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Welcome, strangers: Queen’s Birthday Honour for asylum seeker advocate: The Age

When Sister Brigid Arthur was a teacher at schools in Melbourne’s west, from the mid-1950s to the early 1990s, she was moved by the resilience of local immigrant families.

She saw that with help from the community, they could not just survive but thrive.

Asylum seeker advocate and social justice activist Sister Brigid Arthur.

Asylum seeker advocate and social justice activist Sister Brigid Arthur.Credit:Joe Armao

It’s something she’s seen with many of the thousands of asylum seekers she’s assisted over the past 30 years.

One young woman who came from a war-torn country in 2017 as a teenager, with little education, is now studying for a master’s degree and works in medical research, which was “an amazing turnaround”, Arthur said.

By Carolyn Webb


The life and times of activist Sister Brigid Arthur : The Monthly


Image of Sister Brigid Arthur

© Penny Stephens / The Age

The life and times of activist Sister Brigid Arthur

Twenty years ago, I had reason to visit someone in the Maribyrnong detention centre, in Melbourne’s inner west. The people who sent me told me to meet a nun outside who would introduce me to the detainee. I spotted her in the car park: a small woman, casually dressed and watchful, propped on two crutches. In answer to my query, she muttered something about her hip. After we passed through security – a processing desk, a metal detector and some suspicious looks – we were dumped in an interview room and the door slammed shut behind us. Immediately, the nun began producing an astonishing array of stationery from within her clothing: pens, highlighters, Post-it Notes, paper. “They won’t give them stationery in here,” she said. “And no one pats down a nun.”


September 2021, Essays, Sister acts, By Jock Serong


Go to The Monthly article