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Diocese of Maitland-Newcastle April 2020 | No.200


Right now, the world needs hopeful people.


Bishop Bill Wright

A fund you can trust

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Anniversaries, Easter and hope

On the cover An empty Sacred Heart Cathedral, Hamilton

Featured f Easter message 2020


f Alive and online


f Keeping Sunday holy


f From Wuhan to the world


f Takin’ it to the street


f Barista and butcher meat in the sandwich 9 f Learning as we go


f Age-old attitude prevails


f ASPIRE performers tread the keyboards


f Spectrum offers security


f Print proclamation


f Embracing First Nations voices


f Meeting of the minds


f Magdalene for Margot


f Learning from pain to shape the future


f The SRE vibe


f Agent of change


f Colourful community connection


f Unity in diversity


f Tradition rises to the occasion


Twelve months ago, on Easter Sunday, Sri Lanka was hit by one of the world’s worst terrorist attacks this century. Three churches, three hotels, a housing complex and a guest house were bombed in a series of co-ordinated attacks that killed 253, injured more than 500 and caused shock and sadness around the world. In the days that followed, hundreds gathered at a Newcastle memorial led by Sri Lankan-born priest, Father Joseph Figurado. Government-enforced regulations in response to COVID-19 mean there will be no local commemorative services held on the first anniversary of that fateful day. However, I would encourage you all to light a candle on 21 April for those who we lost, and reflect on the message Fr Joseph shared during his Homily at last year’s service: “Let us rise again and let us all strengthen one another with love and concern.” Fr Joseph’s message, although linked to another human disaster, rings true as we face the devastating fallout from the spread of coronavirus around the world. In this edition of Aurora, we look at the impact of coronavirus from a local

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perspective, and the unprecedented impact it is having on the Church, local schools and businesses and the tens of thousands who suddenly find themselves unemployed. But not all is lost. Easter, in particular, is a time for hope. While we may not be able to physically reach out to one another at present, extra time spent inside our homes does pose an opportunity to reflect and find new ways of being. Of listening to ourselves, each other and to God. To think differently, act more meaningfully and hopefully, as Fr Joseph points out, with renewed love and concern for each other. In recent days another important date has passed — the first anniversary of the dedication of the memorial to the victims and survivors of historical child sexual abuse at Marist Brothers High School, Hamilton. Because of COVID-19, there could be no community gathering at the memorial this year. Nevertheless, Bishop Bill has written a public letter asking that we pause and reflect on the purpose of the memorial, remembering survivors and those who are no longer with us. In doing so, he says “community recovery is often tied to a collective expression of grief for which the Marist Memorial is an enduring

f First Word


f My Word


f CareTalk


f Community Noticeboard


At the time of going to print, ABC has screened one episode of a three-part series titled Revelation, presented by journalist Sarah Ferguson. Bishop Bill took part in the interview with the understanding that it was to be a serious, in-depth and balanced documentary regarding the child sexual abuse crisis that plagued our Church in the later part of the 20th century and importantly, what the Church has done since, and continues to do, to address those truths. Having been there when Ferguson interviewed the Bishop, I share his concern that the documentary has chosen to take a more sensationalist approach. By the time you read this, the documentary will have been aired in its entirety. Ahead of the screening, Bishop Bill wrote a letter to our community so you could consider what’s been presented in Revelation from a multitude of perspectives, and I implore you to read it. It too can be found at Aurora went to print Sunday 29 March Lizzie Snedden is editor for Aurora

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Editor: Lizzie Snedden Sub Editor: Brooke Robinson Graphic Design: David Stedman Aurora appears in The Newcastle Herald on the first Saturday of the month, in The Maitland Mercury, The Singleton Argus, The Manning River Times and The Scone Advocate on the following Wednesday and in The Muswellbrook Chronicle on the following Thursday. The magazine can also be read at




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A U R O R A C AT H O L I C D I O C E S E O F M A I T L A N D - N E W C A S T L E

She’ll be right… I was in a car with a couple of men a few weeks ago when, stopped at lights, we were looking straight at a bloke clambering around a roof spraying it with something. “Huh, he’s breaking all the rules,” someone said, and the rest of us made that “huh” noise that means both recognition of a fact and mild amusement. The sentiment, I felt, was “good on you, mate”, a bit of admiration for someone as unafraid of the safety regulators as he was unafraid of actually falling off. Our reaction was, I think, a small nostalgic salute to a traditional but vanishing aspect of the Australian character, the refusal to live life fearfully. You’ll often hear it from older Australians, “how did we ever survive?”, a bit of a shot at all the health warnings, safety rules and risk assessments of this millennium.

that being fearful and “risk averse” is somehow damaging to the human spirit. The data is not available.

Now, I know I can’t win on this one. The experts and the advisory committees have the moral high ground. If the chap I saw on the roof did happen to fall, the consequences could be dire for him and his family, not to mention that his employer could be fined and/or sued out of business. Worst-case scenarios can be compelling and the old “if we can stop this happening to one person” argument often wins the day. Cracker night was banned in NSW back in 1986, and I’m sure someone has calculated how many kids’ eyes or hands have been saved over those years. It’s harder to quantify the loss of family fun and childish wonder. It’s hard to argue that most people will take reasonable care around fireworks so you don’t have to ban the whole thing. No, “someone could get hurt”, and that’s the end of the argument. It’s hard to argue

And so, of course, I come to religion. The single thing that Jesus says most often to the disciples in our Gospels is “do not be afraid”. Indeed, throughout the Gospels and Paul’s letters, the opposite of having faith is not unbelief, but fear. When the disciples, for example, have a very reasonable prospect of drowning in a storm on the lake, Jesus’s subsequent comment is: “Why were you afraid? How is it you have no faith?” Again, when Jesus tells the disciples he is going to Jerusalem to be killed, Peter’s risk assessment is “Lord, this must not happen to you!”, which earns him the rebuke “Get behind me, Satan”. Fear that stops us doing what we are called to do is here seen as temptation, as the devil’s work. When Jesus urges his followers to “count the cost” of discipleship, it is not so that they might make a prudent

I did once hear a good case against “risk aversion”. The late Sol Encel, noted financial commentator, made a very good case that Western businesses were going to lose out to the developing economies because over-regulation, rules of “good governance” and a generalised fear of risky investments killing enterprise. An aversion to taking risks, he argued, was a significant long-term risk to any business. Occasionally in “risk management seminars” in my own field I have asked the presenters what might be the risk of never taking risks. It gets a bemused smile, and sometimes an indignant response. It’s a bit of a modern management heresy.

decision about what would be safest for them, but that they might be mentally prepared for whatever might come. Christianity was never for the cautious. I have no idea where the coronavirus pandemic will be up to by the time you’re reading this. And, of course, I’m not against taking all reasonable steps to prevent its spread and to keep oneself safe. I am, however, conscious that panic and fear do not bring out the best in us. Pandemic or no pandemic, we are called to treat others as we would want them to treat us. Sometimes that entails doing

things for others that might put ourselves at risk. I don’t see how that can be always avoided by the “faith-full", who cannot, then, be just the same in a crisis as the “fear-full”.

Bishop Bill Wright Diocese of Maitland-Newcastle

Frankly Spoken To the pandemic caused by the virus, we want to respond with the universality of prayer, of compassion, of tenderness. Let us remain united. Library of the Apostolic Palace Sunday, 22 March 2020

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A time for hopeful people BISHOP BILL WRIGHT

Easter comes upon us this year in most extraordinary and difficult times. We have been taken unawares by the suddenness with which COVID-19 has spread throughout the world, and we do not know when we shall see an end of it or what to expect in the meantime. Already there have been many, many deaths and, in response, whole societies have more or less shut down, travel has ceased, and daily work has been put on hold. We do not touch each other, we speak at a distance, and we do not know for how long life will be like this. Into this fearful, apprehensive world comes the story of Easter. For many, of course, it is just that, a story. In a time of great scepticism about religions, indeed, it can be represented as a story that churches have told to keep their people in a state of dependence and conformity, a false hope that keeps people coming back to the church for the lifeline to God and heaven that the world cannot provide.

Many will read my remarks today in exactly that sense. For believers, however, the death and rising of Jesus are not a story, but a memory. That memory was first spoken of by people who had been broken by loss and grief and fear. That had just seen how all that was dark and unpredictable in the world had put an end to a man and his movement that had been all about love and goodness. They were shattered and hopeless when, all unexpectedly, Jesus rose from the dead. What happens to us in this world then took on an entirely different meaning. His suffering and dying had been very real. Yes, life and the world can be full of awful things and the cost of goodness and hope can be very high. But ultimately life is not a series of meaningless tragedies. Ultimately the universe is not indifferent to our living and dying. Ultimately God is a Father who cares and who, having loved us into existence in the first place, will love us

through all the ups and downs, and will love us to the end and, indeed, beyond the end. Easter faith is a finely balanced thing. It takes Good Friday with full seriousness. Actually, it was one of the first recognised heresies to suggest that Jesus’s suffering and death weren’t real and terrible. Hence all the hospitals and leprosaria, the charities and social reformers of Christian history. We are to take the human suffering of others very seriously and to fight it resolutely. But we also look to how Jesus bore his own suffering and to see how that transformed a meaningless evil into an act of love. Hence, we accept that we must go on doing good and thinking of others’ needs before our own, even when that costs us dearly. So, in the midst of difficulties such as we have today, we are to be there for one another and not let fear induce us to think only of number one. Finally, our faith takes Easter morning seriously. What we do in

this life has meaning beyond the present. Christianity cannot be stripped of its belief in the promise of eternal life. That hope is the central message of Easter. Death is not meant to be, or going to be, the end of us. Right now, the world needs hopeful people and, if they’ve really heard the good news of Easter, that is what Christians are. It is Easter hope that frees us up for service of others, even at cost to ourselves. It is that hope that separates reasonable caution from obsessive fear for myself. It is the confidence we have to face whatever comes. Yes, we may hope that science will overcome COVID-19. Yes, we may hope that economic measures will enable societies to recover. But above all, we have the hope that, if all else fails as it did in the life of Jesus Christ, we are yet in the hands of the God who raised Jesus even from death.

Jesus bore his own suffering and to see how that transformed a meaningless evil into an act of love.


A U R O R A C AT H O L I C D I O C E S E O F M A I T L A N D - N E W C A S T L E

From Wuhan to the world DARRELL CROKER

It is widely accepted that the first instance of human infection with COVID-19 occurred in China in December 2019. The source was thought to be an open or “wet” market in Wuhan, and since then coronavirus has spread to more than 190 countries. The global response is instructive. On 10 March, US President Donald Trump tweeted: “So last year 37,000 Americans died from the common Flu. It averages between 27,000 and 70,000 per year. Nothing is shut down, life & the economy go on. At this moment there are 546 confirmed cases of coronavirus, with 22 deaths. Think about that!” The World Health Organization (WHO) didn’t have to “Think about that”. The next day, 11 March, WHO declared COVID-19 a pandemic. Experts advised individuals to change their behaviour to limit its spread, and leaders closed borders and shut down economies. Italy was forced to quarantine its entire population and it remains the country with the most “officially” reported deaths due to the coronavirus. Dr Giorgio Palù, a professor of virology and microbiology

of the University of Padova, says political correctness played a role in the Italian disaster. He told CNN “a proposal to isolate people coming from the epicentre, coming from China” was framed as racism against Chinese people. The borders stayed open, the virus poured in, and it spread quickly. The Italian government shut down all nonessential businesses in a bid to stem the spiralling number of coronavirus infections and deaths. Within weeks of telling the world to “Think about that”, President Trump suspended all travel to the US from Europe, declared a national emergency in response to “the China virus”, and called in the National Guard to assist in the country’s three worst-affected states; New York, California and Washington. “We are at war; in a true sense we are at war and we are fighting an invisible enemy,” President Trump said. Citing the flu when talking about coronavirus is a mistaken comparison. Influenza has probably been with us for more than 2000 years and scientists have developed vaccines. Coronavirus, on the other hand, was not known to science

before December 2019, and there is no vaccine to combat it nor any approved therapeutics to slow the course of its toll on the human body. The Tokyo 2020 Olympics is the biggest event yet to be affected by the growing global pandemic. In announcing the postponement, Japan's Prime Minister Shinzo Abe said an agreement was reached with the International Olympic Committee to stage the games at the very latest by the northern hemisphere summer of 2021. Japan was originally considered a hot spot for coronavirus, especially given its proximity to China. But the relatively low infection rate appears to be a result of Japan not conducting extensive testing, especially in comparison to countries such as South Korea and Italy. Question marks over comparative figures remain, especially when the South China Morning Post reported totalitarian China had under-reported its confirmed COVID-19 cases by one third, or more than 40,000 infections. The world’s largest democracy experienced panic buying when India’s

Keeping Sunday holy What can we do?

Prime Minister Narendra Modi ordered the country’s entire 1.3 billion people into “total lockdown” for 21 days. As Republicans and Democrats in the US Senate thrashed out a final agreement on an almost $US2 trillion stimulus package to help the fast-closing US economy, Boris Johnson’s government in the United Kingdom deployed the army to deliver emergency food and medical parcels to 1.5 million vulnerable and elderly people. On the same day last month that Mr Johnson announced the most unprecedented restrictions on civil liberties since World War II, effectively locking down households throughout the United Kingdom, President Trump said he wanted the US to “open back up” by 12 April. Health experts greeted his optimism with alarm. Mr Johnson, since confirmed as a victim, banned Brits from leaving their homes unnecessarily while Scott Morrison warned against social gatherings down under, making him the first Australian PM to ban a barbie.

With all churches in the Diocese of Maitland-Newcastle closed for services and private prayer, parishioners must discover new ways to connect to their wider faith community. To assist individuals and families during this time, the Diocesan Liturgy Council has offered the following options, particularly in keeping Sunday holy.

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Alive and online TODD DAGWELL

Streaming of Sunday Mass services from Sacred Heart Cathedral has begun, and will continue beyond Palm Sunday and the Easter Triduum services. This ushers in a “new normal” for worship in the Diocese of Maitland-Newcastle after the coronavirus forced the closure of all churches for the first time since the Spanish influenza struck a century ago. On 19 March, Bishop Bill Wright in response to the risks of virus contagion initiated significant changes to church rituals, describing the unprecedented measures as “in the interests of the common good” but, nevertheless, a “painful sacrifice”. These include the suspension of all church services until further notice and the limiting of people attending weddings and funerals in line with the Prime Minister’s announcements. Bishop Bill said it was important to take all “reasonable and proportionate” precautions to ensure the health and safety of our brothers and sisters in the Church, and the broader community, but was clear that the effect on Catholic life would be substantial. 1. Watch Mass services streamed from Sacred Heart Cathedral: Sunday Mass will be celebrated by the Bishop or the Vicar General and available to view at www. 2. Praying with the Sunday readings: Such prayer may take many forms including Lectio Divina and Liturgies of the Word in families. Resources can be found at

“Co-operating with our government authorities will unfortunately have a drastic impact on the life of the Church, forcing us to forgo many things that are precious and integral to our worship and common life,” Bishop Bill said. Vicar-General, Fr Andrew Doohan, said the crisis was so extraordinary that the only reasonable comparison was the Spanish flu more than a century ago. “This is really beyond the lived experience of anyone alive today,” Fr Andrew said. “In response we must practise social distancing and isolation, but as the Pope has been saying, we need to maintain human contact in some form, and technology can help.” Fr Andrew said it was fortunate Sacred Heart Cathedral already had the infrastructure in place to enable Mass to be live-streamed, and under the circumstances it was the best the Diocese could offer. “For Easter, and every Sunday for the foreseeable future, we recommend people tune in to the services at home and then spend some time reading the scriptures and in prayer,” Fr Andrew said. “We also Simply enter your name and email. 3. The Prayer of the Church: We recommend morning and evening prayer to individuals and families. We suggest downloading the Universalis App, which contains not only the Prayer of the Church but also the Mass of the Day and many useful resources.

plan to record Bishop Bill’s homily and put it up online.” Bishop Bill said people should not confuse the lack of ceremony this year with the mistaken belief that Easter had been cancelled. “I’ve heard it said that it’s very sad that we can’t have Easter this year. But, of course, that’s not true,” he said. “We won’t be able to have ceremonies in our churches, for sure, but it will still very much be Easter. It just may be a lifechanging Easter for many people. “Perhaps this year, deprived of the ‘going to church’ bit, and surrounded by fears and threats to our community, we can reach deeper into what Easter means to us.” Bishop Bill suggested ways to celebrate Easter at home: read the gospel of Jesus’s suffering and death and talk about it as a family; wash the feet of those willing on Holy Thursday night; and on Sunday morning, instead of going to church, watch the sunrise and simply say or sing "Alleluia" as the light returns to the Earth. While Easter weekend will soon pass, the intrusion of coronavirus in our lives is expected to last many months, if not a year. Fr Andrew said despite churches 4. Recorded Homilies: The homilies of Bishop Bill or Fr Andrew from the Cathedral Mass on Sundays will be recorded and made available online by lunchtime on Sundays. These may help in reflections on the readings of the day. Search for The Doohan Discourse on Spotify or iTunes.

closing and society grinding to a halt, he expected priests to remain busy. “The sick still need to be visited and the dead will need to be buried,” he said. “The Bishop is asking his priests to be with the people in whatever fashion is possible while observing public health directives.” Fr Andrew also encouraged people to pray more often and to remember the world is united in this struggle. “Prayerful solidarity is a very good thing. If we pray more, we’ll all be praying for a solution to this crisis together.” Go to live-stream to live-stream Easter and Sunday services.


Takin’ it to the street As doctors and nurses battle coronavirus on the frontline, hundreds of thousands of Australians are facing an equally terrifying enemy – widespread unemployment. CatholicCare Social Services HunterManning director, Gary Christensen, says the endless queues outside Centrelink offices in recent weeks highlight the fact that unemployment is likely to get worse before it gets better, leading to “enormous” pressure on family cohesion, social services and community housing. “The coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic has led to record numbers of unemployment with no sign of that changing for some time,” he said. Flight Centre has stood down almost 4000 staff nationwide while the Australian Hotels Association issued a statement saying the shutdown would have “a devastating effect” on the 250,000 people it directly employs. Retail group Premier Investments, which owns the stationery brand Smiggle and clothing chains including Just Jeans, Portmans and Dotti, has stood down 9000 employees, while Virgin Australia Airlines has stood down up to 10,000 staff and Qantas close to 20,000. While these are some of the hardest-hit sectors, few industries will be spared the economic carnage.


payment will be substantially lower than his regular weekly earnings, making it difficult to meet his financial obligations. “I’m looking at more than a 50 per cent drop in my weekly wage on Jobseeker. There’s been no mention of rent assistance by the government so much of that payment will go to rent.” Mr Meldrum believes the federal government should provide workers with a wage subsidy that amounts to 80 per cent of their current salary, similar to the one implemented by the UK government. “The Jobseeker rate is simply not high enough,” he said. “I have so many friends with young families who have lost their jobs and will struggle to get by. The UK model would mean so much less worry for all of us who have lost our jobs through no fault of our own and just need to hang on until the shutdown ends. I know my job is there waiting for me.” The Australian Council of Trade Unions secretary Sally McManus warned two million people could be out of work in the coming weeks and wrote to Scott Morrison calling for UK-style wage subsidies of up to $5200 a month for each worker. Nearly 15,000 people signed an ACTU-led petition calling for the wage subsidy.

“The financial pressure people are under and will be under for a long period of time will mean governments need to be looking at providing increased funding in a whole range of areas including community housing, mental health support services, domestic violence services and homeless services like the Taree Community Kitchen and DARA’s Food Services,” Mr Christensen said.

CatholicCare’s Mr Christensen agrees the Jobseeker allowance is nowhere near enough for people to live on. “The challenges for people on Jobseeker now are housing affordability, having enough money for food and provisions, being able to buy clothing and attend to the everyday needs of themselves and their families,” he said.

In the days following the shutdown of all non-essential businesses, almost three million people attempted to register for income support on the government’s MyGov website and that number is expected to rise sharply in the coming months.

Peak business groups including the Australian Chamber of Commerce and Industry, Australian Industry Group, Business Council of Australia, Council of Small Business Organisations Australia, the Australian Banking Association and the National Farmers Federation have now expressed support for a wage subsidy.

Sou chef Mark Meldrum lost his full-time job when The Happy Wombat restaurant/ bar was forced to close two weeks ago due to the shutdown. “I’ve got five weeks' annual leave available but after that I’m not sure what will happen,” he said. “The government is only talking about the level of support available for casuals and welfare recipients and hasn’t mentioned full-timers who have lost their job due to the shutdown.” Mr Meldrum says the Jobseeker (Newstart)

At the time Aurora went to print, the Morrison Government was continuing to reject a UK-style subsidy, arguing it would be inequitable and difficult to administer within Australia's social security system. However, as an alternative the Government is reported to be strongly considering providing businesses with a wage subsidy of up to $1,500 per employee. The amount would be paid every fortnight to help businesses pay their workers' wages, while their revenue takes a hit.

A U R O R A C AT H O L I C D I O C E S E O F M A I T L A N D - N E W C A S T L E

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“People are stockpiling, so we placed a purchase limit of only a kilo of mince and a kilo of sausages at a time to give everyone a go.” Lewis Dunn of Dunn’s Butchers New Lambton

“We needed to get people through the door to prevent bankruptcy, but that meant doing a bad job by the community in regard to the virus.” Luke Tilse owner of the Happy Wombat restaurant/bar

Barista and butcher meat in the sandwich TODD DAGWELL

Photos: Lizzie Snedden

Coronavirus has created a boom-orbust environment for small business owners in the Hunter with hundreds forced to shut down while others are run off their feet. Owner of the Happy Wombat restaurant/bar on Hunter Street, Newcastle, Luke Tilse, says the federal government’s forced closure of cafes, pubs, clubs and restaurants on 22 March was an “enormous relief”. Mr Tilse had been desperately trying to adhere to strict social distancing and hygiene measures while barely staying afloat financially. “We were caught between a rock and a hard place,” he said. “We needed to get people through the door to prevent bankruptcy, but that meant doing a bad job by the community in regard to the virus.” While the pressure of running a business in impossible circumstances has been lifted, Mr Tilse now faces the ongoing pressure to survive economically. “I got approved for one of the new government loans very quickly. I didn’t want to take on more debt but it’s how I’ll pay my outstanding invoices with no income.” Mr Tilse was saddened to force his 21 staff members into

unemployment but said the decision ensured they were now eligible for income assistance. “The staff can now all get the $550 government support a week,” he said. “I’m doing my best to guide them and set them up, but I’m restricted by my lack of cash flow.” The Business Council of Australia chief executive Jennifer Westacott said the Morrison government had provided an appropriate support package for these extraordinary times. “We applaud the government’s measures to double income assistance, making it more flexible,” she said. “Waiving the rules and waiting periods for payments means people who need assistance now can access payments quickly.” Mr Tilse said he was happy with the speed at which his business loan was approved but described the government’s performance as “poor at times”, in particular the lack of detail for businesses forced to change their trading model overnight. “Fortunately my landlord is an absolutely amazing bloke who has offered to put my lease on hold. Not having to still pay rent is a massive thing and I’d ask that all landlords be

as kind as they possibly can while businesses are in this position.” Mr Tilse will trial a takeaway coffee cart as well as home delivery in the coming weeks and says he’s prepared to “live like a pauper” for the next six to 12 months to give himself the best chance of reopening his business when the crisis passes. On the other end of the spectrum, Lewis Dunn of Dunn’s Butchers New Lambton, is working 14-hour days as his business struggles to keep up with a massive increase in demand from worried customers. “We’ve been completely flat out, it’s been very hectic,” Mr Dunn said. “People are stockpiling, so we placed a purchase limit of only a kilo of mince and a kilo of sausages at a time to give everyone a go.” Mr Dunn says there are stock shortages down the line and wholesale prices have risen. “Things may have to be rationed out a little more if this continues,” he said. “Although it’s good from a business point of view there’s basically too much work for the three of us here at the moment.”


A U R O R A C AT H O L I C D I O C E S E O F M A I T L A N D - N E W C A S T L E

Michael, Leigh and Ryder Mills

Learning as we go TODD DAGWELL Michael Mills followed the NSW Premier’s advice and kept his child home from school, but his concern has now shifted from health to education.

and not specific to Ryder. “We are hoping this will change as things settle down and we get the opportunity to talk to his teacher regularly,” Mr Mills said.

Ryder Mills, 5, is in kindergarten at St Paul’s Primary School, Gateshead, and like tens of thousands of kids across the country he’s now learning from home due to the pandemic. Mr Mills says the school is doing a good job keeping parents updated on the virus and explaining the online learning programs available, but he and his wife still have many unanswered questions and worries.

Diocese of Maitland-Newcastle director of Catholic Schools, Gerard Mowbray, said it was reasonable for parents to be concerned about their child’s educational growth at this time but there was “absolutely no need to be alarmed”.

“Neither of us are teachers so it’s very difficult to know how much work he should be doing each day and how structured each day should be,” he said. “How long should he stay on a device doing school work? Should we be doing arts and craft? We also worry he won’t take as much in at home with all the distractions as he would at school.” Mr Mills said the learning advice provided by the school so far was general in nature

“The Catholic Schools Office has been actively working on transitioning from a school-based learning environment to a home-based one for the past five weeks” he said. “This process will have well and truly been completed by the start of Term 2 and will involve a combination of online and distance learning and the provision of hard copies of learning material appropriate to the age of the learner.” Mr Mowbray conceded this is likely the greatest challenge the Australian education system has ever faced but he is confident this Diocese is creating a positive and exciting new learning environment. “There

will be bumps along the way and parents do need to recognise children will adjust at different speeds,” he said. “But I want to assure parents we aren’t going to leave you and your children to your own devices. Staff will be checking in with their pupils often to monitor progress and development.” Leigh Mills, Ryder’s mother, said she was particularly concerned about loss of social interaction and isolation. “We really worry about the lack of socialisation with classmates and the teacher. I hope to set up regular play dates and activities on Zoom,” she said. Mr Mowbray said the Zoom and Teams meeting apps were a great way for students and staff to remain connected via the virtual world. “ASPIRE, our drama and music performing arts program, recently had 130 young people rehearsing together online,” he said.

education lecturer David Roy, who works with home-schooled kids every day, said children will be aware the world is facing a challenge unlike any in the past century. "They will both be anxious but also desperate to be part of a safe unit," Dr Roy said in an interview with ABC Online. "We've got to say, 'Are the kids safe?', then we can engage in learning. But if they're not safe, if they're not emotionally safe, then it's much harder for any teaching to happen." Mr Mowbray agreed and said children’s well-being is “critically more important” than education at this point in time. “We’re living in very challenging times and we will settle into a new learning regime over time,” he said. “For now, parents can sit tight and know that their schools will contact them about a new form of learning in Term 2.”

Despite the best efforts of teachers and schools, though, some students will find it difficult to adapt. University of Newcastle

Age-old attitude prevails BROOKE ROBINSON Many aged-care homes around Australia have put restrictions on visits due to COVID-19. Catholic Healthcare’s St John’s Villa in New Lambton is one of those local homes where primarily only doctors are permitted for regular visits. The new restrictions have resulted in staff thinking of new ways to keep all the residents connected and in high spirits. It is incredibly important for the residents

to still feel connected to their families, so tablets and other technology have been put in place to help residents talk to their families over video chat. They are also responding to letters sent to them by local students, whose visits to St John’s have been put on pause since early March. Sarb Kaur of St John’s Villa said some residents are concerned about the state of

the world and the changes. “We are being proactive to protect our residents and our staff,” said Ms Kaur. St John’s has also amped up its indoor events schedule, which is keeping residents entertained as they are engaged in activities such as trivia, bingo and movies. Happy hour is now happening twice a week instead of just on a Friday. Any residents in palliative care are still able

to have family members visit, although those visits are also limited, and in that instance they adhere to strict hygiene protocols. Ms Kaur said the staff are wonderful and are doing an incredibly important caring job in a difficult time. “People are in good spirits,” Ms Kaur said. “The staff are such caring people. If they didn’t have the heart for it they wouldn’t be here.”


ASPIRE performers tread the keyboards LIZZIE SNEDDEN

Creating online learning opportunities is nothing new for schools across our Diocese, however, COVID-19 government-enforced restrictions are the impetus to explore an even greater range of ways to deliver education programs. Each year, the Catholic Schools Office through ASPIRE provides an opportunity for students with a passion for the performing and creative arts to grow, perform and shine. As part of ASPIRE, a cast and crew of more than 150 students from schools across the Diocese are carefully selected, and unite to create an original production, performed annually in front of thousands at consecutive shows staged at the Civic Theatre in Newcastle. Newly introduced restrictions on group meetings and the strict enforcement of social distancing have made ASPIRE’s weekly rehearsals for the production, ordinarily held at St Pius X High School in Adamstown, impossible. Not one to be easily deterred, ASPIRE’s artistic director Anna Kerrigan delivered a welcome message to the theatre-minded students, saying that while restrictions were in place rehearsals would be moved online. “Moving rehearsals to an online forum provides students with an opportunity

Patrick Howlett logging in for ASPIRE rehearsals

to still come together and share their passions while learning from each other in a contemporary setting,” Ms Kerrigan said. “It also allows for some normality in their routines during this time of general upheaval, and importantly, gives them hope.” Patrick Howlett, who is in Year 10 at St Mary’s Catholic College in Gateshead, has been an ASPIRE cast member for the past three years. After logging in for the first online rehearsal, he said the experience was “very successful”. “There weren’t too many drawbacks from rehearsing online,” Patrick said. “Of course, we missed the human contact, but we were still able to interact, which was great. “Rehearsing over Zoom has meant that we can still catch up regularly and maintain a team mindset, which is the most rewarding thing about it. Saying that, I know students who ordinarily travel a few hours to attend rehearsals think the digital move has been particularly convenient.” At the moment, the Catholic Schools Office is still proceeding with plans to stage this year’s ASPIRE production, The Pecking Order, at the Civic Theatre from 29 July. However, the Diocese will make a final decision closer to the date and in line with government recommendations.

Students at St Therese’s, New Lambton

Spectrum offers security LIZZIE SNEDDEN In the midst of the COVID-19 crisis, a message of hope is prevailing at Catholic schools across the Diocese with rainbows now adorning classroom walls. The colourful project was instigated by the Catholic Schools Office education officer Kim Moroney, who wrote to primary school principals informing them of an unfolding story out of a town in northern Italy, Reggio Emilia. “The children are using drawings to convey the message that the virus will be defeated, that everything will be fine, the rainbow will win,” Ms Moroney wrote. “Children are asking us to carefully listen to their ideas and provide them with opportunities to express their thoughts and reassure them of their safety and wellbeing.” Principals and teachers were encouraged to share the story of the children in Reggio Emilia with their students and provide opportunities for them to create rainbows.

The principal of St Patrick's Primary School in Swansea, Peter Green, took up the invitation saying he believes there is a need to balance "negative messages being shared about the pandemic in mainstream media and on social media”. "It's important that we're doing what we can to support children's mental health, particularly at this point,” he said. “Creating the rainbows is one small way we can do this, as it is a story of hope that the children can relate to." Sophie Hill, who is in Year 2 at St Patrick's Primary School, said she enjoyed painting her rainbow artwork. "The rainbow means things will get better, quicker. We're all in this together to make people happier," said Sophie. Ms Moroney is in the process of coordinating photos of artworks to be sent to contacts in Reggio Emilia.


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Father’s fable raises ethics of allocation BERNADETTE TOBIN

The Italian media paid a lot of attention recently to a story about a 72-year-old priest who died from the COVID-19 virus in a hospital in Bergamo early last month. It was said Father Giuseppe Berardelli refused a ventilator, insisting that it be allocated to someone younger. Or, as the papers put it, Fr Berardelli “donated” his ventilator to someone younger. Fr Berardelli was a well-loved priest. Perhaps that is why the story began to circulate. The hospital, quite correctly, would not comment. But a close friend of the priest explained what had really happened. By the time Fr Berardelli arrived at hospital he was already too sick to be helped by the ventilator. Other health conditions meant he simply could not tolerate this form of treatment. The story — mistaken but inspiring — indirectly raises an important question in medical ethics. How should medical resources, for example ventilators or beds in intensive care, be allocated if there are not enough for all those who need them? If sick people find themselves, through no fault of their own, competitors for the same resource, what policies should inform the decisions made by those with the responsibility for deciding whose treatment should take priority? Of course, we all hope it won’t come to this in Australia: that’s the point of the current severe measures intended to slow down the pace of the spread of this virus. But it would be negligent of hospitals to fail to prepare for the worst whilst hoping for the best. And it might be head-in-thesand for the rest of us to ignore the issue. A good way to begin to think about this question is to identify ways of allocating resources that would certainly be unjust.

What factors ought to be treated as morally irrelevant to the distribution of resources? Let us get them out of the way first, because some of them have been “doing the rounds” recently.

If choices become unavoidable between two patients then it would be reasonable, that is, defensible, to give preference, other things being equal, to the patient whose need is more urgent, or who:

An obvious one is a person’s skin colour: other things being equal, there is no defensible reason why a black-skinned person should be offered treatment ahead of a white-skinned person. That would be unjust.

f is more likely to benefit therapeutically from the available treatment

Another obviously irrelevant factor is a person’s capacity to pay for expensive treatment: other things being equal, there is no defensible reason why a relatively affluent person should be offered treatment ahead of a relatively poor person. That would be unjust. A third, not so obvious perhaps, is a person’s age: other things being equal, there is no defensible reason why a younger person should be offered treatment ahead of an older person. That would be unjust. Of course, age is sometimes an indication or “proxy” of other things, such as extreme frailty, which may be relevant to therapeutic decision-making. In and of itself, however, age ought to be irrelevant. What factors ought to be considered relevant? What are the requirements of “justice in the allocation of healthcare resources”? Obviously, the need for treatment is where we should start. So, by extension, medical needs should be addressed in order of importance and preference given to the patient in greatest need. That is the right starting point. We can go further and spell out some applications of this idea.

f is likely to gain the greater or longer therapeutic benefit from the treatment f is likely to suffer the lesser burden from the treatment f is likely to suffer the greater harm without the treatment f is less at risk of various ill-effects from the treatment f is likely to gain the same therapeutic benefit from less of the treatment f is likely to need the treatment for a shorter time or less frequently f has fewer or no alternative avenues of satisfying the need f is more likely to infect others if untreated. These might be called “priority criteria”. They build on the practice of triaging patients according to need. That’s a practice familiar to anyone who has had to wait for treatment in an emergency ward. There it is not “first come, first served”, or at least it should not be, but “give priority to the person whose need is most urgent”. Some of these priority criteria come directly from a Christian commitment to the poor and vulnerable: the homeless, those suffering from disabilities or addictions or compromised mental health, or those living in remote communities. Most of them are extensions of the normal

practice of Hippocratic medicine. On the one hand, patients have the moral right to refuse any treatment. On the other, good doctors do not provide nor even recommend treatments they think would be therapeutically ineffective. In addition, good doctors are always sensitive in their recommendations to the possibility that a treatment will impose burdens — on the patient, on the family, on the wider society. Archbishop Anthony Fisher, the chief author of the book published 20 years ago from which these priority principles are taken, suggests that a good way to test them goes something like this. Would I think these principles of allocation were fair if I (or someone I loved) were in healthcare need, particularly if I were one of those likely to be excluded from treatment or were among the weakest in the community? The story about Fr Berardelli “donating” his ventilator to a younger person, though fictional, is inspiring. We shall need its spirit of generosity and fellow feeling in the coming hard days. But we shall also need that Christian, and Hippocratic, sense of justice that good doctors show as they fulfil their professional responsibilities in trying circumstances. Bernadette Tobin is director of the Plunkett Centre for Ethics, a joint centre of Australian Catholic University, St Vincent’s Hospital Sydney and Calvary Healthcare.

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CareTalk It’s tough out there, but hypervigilance can take its toll.

CatholicCare’s registered psychologist Kelly Pavan, addresses an issue each month. The advice provided is general in nature and does not replace ongoing support and advice from your health professional. To talk to someone about counselling support, call CatholicCare P 4979 1172 or Lifeline 24/7 on P 131 114.

Do you have a question for Kelly? Email your question to or write to Aurora-CareTalk PO Box 756 Newcastle 2300.

A few weeks ago I wrote an article about maintaining our mental health in response to the unfolding coronavirus crisis and included a funny anecdote about my three-year-old son licking the shopping trolley as I searched various supermarkets for toilet paper. Fast forward just days on, and things have moved so far, so quickly, that a rewrite was required. Far from taking my children around the supermarket now, last night as darkness fell my son peeped out of the curtains and asked: “Is the coronavirus coming for us? Should we hide?” And offices, playgrounds, schools, places of worship — everywhere we frequented as part of our daily routine only recently — are now restricted or off limits altogether. The threat of coronavirus, or COVID-19, is constantly at the front of our news cycle, across our social media feeds, the topic of most conversations — and if we somehow manage to avoid being bombarded by pandemic chatter and get on with work and life as far as possible, a trip to the supermarket’s empty shelves when you are running low on basics, quickly brings the issue back to the forefront, and for many people triggers a high level of anxiety. With the situation feeling like it’s spinning out of control, there is a risk of becoming hypervigilant — constantly on the lookout for danger signs. Low-level events that you previously didn’t notice, such as someone coughing or sneezing around you, can suddenly be perceived as life

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threatening. However, ongoing surveillance of everything around you can take a toll on your physical and emotional health. Hypervigilance can lead to increased sensitivity, anxiety and exhaustion. The Australian Psychological Society (APS) has released a statement on caring for our mental health following the World Health Organization’s (WHO) declaration of coronavirus as a Public Health Emergency of International Concern. APS president Ros Knight says it is reasonable and understandable that people are concerned, but panicking is not a helpful way to respond. “As humans, we are hardwired to be afraid of the unknown and of something that appears random and uncontrollable,” she said. “If you find yourself becoming anxious about coronavirus, try to remember that medical and scientific experts are following strict protocols to contain the virus and treat those affected.” In response to something random and uncontrollable, it can be helpful to look at factors that we can influence to care for ourselves. f Practise self-care — tend to your basic needs for eating and sleeping well. These seem like obvious points, but following these self-care practices will do wonders for your mental health. f Engage in activities that cultivate a positive mindset, such as exercise, mindfulness or prayer.

f Stay connected with family and loved ones for quality interactions and distraction. f Talk to your kids — the routines that children thrive on have been disrupted, and they are being exposed to information. Where children are not given facts, they tend to imagine instead. My experience as a psychologist and a parent is that when we leave children to imagine explanations, they are often scarier than the reality of the situation. So, providing a general explanation, while not going overboard on daunting details, is likely to be helpful in managing or preventing an anxious response. f Avoid Dr Google — stay away from sensational news, excessive googling and “end of days” discussions. Up-to-date factual information is available from the Department of Health ( and WHO ( If you are feeling overwhelmed by current events or experiencing difficulties managing day-to-day tasks, you can reach out for professional support including from CatholicCare’s psychologists, who are now offering telephone and video conferencing appointments to members of the public.


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Print proclamation BROOKE ROBINSON It is a cause for celebration this month as Aurora reaches its 200th edition. Aurora began as a tabloid newspaper in December 1996, with the late Fr Peter Brock as editor. You can read the welcome to the first edition and some short articles from that edition below. Tracey Edstein became editor for edition 33, February/March/April 2002. In June 2006 Aurora became a smaller, full-colour magazine. In 2011, it adopted a largeformat, glossy style that it retains to this day. Edition 100, March 2011, was the first to be inserted in newspapers. Aurora is still distributed monthly through six regional newspapers; The Newcastle Herald, The Maitland Mercury, The Singleton Argus, The Manning River times, The Scone Advocate and The Muswellbrook Chronicle. Editors have included Fr Brock from 1996-2001, Tracey Edstein 2002-2018, John Kingsley-Jones 2018-2019, and currently Lizzie Snedden. Each editor


has been supported by an editorial team (mostly volunteers) and/or the diocesan communications team. Ms Snedden says it is a great honour to be the editor of Aurora in 2020, but “if I am entirely honest, somewhat overwhelming”. “Aurora has a loyal following due to the dedication of those who have led and contributed to the magazine over the past 23 years,” she said. “I feel a strong sense of responsibility to continue their legacy, and thankfully, I am supported by a great team of colleagues and contributors to help me achieve this. “Most importantly, though, I am grateful to the community who entrust us to share their stories and in doing so, enable Aurora to proclaim the Gospel. With each interview I conduct, or story I read, I am buoyed by the passion that is demonstrated by members of our local community, and my faith is enriched.” As we mark the 200th edition of Aurora we find ourselves in unprecedented times —

as a Church and as a global community. The coronavirus pandemic has forced the editorial team to change the content you will read on these pages no less than five times. With school attendance currently hovering at 30 per cent, and churches forced to shut their doors, we have also had to come up with new ways to deliver Aurora to some of our smaller communities. “It’s a reflection of the times and demonstrates that as a community we must continue to grow and find new ways of authentically living and sharing our faith in whatever context we find ourselves in,” Ms Snedden said. “It also reaffirms that as a Diocese we are in a fortunate position to have a publication that allows us to so ably reveal the Church’s response to current affairs, as well as share the full deposit of faith we have received as a gift down through the centuries.”

Association (ACPA) and Australasian Religious Press Association (APRA), and in 2014 won The Bishop Philip Kennedy Memorial Award for Overall Excellence – the highest accolade of ACPA – as well as being named the winner of ARPA’s premier gong, the Gutenberg Award. We have received much correspondence over the years, most recently a letter from a man in prison who reads Aurora. We have always welcomed story ideas and comments from the community and will continue to do so. Thank you to everyone who has supported Aurora over the years, and here’s to another 200 editions!

Over the years Aurora has won many awards from Australasian Catholic Press



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From edition 1, Dec 1996-Jan 1997 BISHOP MICHAEL WELCOMES YOU TO AURORA

This age of vivid and rapid communication builds in us an expectation that news, views, ideas, attitudes, and responses be communicated to us as they happen. Since the closure of The Sentinel in 1968 the Diocese of Maitland-Newcastle has lacked a popular vehicle for adequate communication. I am overjoyed that this first edition of Aurora, a free publication with wide circulation, has appeared. Welcome to Aurora! Welcome to you, the reader! Aurora incorporates the well-known Catholic Schools Reporter. In a generous gesture of solidarity and


For months now the mailbag has been filling up with suggestions for a name for our new publication. We received about 130 entries from all over the Hunter, Manning, Port Stephens and Lake Macquarie area. Some people offered just one name (The Web – Tess Lovett, Cooee – Alf Zammit, The Barque – Margaret Gressner); others offered a dozen or more (Beverly Zimmerman, Sr Mary Campion OP, Dorothy Woodward, the Slupik family, Angela Lloyd). They ranged through Hebrew (Shalom – Br Roger


With the help of the Catholic Development Fund (CDF), All Saints’ College, St Mary’s Campus, has just completed a technology upgrade for the benefit of the whole school and its community. The newly networked computing resource rooms and library will allow staff and students greater flexibility in sharing resources such as programs, files, printers and a flatbed scanner. Whole classes as well as individuals

partnership the Catholic Schools Office agreed to combine resources with those of the Diocese. This collaboration is indicative of a new mood within the Diocese flowing from the 1992-93 Synod. My fervent hope is that Aurora will become a forum expressive of the vibrant life of our Diocese, and that it will be informative and educational while inspirational and entertaining. I commend the Editorial Committee for what has been achieved already. The Good News of Jesus Christ has many expressions – may Aurora add its voice, encouraging the reader to strive to live Christ’s Gospel and to imagine the possibilities God offers us.

Burke FMS), Greek (Euaggelion – Fr Darryl Mackie), and Latin (Communio – Maureen Seysener) to acronyms (FAMILY – Faith, Aged, Marriage, Identity, Love, Youth – John Alt, and MAD – Messages Around the Diocese – Angela Lloyd). Recalling our last diocesan newspaper, several people suggested The Sentinel, or The New Sentinel. Bishop Malone finally settled on Aurora. Originally a Latin word meaning dawn, it suggests light, hope and new beginnings.

will have access to research facilities such as CD ROMs and the Internet. This new technology has allowed a reorganisation of existing technology that many departments have already found useful.


Embracing First Nations voices DARRELL CROKER

The Church’s first Latin American pope has repeatedly denounced the exploitation of South America’s indigenous peoples. Opening his synod last October focusing on the Amazon, Pope Francis extolled the virtues of native cultures and urged bishops to respect their histories and traditions rather than imposing ideologies on them. But traditionalist critics have called Pope Francis’s views “heretical” and an invitation to a “pagan” religion that idolises nature rather than God. Francis’s response to the Synod of Bishops for the Pan-Amazon region was the apostolic exhortation “Querida Amazonia” (“Beloved Amazonia”). Chairperson of the National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Catholic Council (NATSICC), John Lochowiak, says “Querida Amazonia” was warmly received by many members of Australia’s indigenous Catholic community. Mr Lochowiak is a Wadi (an initiated man) with strong ties to many Aboriginal language groups throughout Australia. “The tone of Pope Francis’s exhortation is reflective of the position that underpins our vision for the Church in Australia,” Mr Lochowiak said. “A Church that is open to the gifts of First Nations Catholics, honest to the past, and embracing a new way of thinking. The plenary process currently under way carries the hopes and dreams of the 130,000 Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Catholics.” Many Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Catholics expected “Beloved Amazonia” to include a definitive statement on the acceptance of married men into the priesthood to address the needs of remote Amazonian indigenous communities, drawing parallels to their communities in Australia. Mr Lochowiak says cultural responsibilities may deter some Aboriginal men from becoming priests in some communities, but Aboriginal society is also culturally and morally bound to respect and revere its matriarchs. One such empowered woman is Louise Campbell, the Diocese of MaitlandNewcastle’s Aboriginal education officer. Ms Campbell is also a member of the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Catholic Ministry, a group that initially formed in response to a synod gathering in Victoria a few years ago. “As a group, we talked about all that stuff that Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Catholics bring to the table in relation to First Nations people being involved,” Ms Campbell said. The Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Catholic Ministry has moved

from dreaming to believing and now has an important contribution to make to the Church. “We have a very active Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Ministry in the Diocese,” Ms Campbell said. “One of the bigger projects we are working on with all the agencies is the diocesan Reconciliation Action Plan. It’s a really important document the Bishop would like to finalise. “We try to include Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander ways of knowing and doing within Church ceremonies. It’s a way of reaching out to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Catholics to be a part of the Church.” But Ms Campbell acknowledges the difficulties for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people to be involved in the Church, mainly because of past policy issues. “The Church was very involved in colonisation when it was bringing the Gospel readings to the people,” she said. “And the Church was very involved in the process of removing the children — working with the government. It is still a sticking point.” Yet statistics paint an interesting picture. The 2016 census recorded 133,525 indigenous Catholics in Australia, up from 124,610 in the 2011 census. The Hunter figure was 7244 indigenous Catholics in 2016, up from 5163 in 2011. “I said to one of our diocesan priests, ‘do you realise that in the last census we had more than 7000 Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Catholics? That’s nearly a 5 per cent increase,” Ms Campbell said. “It’s wonderful to see, but what are we doing as a Diocese? Do we have a direct relationship with those people? Are we doing anything to encourage our people to be baptised Catholics? And to reach out to those who are?” Ironically, many of the stolen generation were educated in Catholic institutions and Mr Lochowiak points to the Church’s important legacy. “The Catholics educated us when the state system wouldn’t,” he said. “And we were treated much better in society when we said we were Catholic.” Education is central to Ms Campbell’s agenda, especially closing the gap on literacy and numeracy. “We want our kids to have the same opportunities as all the children,” she said. “We want all Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children to be literate and numerate before they finish school. The opportunities are there if we can get them through the education system. We want them to study medicine, teach, or enter other professions.”

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Reconciliation takes many forms, and it is possible to teach the Dreaming and the Gospel. “They’re very, very similar,” Ms Campbell said. “I always say that some of the Old Testament stories around Creation are very important to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people. “The Church has been involved in Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people’s lives since colonisation. Through its own thinking and its own eyes it thought it was doing something good for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people. But as we know, we lost our language, we lost a lot of our culture, we lost our children. Our communities and families broke down.” It's time for healing, and a seat at the table. “The Catholic Church in Australia must provide some opportunity for healing with Aboriginal people,” Ms Campbell said. “We all hear about building the kingdom of God, but how do we provide healing and move forward as a nation? “When the oldest surviving culture in the world has a meeting, it always asks ‘who is missing?’ When there is a meeting of the Catholic Church leadership, who is missing from the table? At big leadership team meetings of the Diocese you won’t see an Aboriginal person there.” Ms Campbell is part of the stolen generation. One of six siblings removed from her parents in the 1960s, she lived with a foster family in Cessnock. She is Gumbaynggir, from the Nambucca Heads-Coffs Harbour region; her father’s people come from the Yuin nation on the south coast, and her maternal great grandmother is Bundjalung and Yaegl from north-eastern NSW. “I went to St Patrick’s Primary School, Cessnock, and then I went to St Joseph’s at Lochinvar,” she said. “I’ve been here for a long time. It’s been a struggle. I’ve been trying to get Aboriginal Catholics within our Diocese to come forward. Many of them were a big part of the Catholic Church in other regions, but kids were abused, and they moved down this way to the MaitlandNewcastle Diocese. They love the Church. But they’re frightened. They’re petrified. “This is what I’m saying to the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Catholic Ministry group. We have to restore confidence. You wouldn’t just see 7000 Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Catholics, you’d see more. I know there are more who want to be back celebrating being Catholic as an Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander person. How do we do this as a Church?” Mr Lochowiak says we need to see all Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders as leaders and role models in the Church. “There is not simply ‘Aboriginal way’ and ‘Catholic way’, there is something in between where each strengthens and lifts the other,” he said. “This is the Church we imagine.”

Louise Campbell

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Meeting of the minds DARRELL CROKER

The opening of the Yalawa Aboriginal Educational Centre at St Joseph’s College, Lochinvar

A Catholic liturgy preceded an Aboriginal clearing dance, water rite and smoking ceremony in a poignant crosscultural display at the official opening last month of a dedicated meeting space for indigenous students at St Joseph’s College, Lochinvar.

all cultural differences are to be valued. The establishment of the Yalawa Aboriginal Education Centre enables us to fully share culture, and continue to build capacity within the college to create an education that embraces the oldest-continuing culture on the planet.”

St Joseph’s has the largest number of Aboriginal students of any secondary school in the Diocese of MaitlandNewcastle and the college’s strategic plan places a focus on cultural responsiveness.

Yalawa means “stay and rest”, and builds on the college’s three pillars: strength, faith and hope. Wonnarua people elder Uncle Warren Taggart made the Welcome to Country and said, “we can’t change the past, but we can change the future, and this centre is an example of how that can be done”.

Officially opened on Friday 13 March, the Yalawa Aboriginal Education Centre is multi-functional with quiet areas, a meeting space and a study space devoted to indigenous students and the college’s two Aboriginal support teachers. With local elders in attendance, the opening comprised a liturgy for the whole school, followed by the indigenous ceremonies. Yalawa is a place where students can share their cultural identity, and where parents will also feel comfortable dropping in and having a chat “just coz”. St Joseph’s principal Patricia Hales says the college is very excited to be able to offer this support to its students. “The college is committed to creating an inclusive and welcoming environment for young Aboriginal people and their families,” Ms Hales said. “We believe Photo: Peter Stoop

Attendees of the opening ceremony witnessed a water rite. “This draws upon the waters and spirits of the rivers, and as Christians, renews us in our baptismal promises,” Ms Hales said. “Water is the most life-sustaining gift of Mother Earth and is the interconnection among all living beings.” Water from various parts of country that represent the Aboriginal students of St Joseph’s — Cessnock, Branxton, Maitland, Morpeth and Aberglasslyn — was placed in the Yalawa sacred space. “The water that flows through this land connects us all and reminds us forever of the many parts that bring us together as one community,” Ms Hales said.

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Photo: Peter Stoop


Magdalene for Margot BROOKE ROBINSON The Council for Australian Catholic Women Contact Group in Maitland-Newcastle each year recognises a woman living in and committed to this Diocese. It is a public affirmation of a life being lived in ways that echo the spirit of Mary Magdalene. Margot Simmons is the most recent recipient of the Magdalene Award. Mary Magdalene was the first to experience the Risen Christ and was the first Christian missionary, “the apostle to the apostles”. She exemplified courage, leadership, fidelity and strength. Mrs Simmons was very surprised to be nominated for the award, and said it was an honour to receive it.

She has been an unassuming and hardworking member of St Benedict’s parish for more than 50 years. In her role as a pastoral carer, many people have appreciated her gentle and compassionate nature. Mrs Simmons has acted in this ministry with AIDS sufferers, the housebound, and the hospitalised. She cares for people in the community ensuring they receive birthday cards, and works with a group making Christmas puddings.

who are unable to attend Mass. She says she feels privileged being part of the team and hopes as a result of this award others will be encouraged to join (call 4979 1101). “I'm lucky I've got good health to be able to,” she said. Last year, Mrs Simmons spent six weeks volunteering at the Mirrilingki Spirituality Centre in Warmun in the East Kimberley.

Eager to help with hospitality, she assists with cake stalls and cooks hot meals for the sick.

This retreat house/motel is run by the Sisters of St Joseph and brings income to assist the local indigenous community. Mrs Simmons read about the opportunity in a parish bulletin, and jumped at the chance.

As co-ordinator of the Pastoral Care Team, Mrs Simmons takes communion to those

“It was a nice community there,” she said. “We were helping, doing cleaning and a

Margot Simmons

lot of ironing. I’d love to do it again, to stay longer than the six weeks.” On Sunday 8 March when Mrs Simmons received her award, she was thrilled to hear about the many things being done by other women in this Diocese. Each nominee was announced with the reason for their nomination. “There are so many wonderful people doing ministry everywhere, and many go unnoticed,” she said. Those six amazing women Mrs Simmons spoke of, also nominated for this year’s Magdalene Award, were Patricia Banister, Loesje Doherty, Irene Gover, Lynette Huckstadt, Marie Sevil and Elaine Wallace.

Learning from pain to shape the future HELEN BELCHER

Plenary Council president Archbishop Timothy Costelloe SDB announced on 23 March that Kilaben Bay parishioner Bernadette Gibson and Maitland parishioner Helen Belcher will be joining Bishop Bill Wright and Fr Andrew Doohan as elected representatives for the Diocese of Maitland-Newcastle for the Plenary Council of Australia. This prestigious honour is bestowed to only 267 people across Australia and together they will attend two national assemblies in 2020 and 2021. The Plenary Council process is an invitation to create a synodal Church that is participatory and co-responsible through

listening, dialogue and discernment. The journey has begun but it will continue up to and including the Council Assemblies. The voices of all, not just the ordained, are and remain indispensable.

eucharistic, humble, healing and merciful. It is my hope that the Plenary Council will help us acknowledge and address our failings, discern our role and shape our future.

As God’s people – laity, religious and clergy – we are called to learn from the pain of clericalism, sexual abuse and exclusion. If we are faithful to the mission of Jesus and are guided by the Spirit, I believe we can and must acknowledge our sins, and provide the necessary support and comfort. If we listen, dialogue and discern, we can go out rather than simply defend ourselves. We can become a truly missionary Church that is prayerful and

My purpose in accepting nomination is threefold. First, it is a response to building a relationship with Jesus, a must if we are to follow his example. Second, I have witnessed the impact of listening, dialogue and discernment – responding to the call of the Spirit – and I want to see this continue. It must include listening to the voices of women and marginalised individuals and groups. Third, my knowledge and experience in the

development of strategic advice, change based on partnership, and governance based on accountability, inclusion and transparency, values that are also vital to following Jesus, may be of use as we discern the future. I am excited, daunted, and humbled by this opportunity, but I can’t do it alone. I need the guidance of others and I need the prayers of all as we embark on this journey towards becoming a truly missionary Church here and nationally – prayers that will help all delegates listen to and discern what the Spirit is asking.

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Photo: Brooke Robinson

The SRE vibe

Special religious educator Jenny Harris with students at Eleebana Public School


The Maitland-Newcastle Diocese has 86 dedicated SRE teachers who travel far and wide to provide creative and engaging lessons to young people in our public schools. These amazing men and women, often retired, are brave warriors


Eleebana Public School principal Lucinda Farrell, supports the inclusion of SRE in her school.


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“Jenny has been an important part of the Eleebana Public School community for over 20 years providing SRE to hundreds of children. Jenny is to be commended on her work as our SRE co-ordinator for the past 10 years. Her support for our school, our staff and most of all our students is very much appreciated,” Ms Farrell said. I felt a huge sense of admiration for all SRE teachers as I left the classroom. The time freely given in training, planning, preparation and clever execution in the telling of God’s story is truly remarkable. It’s God, it’s life, it’s education ... it’s just the vibe of it.

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So, while the wise grown-ups of this world are busy arguing among themselves about whether or not God’s story and the Christian teachings of love, hope and faith are important values to be explained to our young people, the children attending SRE lessons are having a wonderful time. They are learning about a part of the ChristianJudeo tradition that will always be integral to the way we evolved as people.

Mrs Harris, SRE teacher of 30 years, says it is an honour to be able to teach the young people something about which she is passionate. “My faith,” she said. “My main aim is to make sure all the children who I teach know that they are loved by God, especially in times of adversity. To know in their hearts that he is always by their side.”


The hot topic of SRE in public schools has caused great debate around our country, with many teaching federations demanding it should not be a mandatory requirement of departments of education.

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To ponder these ideas in an inclusive, open and faith-filled way is not easy and I believe SRE teachers have been gifted the unique ability to do this very “special” job.


Special Religious Education (SRE), commonly referred to as Scripture, is defined as Christian education in public schools. Parents and carers of children who attend NSW public schools have the right to nominate for their children to experience free Christian Faith Formation from a registered religious representative of an approved religious group. The NSW Department of Education mandates that on average, no less than 30 minutes and not more than one hour of meaningful teaching time per week should be allocated for SRE.

on a battlefield and vigorously pursue the mission they have been called to perform. It is not a job for the faint-hearted, but relies on a gentle courage to engage young people in a discussion about faith and life, God and heaven and the big question, “why are we here?”


The delightful sounds of children’s laughter and excitement rings from the Year 1 classroom as Jenny Harris ignites the imaginations of the 17 six-year olds in front of her. An anticipatory vibe brought a smile to my face the moment I walked into the room. Mrs Harris, the special religious educator, had magically morphed the classroom into a boat that was floating on a wild stormy sea. Jesus was there so the children knew they were safe.

If you are interested in becoming an SRE teacher, contact your local church to see how you can get involved.

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A U R O R A C AT H O L I C D I O C E S E O F M A I T L A N D - N E W C A S T L E

Agent of change BRITTANY GONZALEZ Elizabeth Doyle spent 20 years in a variety of roles in the travel industry, including agency manager at one of the nation’s largest chains. During this time she undertook a pilgrimage to the Holy Land and soon after returning came across the position of secretary for the bishop of Maitland-Newcastle. She took the opportunity for a career change and has been in the role for 27 years. Receiving a papal blessing from the Pope himself in 2018, Elizabeth remains a humble Novocastrian who treasures the daily phone calls from members of the community. f What Catholic school/s did you attend? Do you know why your parents chose Catholic education for you? I attended St John’s Primary School, Lambton, and St Aloysius Girls High School, Hamilton. My mum and dad had themselves been educated by the nuns and as such would not have thought of sending their four kids anywhere else. But I think most importantly they wanted us to have “Catholic”, and all that entailed, in our education. f What are your fondest memories from your schooling years? In primary school I couldn’t wait for the

days my mum was rostered on “tuck shop” duty. It was a lovely feeling to see her there behind the counter at playtime and lunchtime – I was so proud and happy. I also got to have a “tuck shop” lunch on those days. I also loved that each morning before school all the kids would play red rover cross over – boys against girls. In high school it was the commitment of one of our male lay teachers who gave of his time after school hours to tutor six of us 4th form (now Year 10) “credit class” girls to sit for the advanced history paper in the School Certificate. f Before joining the Catholic Diocese, you had an extensive career in the travel industry. What prompted the career change? I had not been particularly happy for some time working in that industry when it took a bit of slump. As the manager of an agency that was part of a large national travel company, I had expectations placed upon me to take what I considered to be outrageous steps to make a profit, which left me feeling compromised and even more unhappy. I had just returned from a pilgrimage to the Holy Land when I was told the bishop’s secretary position had been advertised and that I should apply. I did, and the rest is history.

f In your 27 years at the Catholic Diocese you have worked alongside various bishops. What changes have you witnessed? I think the major change is in the growth of the administrative side of the Diocese and the decline in clergy numbers. This has led to a far greater participation and accountability of the lay people in the Church. The growth has resulted in a large number of women appointed to leadership roles. I have seen a huge change in the structure of parishes – from every parish having at least two priests, to two or more parishes sharing one priest to several parishes amalgamating into just one parish. Also I have witnessed the growth of CatholicCare Social Services, as well as the establishment of Zimmerman Services, now the Office of Safeguarding. f Has there been a particularly memorable or fond moment you can recall? There have been many, but I will always remember the people who telephone the office and when they are about to hang up say, “thanks for listening”. I also have to mention this quote from one of the three bishops with whom I have worked (and he shall remain nameless) when speaking about me: “I may be the leader

of the Diocese, but we all know who is in charge.” I get great mileage out of that one. f In 2018, you received a papal blessing. What does this certificate mean to you and was it a surprise? The papal blessing was presented to me on the occasion of my 25th anniversary of working for the Diocese, and yes it was a huge surprise. Not only is receiving a “blessing” from the Holy Father a privilege but I was very moved by the fact that my colleagues who arranged it considered me worthy. And what was amazing was that they arranged it and I didn’t catch on that they were doing it. f This is the 200th edition of Aurora. How have you seen the magazine evolve and what do you think is its role in our community? I have seen Aurora evolve from a separate publication distributed purely throughout our parishes and schools to an insert in our local newspapers. Aurora provides the opportunity to exhibit the “good news” of Jesus Christ in our Diocese as well as being an educational tool, particularly to those in the broader community.

Photo: Peter Stoop

Inserts — Clockwise from top: With Bishop Michael Malone at St Kevin’s, Cardiff debutante ball in 1998. | First school photo at St John’s Primary School, Lambton. | First Holy Communion at St John the Evangelist in 1964.


Colourful community connection LIZZIE SNEDDEN

There was a buzz of excitement in the air when foundation principal of Catherine McAuley Catholic College Medowie, Scott Donohoe, unveiled its visual identity, moral imperative (vision) and mission in front of a crowd of more than 400 people in early March. The United in Mercy motto honours the college's Catholic identity; the namesake of the college, Catherine McAuley; and the role the Sisters of Mercy have played in education within the Diocese of MaitlandNewcastle. "It also sends a powerful message of connection and solidarity for our community," Mr Donohoe said.

Inspired by the spirit of Catherine McAuley and the college's Port Stephens location, the symbols and colours form the basis of the visual identity. "There has been a very positive response from our community to the visual identity, particularly the colour palette and symbolism that honours both the traditional owners of the land, the Worimi people, and the local environment," Mr Donohoe said. He said the crowd turnout exceeded his expectations and “meeting families at the event and discussing their aspirations for their children was a great reminder of the responsibility and honour I have as principal of a new Catholic high school".

Stage One of the project is on track, with the Medowie-based college set to open its doors to Years 7 and 8 from 2021 and enrolment forms have already started flooding in. "We handed out close to 300 enrolment packs at the launch event, and in less than one month we've recorded keen interest for places at the college," Mr Donohoe said.

of the enrolments process. Developing these relationships is an absolute priority. We consider our long-term partnership with families as being essential to quality learning, wellbeing and success for all students."

"There's certainly lots of excitement and anticipation about the college's opening, which is now only a matter of months away.

If you haven't yet submitted an enrolment application, there's still time. Enrolment applications for Years 7 and 8 at Catherine McAuley Catholic College, which will eventually become a Kindergarten to Year 12 campus, are due by mid-April. Located alongside a St Nicholas Early Education centre, the college will also include an onsite chapel.

"Over the coming weeks, we hope to meet with all prospective families as part

Visit to find out more.

Diana Rah

Unity in diversity

Photo: Peter Stoop


Peace is a state one desires in the world but is the outcome of something else. For me as a Muslim, one who submits to God finds peace through that submission. Peace, "salaam" in Arabic, is mentioned in the Quran with varying meanings. Among the attributes of Allah, one finds in the Quran the mention of God as As-Salaam, in whose being one finds the very source of peace in the world. This peace is manifested and experienced by His creation as tranquillity, which arises out of a trust in Him. “O Allah, You are the source of peace and

from You comes peace, Blessed are You, O possessor of majesty and honour.”

“Our ability to reach unity in diversity will be the beauty and the test of our civilisation.”

Coming together in unity, irrespective of belief or background, is not a call to surrender our identity for the sake of harmony. Indeed, our identity is the very basis for getting to know one another, for differentiation is dependent on there actually being differences. It is what God wills. Every one of us has something of value to share.

I have spent many of my younger years travelling and it was during this period that I embraced the faith of Islam. I spent 22 years in Kashmir, the last seven years of which were spent trying to survive a proxy war with my family.

Mahatma Gandhi, who not only led the fight for independence through peaceful means, but also united a nation categorised by great diversity, cautioned:

In 1996, I returned to Australia as a widow with my five children. These life experiences were formative in my taking the role of being an executive member of the Newcastle Muslim Association and liaising for international students and staff at the University of Newcastle. I have since

retired from these positions but continue in my work independently with cultural and religious awareness programs. Anything that brings us together to display diversity in ways in which bring about meaningful engagement with one another, ways that seek a common ground, is a step towards finding peace. Diana Rah was to be the speaker at the Sisters of Faith dinner on 17 March, which was subsequently cancelled. She shares her story with Aurora, while the Diocese looks to reschedule the event.

Photo: Peter Stoop

Scott Donohue and Gerard Mowbray


A U R O R A C AT H O L I C D I O C E S E O F M A I T L A N D - N E W C A S T L E

Community Noticeboard Sharing our story Just like Diana Rah (on page 21), everyone has a story. No matter how ordinary yours may seem, we all have a story to tell and you never know what it can mean to someone until you share it. As we enter a fallow period, we have been given the gift of time. A time to reflect on our life, a life of being faithful people. We invite you to share your story. You could use the following questions as a guide. Who are the people who guided your faith journey? How did they do that? Describe some defining moments of your faith journey? What made them significant? How has your faith been reflected in your work, your hobbies, your values, your choices, and your priorities at various times in your life?

In what ways has your faith guided and supported you over your lifetime? How has your church/faith community guided and supported you? We hope to use these stories as part of a Diocesan Formation and Education project. Please send your story to: Marriage and relationship education courses 2020 Marriage education is a vital part of planning for a life partnership. CatholicCare offers a selection of courses for married and soon-to-be married couples. They also offer a Bringing Baby Home workshop, which assists couples transition to parenthood. For further information on CatholicCare’s relationship and parenting courses, including costs, please contact Robyn Donnelly, 4979 1370, or or visit

For more events please visit

Making it real art competition The Australian Catholic Bishops’ Social Justice Statement "Making it real: Genuine human encounter in our digital world". affirms the positive possibilities for encounter and solidarity new digital media offers, while warning of those elements of our digital world that may be harmful. The statement points out that we are called not just to be inhabitants of this new digital world, but active citizens shaping it. Artists are invited to create a work based on the themes in the Social Justice Statement. Works must be on A3 paper, with an accompanying 150-word artist statement. Entries close Friday 14 August. Exhibition date is Saturday 29 August at San Clemente High School, Mayfield. $150 prize for each category (Stage 3, 4, 5, 6 and adult). Contact for more information.

For your diary April 10

Good Friday


Easter Saturday


Easter Sunday


Easter Monday


Anzac Day

For the latest news & events in our Diocese You can download the Diocese phone, iPad or tablet app

Tradition rises to the occasion BROOKE ROBINSON

On Good Friday every year, my family eats fish and hot cross buns. It is a set Catholic tradition in many households, and I could not imagine Easter without it. I began to wonder how many years the hot cross bun has been associated with Easter. I discovered there are many theories on where the hot cross bun came from. One theory dates back to the 14th century when an Anglican monk baked the buns at

Ingredients f 4 cups plain flour f 2 x 7g sachets dried yeast f 1/4 cup caster sugar f 11/2 teaspoons mixed spice f pinch of salt f 1½ cups currants

St Albans Abbey, England and called them the “Alban bun”. He then distributed them to the poor on Good Friday. They soon gained popularity around England and became a symbol of the Easter weekend. In 1582, bakers in England were banned from selling them. This was because of superstitions that the buns carried medicinal or magical properties. In the late 16th century, Queen Elizabeth I

f Step 1 Combine flour, yeast, sugar, mixed spice, currants, and salt in a large bowl. Melt butter in a small saucepan over medium heat. Add milk. Heat for 1 minute, or until lukewarm. Add warm milk mixture and eggs to dry mixture. Mix until dough almost comes together. Use clean hands to finish mixing to form a soft dough.

f 40g slightly salted butter

f Step 2

f 300ml milk

Turn dough out onto a floured surface. Knead for 10 minutes, or until dough is smooth. Place into a lightly oiled bowl. Cover with plastic wrap. Set aside in a warm place for 1 to 1½ hours, or until dough doubles in size.

f 2 eggs, lightly beaten Flour paste f 1/2 cup plain flour f 4 to 5 tablespoons water

f Step 3


Line a large baking tray with non-stick baking paper. Punch dough down to its original size. Knead for 30 seconds on a lightly floured surface until smooth. Divide into 12 even



/3 cup water

f 2 tablespoons caster sugar or icing sugar

passed a law permitting hot cross buns only to be sold at Easter and Christmas. The first recorded reference to hot cross buns was in Poor Robin’s Almanack in the 1700s. It read: “Good Friday comes this month, the old woman runs. With one or two a penny hot cross buns.” It is amazing that the tradition has continued for so long and will most likely keep going.

We usually buy our hot cross buns, but I was surprised at how easy they are to make. Just be aware of the time it takes for the dough to rise. This recipe is a traditional one, but it can be altered to include different ingredients. I have made buns replacing the currants with ½ cup choc chips. These are added into the dough just before it is divided into portions. I enjoyed making the buns, and hope you will too.

portions. Shape each portion into a ball. Place balls onto lined tray, about 1cm apart. Cover with plastic wrap. Set aside in a warm place for 30 minutes, or until buns double in size. Preheat oven to 190°C. f Step 4 Make flour paste: Mix flour and water together in a small bowl until smooth, adding a little more water if paste is too thick. Spoon into a small snap-lock bag. Snip off 1 corner of bag. Pipe flour paste over tops of buns to form crosses. Bake for 25 minutes, or until buns are cooked through. f Step 5 Make glaze: Place water and sugar into a small saucepan over low heat. Stir until sugar dissolves. Boil for 3-4 minutes. Brush warm glaze over warm hot cross buns. Serve warm or at room temperature. Photo: Peter Stoop

We are here to help

As the situation regarding COVID-19 evolves, St Nicholas OOSH and St Nicholas Early Education remain committed to the safety, health and wellbeing of children enrolled in our services, as well as our staff. We share our families’ passion for wanting the best for their children and continue to monitor and adhere to regulatory authorities’ advice. In line with current recommendations, our doors remain open so that we can continue to serve and support those who require our services during these extenuating circumstances. If you would like information about our increased protection measures, fee relief, or any other matters please visit or


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Aurora April 2020  

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