Taking Home in a Box to Broken Hill

In April, the Salvation Army in Broken Hill contacted us about Home in a Box. There were six families living in a refuge, all due to move into their own home in the coming months. The only homewares they could afford were from the local second-hand store, where there was little to choose from. Thanks to Vincent Care Queensland, we were able to deliver Homes in Boxes to help each family and individual make their house a home.

The boxes also included backpacks, drink bottles, books, games and toiletries, thanks to Hockeys Real Estate, a local business who has supported the Mercy Foundation by running a Christmas Giving Tree over the past couple of years.

Over the last few years, the number of families and individuals assisted by this program has greatly increased. We have managed to meet the growing demand thanks to the support of the Sisters of Mercy North Sydney, the Mater Hospital Sydney, our many generous donors, suppliers and the dedication and commitment of service workers who work to house and support their clients.

Home in a Box has helped to set up a warm and welcoming home for more than 78 households this year. Each box is bursting with high quality, brand new homewares to help create a home for families or individuals moving from homelessness into their own home. Earlier this year, we received a number of hand crocheted and knitted rugs from the Knights of Malta Craft Group and a generous local resident. Their thoughtfully crafted creations have added a personal touch to each box.

A snapshot of recent recipients include:

  • A woman in her 40’s who was homeless for two years, sleeping in her car
  • A woman in her 50’s from a CALD background who experienced long term homelessness
  • A family including three children with high needs, all aged under six years, homeless for 12 months
  • A man who has experienced homelessness since 2015, sleeping rough for the past two years
  • A pregnant Aboriginal woman in her late 30’s, who was homeless for most of her life

Thank you for your financial support that has enabled us to meet the growing need, helping more families and individuals to settle into their own home and restart their lives.

Justine Muller, Team leader, Family Violence NSW/ACT, Salvation Army

We are seeking a Modern Slavery Lead

We are looking for a Modern Slavery Lead to join our team. We are seeking an expert on modern slavery in Australia with excellent communication skills.

This is a part time role, 3 days per week on a 12 month contract, with a probationary period of 6 months.

About us

The Mercy Foundation is committed to social justice and addressing the root causes of poverty and inequality in our community. The Mercy Foundation is a not for profit organisation that strives to end homelessness, end human trafficking and slavery and bring about greater social justice in communities across Australia.

The Mercy Foundation achieves its mission through its grants programs, advocacy, education and research.

The Mercy Foundation is a work of the Sisters of Mercy North Sydney and all activities reflect and align with Mercy philosophy, values and ethos. This alignment extends to the expected behaviour of employees of the Mercy Foundation.

The Mercy Foundation acknowledges and recognizes that every child and adult is valued and respected and has the right to feel safe and therefore has a zero tolerance to abuse. We are committed to building safe environments for all people who interact with the Mercy Foundation.

The role may involve presenting to or interacting with students and applicants are required to have a Working with Children Check.

The Mercy Foundation can offer flexibility with hybrid work options and attractive salary packaging.

About you

The Mercy Foundation is seeking a modern slavery expert with excellent communication skills to join our team. You will have expertise in content knowledge about modern slavery in Australia. It is desirable that you also have experience in the development and implementation of social media communications and can craft compelling, evidence-based communication materials to achieve the Mercy Foundation’s objectives.  We are seeking a person who is passionate about social justice and human rights.

The position

The Modern Slavery Lead will work closely with the CEO to develop the Mercy Foundation’s strategy and plan to address modern slavery in the first 6 months and then implement the plan according to its timeline. Note that the Mercy Foundation has a particular focus on addressing domestic servitude in Australia.

The Modern Slavery Lead will:

  • Develop and implement the strategy and plan for the Mercy Foundation’s work to address modern slavery in Australia.
  • Develop evidence-based policy responses to emerging issues
  • Develop resources to influence efforts to end modern slavery in Australia
  • Draft submissions to government and other consultations
  • Build collaborative relationships with internal and external stakeholders
  • Represent the Mercy Foundation at forums and network meetings
  • Build the Mercy Foundation’s presence in the sector
  • Advise the Mercy Foundation of modern slavery risks in its supply chains.

Over time, it is envisaged that the person will assist the CEO in addressing other social justice issues prioritised by the Mercy Foundation.

The Mercy Foundation is a small organisation and demonstrated ability to work in a small team is highly regarded.

A Bachelor degree or higher in social work, human rights, communications or related field is preferred.

This position is a 12 month contract 0.6 FTE with a probationary period of 6 months. The salary is $90,000 FT ($54,000 for 0.6 FTE) + 11.5% superannuation.

If you have any questions or would like further information about the role, please contact
Sue Mowbray, Chief Executive Officer of the Mercy Foundation by email : sue.mowbray@mercyfoundation.com.au.


To apply for this role, candidates are asked to:

  • Provide a one-page statement (maximum 750 words) outlining how your skills, knowledge and experience make you the right person for the role. You should include details of relevant achievements or examples that demonstrate your suitability.
  • Provide a current resume detailing recent employment history.

Please email your application to Sue Mowbray, Chief Executive Officer at sue.mowbray@mercyfoundation.com.au.

Applications close at 11.55pm, Monday 22 April 2024.

IWD2024 campaign honouring women

For International Women’s Day, we took the opportunity to acknowledge some of the remarkable women we have had the honour of working. The women are all recipients of the Cath Leary Social Justice award.

We believe these women deserve more than a moment-in-time acknowledgement on our Facebook page and we are proud to honour them one more time!

May be an image of 1 person and text that says 'mercyfoundation #IWD2024 VD2024 #Inspirelnclusion 十 Cath Leary International Women's Day 2024 atthe service of human dignity'

The first woman we acknowledge is Cath Leary. Cath worked tirelessly for people and communities who needed a voice and needed change. She is remembered for her passion for social justice, her generosity, her intelligence and great sense of humour.

Cath was a member of the Mercy Foundation Board and grants committee for almost 10 years. She lived her life exemplifying all that the Mercy Foundation strives for, to be at the service of human dignity.

As a tribute to Cath, the Mercy Foundation Board renamed the social justice award in her name and Cath’s family has set up the Cath Leary Social Justice Foundation in her honour.

Cath’s legacy and influence lives on, in the work of the Mercy Foundation, the work of the Cath Leary Social Justice Foundation and in the hearts of all who knew her. Read more about Cath and the Cath Leary Social Justice Award here: https://bit.ly/3v7jPOm

May be an image of 1 person and text that says 'mercyfoundation #IWD2024 #Inspirelnclusion + Mahboba Rawi OAM International Women's Day 2024 tthe service of human dignity'

Another remarkable woman is Mahboba Rawi OAM, the founder of Mahboba’s Promise, a charity established in 2001 to improve the lives of vulnerable women and children in Afghanistan and Australia.

In 2023, Mahboba was awarded the Cath Leary Social Justice Award in recognition of her outstanding work, effort and lifelong commitment to upholding human rights and human dignity in her work with Afghan women and children.

Her courage and commitment to ensuring that marginalised women and children have access to education is similar to that of many Sisters of Mercy, who have dedicated their lives to educating young women and children facing hardship, following the example of their founder, Catherine McAuley.

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Dedicating her life to healing trauma, Norma Tracey AM is the next woman we honour.

For more than 60 years, Norma has dedicated her life to working with mothers, particularly new Aboriginal mothers, fathers and children, helping them to recover and heal from trauma and intergenerational trauma.

Norma was awarded the Cath Leary Social Justice Award in 2022, in recognition of her outstanding work, effort and lifelong commitment to upholding human rights and human dignity. Read more about Norma and her remarkable work here: https://bit.ly/49YTlxq

May be an image of 1 person and text that says 'mercy mercyfoundation #IWD2024 #Inspirelnclusion + Julie Sneddon International Women's Day 2024 atthe service of human dignity'

On International Women’s Day we celebrated Julie Sneddon, former CEO of Cana Communities. Julie was awarded the Cath Leary Social Justice Award in 2019, recognising her outstanding work, efforts and commitment to transforming the lives of vulnerable and marginalised people.

Julie started as a volunteer at Cana in 2005 and in 2017, Julie became CEO. Julie was the driving force for the establishment of Cana Farm. Under her leadership, Cana has grown to transform the lives of many individuals, through new programs, new facilities, more volunteers, community collaborations and most importantly, building relationships.

Read more about this exceptional woman here: https://bit.ly/3wFy11v

May be an image of 2 people and text that says 'mercyfoundation mercy #IWD2024 #Inspirelnclusion + Angela Reed RSM PhD International Women's Day 2024 atthe service 叶 human dignity'

We also acknowledged the work of Angela Reed, RSM PhD. Angela was awarded the Cath Leary Social Justice Award in 2020, recognising her effort and commitment to upholding human rights and human dignity, from her early work with homeless women in Melbourne and her significant achievements in addressing gendered violence and human trafficking.

The Award recognised Angela’s pursuit of academic excellence, her life work in advocating for the rights of disadvantaged women and children and her significant contribution to addressing human trafficking.

Angela is a Sister of Mercy and the leader of Mercy International Association – Global Action at the UN, with special consultative status at the UN’s Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC). Angela focuses on social justice and poverty eradication, seeking to change the unjust systems that cause and perpetuate poverty. She ensures that the rights of people at the grassroots are heard in decision making, global policy making and advocacy at the UN. Read more about this exceptional woman here: https://bit.ly/49GIfgL

May be an image of 1 person and text that says '#IWD2024 #Inspirelnclusion + Sisters of Mercy NORTH SYDNEY International Women's Day 2024 atthe service 十 human dignity'

Sisters of Mercy North Sydney

All week, we have celebrated some of the many extraordinary women we have been privileged to work with over the years.

We also celebrate the Sisters of Mercy North Sydney, who founded the Mercy Foundation, to combat poverty and disadvantage and challenge the structures and systems that contribute to social inequity.

The Sisters are true women of Mercy. Like their founders, Catherine McAuley and Ignatius Elizabeth McQuoin, we celebrate their vision, courage, commitment to social justice and compassion. They are our inspiration.

Read more about the Sisters here: https://www.nsmercy.org.au/…/the-north-sydney-mercy-story

Beyond Storytelling: Towards Survivor-informed Responses To Modern Slavery

This new report from Anti-Slavery Australia shines light on the contribution that survivors of modern slavery can make to the design, implementation, monitoring and evaluation of Australia’s response to modern slavery. This report challenges our current response to modern slavery and offers us the means of developing effective responses, that are led by the guidance and wisdom of survivors. The Mercy Foundation proudly supported this research through our grants program.

Drawing on survivor-authored or informed literature and interviews with survivors, survivor advocates and organisations working with survivors, this report charts the push — led by survivors — to engage with survivors in meaningful, ethical, and trauma-informed ways to improve responses to modern slavery.

This important research recognises that survivors have much to share that goes beyond their story. It recognises and values their expertise and their wisdom. Effective responses to modern slavery will only be developed with the input, guidance and in collaboration with survivors.

We congratulate Frances Simmons and Jennifer Burn for this detailed, valuable and actionable report, and sincerely thank the survivors who generously shared their wisdom and insights.

Beyond Storytelling Research Report

How we can prevent homelessness for people over 55 in NSW

It is a great concern that people over 55 continue to fall into homelessness, as evidenced by the latest Census statistics. Across Australia,
=> the number of women over 55 years counted as homeless climbed by 6.6% to 7,325
=> the number of men over 55 years counted as homeless increased by 2.6% to 12,062.

Homelessness is traumatic and damaging to people’s lives, with severe and lasting impacts. Our older generations should be looking forward to their retirement years, not living in fear of losing their home.

The rate of homelessness for older women continues to outpace men. The number of women over 55 experiencing homelessness is likely to be much higher than reported. Most older women do not sleep rough. For safety’s sake and out of shame, they are well hidden, sleeping in their cars, on friend’s couches or house-sitting.

We know the solution to homelessness is affordable , appropriate, long term housing. However, prevention is key to stopping people from falling into homelessness in the first place.

The Mercy Foundation is a member of the steering group for the Ageing on the Edge NSW (AOTE NSW) Forum, a coalition working to address the growing numbers of older people experiencing homelessness in NSW. AOTE NSW is advocating for the establishment of a  ‘Home at Last’ service, a preventative and early intervention service, assisting older people to resolve their housing crisis before they become homeless. It is much cheaper and a better experience for all if someone’s homelessness can be prevented.

You can help by contacting your local member and ask them to establish the Home at Last service in NSW as priority, to help prevent older generations from falling into homelessness. Find your local member here.

The point of the service is to provide older people with tailored advice, either face to face or by phone, to prevent them from falling into homelessness or to quickly resolve a housing crisis.

In 2022, a Parliamentary Inquiry into Homelessness among people over 55 years, was completed by the Standing Committee on Social Issues. The Committee made 40 recommendations which included:

Recommendation 5
That the NSW Government consider the establishment of a funded specialist housing information and support service for older people that comprises both an early intervention and crisis response, similar to the ‘Home at Last’ model in Victoria.

 On January 30, 2023 the NSW Government responded to the recommendations from the Inquiry. The NSW Government did not support the findings of its own Inquiry. We are greatly concerned that more older people, particularly older women, will fall into homelessness, as a result of this response.

The model has been costed at $1.7M per year to run, and in 2021 EY provided a benefit cost report of the service in Victoria which found that for every dollar spent on the Home at Last service, $2.30 in societal value is generated. [i]

Research confirms that older people face a number of challenges in accessing information about housing and homelessness. Most have never had any experience with homelessness services or the welfare system and don’t identify as homeless. Older people have lower levels of digital literacy and limited access to the internet, making the digital delivery of services a barrier to obtaining assistance.

Housing is a fundamental human right. Loss of housing has mental and physical health impacts and housing insecurity generates much stress and anxiety. The importance of having a safe, secure, appropriate, affordable home cannot be overstated.

[i] Housing for the Aged Action Group, 2021, Home at Last Economic Appraisal, Ernst & Young accessible at:


Stepping Up to end homelessness

“Thank you for your support and for not rushing me. I often feel judged when I seek help, but you have given me respect.

Step Up is an initiative run from St Kilda Gatehouse Drop In which is centrally located in St Kilda. Step Up provides women (including non-binary and trans) aged 18+ reliant on street sex work and experiencing chronic homelessness with direct referrals to specialised housing, health and legal supports ensuring they have the best chance of ‘stepping up’ into safe, secure housing.

Step Up is creating pathways for women to exit the cycle of homelessness. Specifically, they

  • Provide quality, trauma-informed and relational support which increases a woman’s chance of securing housing, especially those reliant on street sex work.
  • Offer access to a safe space of belonging and connection and the various services and programs run from the Drop In centre (Monday- Friday). No appointment necessary.
  • Enable referral pathways to primary housing, community and health services supporting women address complex needs and improve wellbeing.
  • Help to reduce the short and long-term health and socio-economic impacts that homelessness has on the life of a woman.

Halfway through the project,

  • 20 chronically homeless women are currently being supported by the service, with each woman being individually supported to help end her experience of homelessness.
  • Twelve women are currently sleeping rough, in squats, hostels or couch surfing.
  • Six women have been linked to housing
  • Another has moved into temporary accommodation and another woman assisted in reconnecting with family.

In addition, the team has delivered information workshops to two local community groups. These workshops are designed to addressed issues involved with homelessness, challenge participants to think about stereotypes and provide opportunities for participants to be part of the solution. Both groups provided positive feedback from their experience.

Since the lockdowns of COVID-19, visits across St Kilda Gatehouse services have increased by 35%, the demand for material aid has jumped 22% and there has been a 79% increase in referrals, mentoring, advocacy, and educational sessions. Since July 2022, the number of visits to the Drop In has steadily increased and more women are ‘visibly’ experiencing homelessness. As a result, the demand for housing assistance continues to rise.

The project is due to finish in June 2023.

Housing is a human right

A home is much more than four walls. A safe, affordable home is necessary to meet our most basic needs. Homelessness takes an enormous toll on physical and mental health. Homelessness destroys hope and damages lives. The importance of a home cannot be overstated. It is a fundamental human right.

Homelessness can be solved. It requires a decent supply of long term, affordable housing and the appropriate support to ensure that housing will be sustained.

The Australian Government committed to ensuring all people in Australia have a safe and stable home when it ratified the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights in 1975. By ratifying this Covenant, under international law, Australia agreed to respect, protect and fulfil these rights, including the right to housing and an adequate standard of living.

In March, we collaborated with Dr Jessie Hohmann, an international expert on the right to housing, to engage with the UN regarding homelessness in Australia. At a Zoom meeting with the UN Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, we highlighted our concerns about the right to housing in Australia, particularly where the government is breaching its responsibilities under the Covenant. Amongst people experiencing homelessness, we are particularly concerned about the overrepresentation of older women, young people and First Nations Peoples.

The full text of the Mercy Foundation’s submissions to the Committee can be found here: https://bit.ly/3q78WX8

Our discussions helped inform the UN’s List of Issues that the Australian government will be asked to respond to in its report to the UN in 2023. The List of Issues were released in April, and we were pleased to see a number of references to our concerns around the right to housing.

Upholding our Right to Housing at the UN

Mercy Foundation asks International Body to find that Australia is violating human rights to housing, an adequate standard of living, and non-discrimination and equality.

On March 9th, the Mercy Foundation appeared before the United Nation’s Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights.  The Committee oversees Australia’s progress in realising economic, social and cultural rights, which under international law, it has agreed to respect, protect and fulfil.  These rights include the right to housing, non-discrimination and equality, and an adequate standard of living, among others.

Dr Jessie Hohmann, an internationally recognised expert on the right to housing in international law, assisted the Mercy Foundation in this process.

Economic, social and cultural rights give people dignity and insist that each person is entitled to the goods that make it possible for life to be fulfilling and dignified: safe housing, enough nutritious food, access to health care, and adequate pay for their work, for example.  As rights, they give equal moral worth to people, and insist that material supports are not merely a question of charity, but of humanity.

The Mercy Foundation brought to the Committee’s attention that Australia is failing to make progress toward fulfilling these rights.  Instead, Australia is, in many areas, moving away from ensuring people’s rights.  Over the last few decades, Australia has become an increasingly unequal country, leading to retrogression (or backward steps) in the enjoyment of economic and social rights under the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights.  Wages have not kept up with the cost of living, social supports are inadequate and there is a chronic shortage of affordable housing.  For example, income support has not risen, in real terms, in 25 years.  These background conditions are leading to a housing crisis.  Homelessness is rising.  The price of housing is some of the highest in the world and rentals are increasingly unaffordable. The percentage of social housing has fallen, and there are very long waiting lists to access it, sometimes up to 10 years.  Many people are insecure in their housing, worrying about whether they can keep up with rental or mortgage payments, and where they will go if they can’t.  Older women, and women and children subjected to domestic and family violence, are the fastest growing cohorts experiencing homelessness.

In appearing before the Committee, the Mercy Foundation pointed out that Australia’s lack of progress on realising these rights rests on policy choices, not political, economic or logistical inability.

The Committee asked searching questions about why Australia was not already fulfilling these rights for everyone.  This is a question it will reiterate when the Australian government appears before it in the current United Nations Session.

Australia has the capacity to ensure these rights for all, not just for those already better off.  The Mercy Foundation was honoured to appear before the Committee as part of the United Nations Treaty Process, to advance an agenda of social justice, an end to homelessness, and an adequate standard of living for everyone.

The full text of the Mercy Foundation’s submissions to the Committee can be found here: https://bit.ly/3q78WX8


Sue Mowbray, CEO Mercy Foundation sue.mowbray@mercyfoundation.com.au

Dr Jessie Hohmann, UTS Jessie.Hohmann@uts.edu.au

A silver lining?

April 2020

Our world is grappling with COVID-19 and its consequences. While we don’t have a vaccination or cure, most of us have access to one thing that will protect us from the virus. A home. Our home provides us with safety, security and the ability to physically isolate ourselves.

What if you don’t have a home? Around 8,200 Australians sleep rough on any given night. People sleeping rough often have health challenges that put them at great risk if they become ill with COVID-19.

Providing shelter has become a top priority for a number of newly formed task forces across Australia. People sleeping rough are being offered temporary accommodation and support, thanks to a coalition of homelessness services, government, NGOs and other organisations.

It’s been reported that at least 750 people sleeping rough in NSW have been given temporary accommodation since the start of the Coronavirus crisis, with more to follow.

A positive outcome of this crisis would be if people sleeping rough were to be matched up with appropriate housing and support. Please sign up to the Everybody’s Home campaign calling for a better, fairer housing system for everyone. Permanent housing and support for all people sleeping rough would definitely be a silver lining to dark clouds in our sky.

Our Social Justice Small Grants program is now open. The theme of the program is ‘Justice in the digital world’ is very relevant for our country right now. The types of projects that will be prioritised are:

  • Projects that provide access to the digital world for people who are currently excluded
  • Projects that address social exclusion by helping people stay connected online
  • Projects that help protect vulnerable people from online exploitation
  • Projects that help small organisations build capacity to operate online to deliver a social justice outcome

Applications are due in by 27 April. There are more details here.








Is the “Australia solution” catching on?

by Hugh Mackay and Frances Rush

“The US president is indifferent to human rights.” That was the banner headline on the front page of France’s Le Monde newspaper last week, as if it were news. Donald Trump has amply demonstrated that indifference, and not only in the context of his fantasy wall along the Mexican border. But he is now being joined by the new Italian government and by the growing body of populist and right-wing agitators across Europe.

Demonising refugees and people seeking asylum has become a favourite tactic of fear-mongering politicians who know that a certain wariness towards strangers (particularly those of different ethnic or religious backgrounds from our own) is a natural human tendency that can easily be ramped up to a “wall” mentality. Australian politicians on both sides of the parliament have become past-masters at it.

Tony Abbott, when prime minister, was even prepared to offer the Europeans his advice about how to “stop the boats”. President Trump, in his infamous leaked phone conversation with Malcolm Turnbull, said of Australia’s asylum-seeker policy that “you’re worse than we are” – and he meant it as a compliment.

So have we become the standard-bearers for this latest version of “man’s inhumanity to man”? Not so fast. It’s precisely because xenophobia is a natural human response to otherness that people is any setting can find themselves driven by that dark impulse. But civilisation is all about learning to resist our dark impulses; learning, instead, to enshrine and respond to our noblest impulses, such as compassion.

 Ah, compassion. Give in to that that and the floodgates will open, say the supporters of indefinite offshore detention as a deterrent to people smugglers. People will drown at sea! Amazing, isn’t it, that the combined intelligence of the entire federal parliament can’t come up with a better strategy for ensuring the safety of people seeking asylum than brutal punishment of the innocent.

Prediction is a mug’s game, but one prediction can be made with total confidence. At some point in our future – though certainly not in the life of this government nor the next – there will be a national apology to the people seeking asylum whom we have so harshly treated, both offshore and on.

 The apology, when it finally comes, will acknowledge that we treated these people as if they had done something wrong – even “illegal” – though we always knew they had not. (They had simply exercised their rights under international treaties to which we are a signatory.) It will acknowledge that what we did amounted to torture.

It will also acknowledge that, unlike the scandal of the stolen generations of Indigenous children, or the sexual abuse of children by priests and others responsible for their care, we all knew this was going on, year after year, and chose to do nothing about it. We found it easier to ignore than to confront and, to that extent, we were all complicit.

When we talk about people seeking asylum, we tend to focus on the notorious offshore detention centres on Nauru and Manus Island, but that is merely the tip of the iceberg of our national heartlessness. Why is there so little public discussion about the treatment of people who are living in our community, awaiting confirmation of their refugee status? The continuing erosion of government support threatens those people with destitution.

Only last month, a group of people who had been medically evacuated from Manus and Nauru were advised that they would lose all income support (less than Newstart, by the way).

 Single people lost that support overnight and were given three weeks to vacate their current accommodation. Families were granted a further six weeks of income support and advised that by the end of that period they, too, would have to vacate their accommodation.

All this was justified in terms of the concept of “self-agency” explained in a recent Department of Home Affairs edict: “Individuals with a right to work, and who have the capacity to work, are expected to support themselves while their immigration status is being resolved.”

Employment is certainly the game changer for any refugee, and while people seeking asylum have shown great courage and resilience in fleeing their country and finding their way to ours, we shouldn’t underestimate the challenge of trying to find work, learn English, find secure accommodation, while living with uncertainty about your very status as a refugee.

Fortunately, the wellsprings of compassion and generosity run deep in this community. While governments of both persuasions have shown blithe disregard for the views of ordinary, decent Australians (a large majority of whom are opposed to indefinite offshore detention of people seeking asylum), the Asylum Seekers Centre in Sydney is regularly overwhelmed by offers of help. Students, pensioners, business and professional people … people from all walks of life offer their time, skills, financial and other resources to assist in the care of people seeking asylum. Such sustained support amounts to a protest movement that exposes the yawning gap between community attitudes and government policy.

The impact of the government’s heartlessness on the mental and emotional state of people seeking asylum can scarcely be imagined. But that’s not the only impact, of course. The longer this goes on, the more we ourselves are diminished by it. What does it say about us that we have become the kind of society that would inflict such unconscionably harsh treatment on innocent people who have simply sought a better life in a safe society where, like so many before them, they are keen to make a contribution?

There’s plenty to apologise for. But an apology without reparation is a pretty hollow thing. So here’s another confident prediction: our humiliating national apology will be followed by compensation payouts that will rival the payments now being made to victims of child sexual abuse.

That won’t heal the wounds we have inflicted on many thousands of the world’s most vulnerable people. But at least it will be a tangible acknowledgement of the fact that we got it grievously wrong – and never more grievously than in 2018.

Hugh Mackay is a patron of the Asylum Seekers Centre in Newtown, and the author, most recently, of Australia Reimagined. Frances Rush is CEO of the Asylum Seekers Centre.