassionate policies. Others have voiced concern about fears of Islamicisation and the changing demographic of Australia. Many more share a deep concern that people are drowning in small, overcrowded and un-seaworthy boats making dangerous voyages.

As Christians seeking to live faithful lives and respond to others with the grace of God, there is probably no more confusing and complex area of public policy and debate than this.

We are confronted not only by deaths at sea but also by our concerns for those refugees in camps throughout Africa and Asia. We see vulnerable people suffering because of harsh and punitive policies administered by our Government here in Australia and in offshore detention centres on Nauru and Manus Island, PNG. Children are locked up in immigration detention centres, asylum seekers are living in poverty in the community with no end in sight to their situation and on Manus Island and Nauru the conditions are harsh and damaging to people’s health and well-being. The problems seem too great and the solutions elusive.

With such difficult moral questions around Australia’s treatment of asylum seekers, it is important to step back from the prevailing public debate and draw guidance from our identity as ‘disciples’. We know that we do not always respond to human suffering and need with compassion and love. We are often driven by our fears and our confusion to give assent to ‘solutions’ which punish rather than protect. Through the national debates around asylum seekers, we have seen the best of the Australian national character – generosity, hospitality, practical care and deep compassion, and the worst of our nation – political opportunism, mean-spiritedness and fear of outsiders.

This paper describes the faith foundations for the Australian Churches Refugee Taskforce. Drawing on core Christian values and traditions, the Taskforce is committed to offering a strong Christian moral voice into what has become a heated and hostile public debate fuelled by divisive political rhetoric and constantly changing policies.


Theological Statement 

‍At a time when policies relating to asylum seekers and refugees are increasingly harsh and the public debate lacks compassion, generosity and hospitality, the churches have recognised that a common action and voice are necessary. Read the full statement.


What do we believe?  

1. Why are people coming to Australia? 

People do not flee their homes, their family, friends and community and undertake perilous, potentially deadly journeys without very good reason. Refugees are people who are forced to flee their homelands to escape persecution, including imprisonment and torture.

 2. How should we treat people who arrive in Australia seeking our protection?

Asylum seekers who arrive on our shores should be welcomed and offered appropriate care in the community (once initial health, security and identity checks have been done) while their protection claims are assessed 

3. How should the Australian system process the claims for asylum?

Asylum seekers (consistent with their human rights and Australia’s obligations under international law) should have their claims for protection processed in a fair, transparent and timely manner and that they should have access to review of their case should protection be denied. 

4. Isn’t this a really important election issue?

The arrival of asylum seekers is of great interest to the general public, but asylum seekers who arrive by boat should not be used for political point scoring.

 5. Don’t we need a “deterrent” to stop people smugglers?

Government policies should not deliberately expose people to harm. Punishing a vulnerable group of people (asylum seekers) in order to send a message to another group of people (people smugglers and other asylum seekers) is abusive and unconscionable.

 6. What should drive our asylum seeker policies?
  • a humanitarian response focused on protection needs;
  • meeting our obligations under the Refugees Convention and other international treaties;
  • working productively in our region over the long-term to find real, durable and just solutions.
 7. Should asylum seekers be able to work?

Asylum seekers in the community should have the right to work: to provide them with a way to support their family, foster self-reliance, to give them a means to contribute to Australian society and for their own human dignity.

 8. What is happening with the children?

At May 2013 there were 1731 children still being held in Australian immigration detention centres, an extraordinary amount. Under no circumstances should children be locked up.

 9. Should “no advantage” be given to those arriving by boat?

Asylum seekers and refugees should be able to find hope and restoration from the despair and persecution from which they have fled. Refugees and asylum seekers should be able to be reunited with their families. No-one should be detained indefinitely and without the right to challenge their detention.

 10. Can we afford to help all these arrivals?

As one of the wealthiest, safest and most secure countries in the world, we should be able to fund a humanitarian response to asylum seekers without taking money away from our overseas aid commitments.

































Rev Deacon Sandy Boyce, Executive Officer, Victorian Council of Churches, Uniting Church in Australia 

Sandy is a Minister in the Uniting Church in Australia, ordained to the Ministry of Deacon in 2007. She is co-convenor of the network of Deacons in the Uniting Church, and is the President of DIAKONIA World Federation.  

Sandy commenced in the role of Executive Officer of the Victorian Council of Churches on 19th April, 2022.

For over 12 years prior to this, in her role with Pilgrim Uniting Church Adelaide, Sandy was actively engaged in a number of church and community networks including – Convenor: Community Connections, Chair: Justice for Refugees, Chair: Refugee Advocacy Group (SA Uniting Church Synod), Chair: Public Theology and Mission (Synod Committee), and Homelessness SA Board. Sandy is also a member of the Uniting Church Assembly Standing Committee.




Major Karen Elkington, Salvation Army Australia

Major Karen Elkington has served as a Salvation Army Officer for more than 25 years.  Since 2010, Karen has lead The Salvation Army's Asylum Seeker & Refugee Service which supports people seeking asylum who reside in the Northern & Western suburbs of Melbourne.  The Service offers a specialised Emergency Relief and Material Aid response as well as supporting people seeking asylum by offering case work and spiritual support with a vibrant Chaplaincy program which has seeded a Salvation Army Farsi speaking congregation.  Other support is also offered for women and children seeking asylum through a therapeutic music therapy and support program. Karen has been The Salvation Army's representative on the Network of Asylum Seeker Agencies (NASAVic) since 2010.  Since 2017 Karen has enjoyed working with the Jewish community and is a committee member on Temple Beth Israel's Project Dignity which is Tillun Olam (repairing the world) group that focuses on supporting people of refugee and asylum seeker backgrounds.




Carmen Lazar, Centre Manager, Assyrian Resource Centre

Carmen Lazar is a well-known Assyrian community representative. Carmen migrated to Australia in 1971 with her parents and two sisters. She is respected and valued among community services networks. Currently Carmen is the Manager and Community Settlement Officer, Assyrian Resource Centre that includes the Assyrian Australian Association which is in receipt of funding from the Department of Immigration and Border Protection for Settlement Grants Program (SGP) and for Diversity and Social Cohesion Program (DSCP). Carmen is also a Member of the Fairfield Migrant Inter-agency (Fairfield Council) and in the past has been Principal of the Assyrian Diqlat School which is the Saturday Assyrian school that operates in two schools in NSW. Carmen is a member of the Immigrant Women’s Network Group for the prevention of violence against women and a Community Support for Women Volunteer (once a month), Villawood Detention Centre.




Reverend Meewon Yang, Multicultural Pastor & Consultant, Baptist Union of Victoria

Rev Meewon Yang grew up in Korea where she was raised an active Presbyterian, and came to Australia in 1989. She was ordained as a Baptist Pastor in 1997, and soon after began working with the Baptist Union as a Multicultural Adviser. She is now a Multicultural Pastor, caring for pastors and congregations in Victoria’s 70 migrant ethnic Baptist congregations from Non-English Speaking Backgrounds. Meewon has been a passionate advocate for asylum seekers and refugees. She established the Refugee Airfare and Assistance scheme, pioneered a chaplaincy role at an asylum seeker house set up by Brunswick Baptist Church, and then helped to establish the Sanctuary asylum seeker transitional housing project run by Baptcare. In 2012 Meewon completed her Masters Degree which looked at models of Multicultural ministry. She is a regular adjunct lecturer at Whitley College and within the MCD University.




Peter Arndt, Executive Officer, Catholic Justice & Peace Commission of Brisbane

As Executive Officer of the Catholic Justice and Peace Commission of Brisbane, Peter Arndt is also Convenor of the Brisbane Refugee and Asylum Seeker Support Network. He participates in a number of reference groups associated with the management of Government-funded refugee support programs and the Brisbane Immigration Transit Accommodation. He also works in advocacy on Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander issues, climate change, protection of outworkers, the death penalty and human rights in Sri Lanka and West Papua.



Sr Brigid Arthur, Joint Coordinator Brigidine Asylum Seeker Project

Brigid Arthur is a Brigidine Sister who trained both as a Primary and Secondary teacher. She taught and was Principal of schools for many years. Brigid has a degree in Arts (Melbourne University) and educational and Mathematics/Science degrees from Australian Catholic University, La Trobe University, Monash University and Melbourne University. Brigid studied at Fordham University in New York where she graduated with a Masters degree in Religious Education.

She has studied theology at Yarra Theological College. Brigid is the joint coordinator of the Brigidine Asylum Seekers’ Project. This work has been at both a hands-on level – helping asylum seekers and refugees with accommodation, and other practical support, and in advocacy – trying to change the present policies and procedures used in Australia to deter asylum seekers coming to this country. Brigid is a member of the Board of the Asylum Seekers Project and a member of the Refugee Advocacy Network.






Craig Heidenreich

I feel so fortunate to have journeyed with people of many ethnic backgrounds who have become true friends.

Half a lifetime ago I first crossed paths with refugees who looked like they needed some ‘help’, but little did I know that their courage would inspire me, and we would lose sight of who was helping who. 

I’ve learned about true hospitality and had fun trying to pronounce greetings in many languages

More recently the Lutheran Church have taken a risk and let me loose among the congregations to tell something of this story of humanity and why we should get to know each other.

Craig Heidenreich




Dr Jill Parris, Advocate and Peace Builder

Dr. Jill Parris left South Africa in 1980 to move away from the restrictive apartheid government. She is a retired psychologist, trained in Australia and worked for the last ten years of her career to help settle humanitarian entrants who had fled war or famine in their countries of origin. She is a Quaker whose concern lies with advocating for people who have been confined in on or offshore detention by the Australian government. Alongside this she is one of many supporters who draw alongside some of those who live on temporary visas within the community while waiting to be accepted for permanent residence within Australia. Jill has an abiding interest in peace building which she has pursued though writing.





Rev Lindsay Cullen, Associate General Secretary, 

Rev Lindsay Cullen is the Assembly Associate General Secretary. He leads the Assembly Resourcing Unit - a team responsible for the oversight of the national work of the UCA including doctrine, worship, ministry education standards, social justice and advocacy and ecumenical and interfaith relationships. 

Within the UCA, Lindsay has served in rural, regional and urban contexts and a major focus of his ministry has been Adult Education and Lay Ministry training.



Rev. Dr. John D. Jegasothy, JP - Sydney Tamil Community

Rev Ian Phillips, Lismore Church of Christ and Sanctuary Northern Rivers.

Mr Mazin Kalakvan, Multicultural Communities Team, The Brotherhood of St Laurence 

Rob Floyd, National Director, Frontier Services, Uniting Church in Australia



























































































































Telephone: (02) 9299 2215

Address: Locked Bag Q199, QVB NSW 1230

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