AURORA - Winter 2022

Page 1




Here for you at all times


Inside: Contents

Gotta have faith

If life is a test, resilience is the answer


Moving forward and taking the good with us



Catholic news from across the diocese


Community action needed to stop domestic and family violence


Fleeing war to find salvation in Fern Bay


New Nuncio selects Maitland-Newcastle as first stop in his new assignment

As I write this column, two weeks before you are likely to read it, news is breaking that the Murugappan family will be allowed to return home to Biloela in central Queensland.


Celebrating culture in colour


Appreciating Aboriginal Art


Waiting in the wings


More than just a house


Leaving on a jet plane


School and historic town evolve together to embrace innovative future


The Diocese of Maitland-Newcastle is located on traditional lands of Awabakal, Biripi Darkinjung, Kamilaroi, Wiradjuri, Wonnarua, and Worimi peoples. We honour the wisdom of and pay respect to, Elders past, present and emerging, and acknowledge the spiritual culture of all Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples across Australia. We have much to learn from this ancient culture.


After fleeing war-torn Sri Lanka, Priya and Nades Murugappan arrived in Australia separately by boat in 2012 and 2013. Under Australia’s Migration Act, they were considered “irregular maritime arrivals”. While government officials considered their case, Priya and Nades were granted bridging visas and settled in Biloela. The pair later married and had two children together. Then in 2018, with 10 minutes warning, Australian Border Force officials took them to Melbourne immigration detention, and later they were sent to Christmas Island as a legal battle raged over their future. They remained there until one of the children, Tharnicca, required serious medical attention, which resulted in the family being relocated to

community detention in Perth. Over the past four years a passionate group of supporters, Home to Bilo, has been tirelessly campaigning for their return home to Biloela. However, the Morrison government repeatedly refused the family permanent residency because the parents arrived in Australia by boat. Throughout the recent election campaign Anthony Albanese pledged if Labor won office the family would be allowed to return to Biloela. On 27 May, interim home affairs minister, Jim Chalmers, exercised his powers under the Migration Act to give the family bridging visas, fulfilling Mr Albanese’s promise to let them go home. While I am delighted by this outcome, the family’s victory is undoubtedly tainted by the magnitude of the hardship they’ve endured. Sadly, the Murugappans are just one of the millions of families who continue to be devastated and disadvantaged by the effects of war and bureaucracy.

In this edition of Aurora, while not the initial intention, many articles reflect the power of resilience. Many people claim that the ability to recover from challenges and setbacks derives from traits such as gratitude, empathy, and mindfulness. However, there is also a strong relationship between resilience and faith. As I look to the future, I hope and pray to be able to put more faith our elected leaders, and hope they act with the values that we, as Christians, hold in high regard – especially compassion and empathy. Perhaps then, people like the Murugappans will have to rely less on their own resilience, and the tireless work of advocates like Home to Bilo, to help them in their journey through life.

Editor: Lizzie Watkin Design: David Stedman Regular Contributors: Elizabeth Baker, Tim Bowd, Alexander Foster and Gemma Lumsden.

On the cover: The cover features a photo of an artwork entitled My Family.’ It was painted by young Biripi and Worimi artist, Milla Turner, who attends St Joseph’s Primary School in Dungog.



Aurora editorial and advertising enquiries should be addressed to: Lizzie Watkin P 0404 005 036

When it matters

Carroll & O’Dea Lawyers can assist you with any challenges you face in the future.

E PO Box 756 Newcastle 2300

We can guide you in respect of compensation, family law, buying or selling your property, motor vehicle accidents, medical negligence claims, wills and estates, superannuation and criminal matters.




4032 1700


Level 5, 384 Hunter Street, Newcastle, New South Wales, 2300 Liability limited by a scheme approved under Professional Standards Legislation.



If life is a test, resilience is the answer FR GREG BARKER We do a disservice to our young people in giving them a prize for participation regardless of where they finish in the race. Encouragement is one thing, a ribbon another.

generous enough to let him. It is a great life lesson really. No one is called to carry their ‘cross’ alone, and whilst we feel that we do or need to it is not supposed to be our reality.

One of the best things we can do for them, often with the greatest outcome, is to buy them a goldfish or budgie. A pet with a short life span.

We’ve witnessed an extraordinary number of tragic events in recent months. It is hard to imagine how anyone could possibly bounce back from the experience of being flooded, or bombed or witess to a massacre and yet as we have experienced in our own story, they will.

The ribbon teaches there are no losers and so no real winners. Therefore, when loss comes for the first time it is a shock. The goldfish, however, teaches we can love and care, suffer a loss and be okay. To lose a race or to lose a goldfish assists us in building the kaleidoscope of life’s important lessons for survival – namely that the human heart is more resilient than we feel or believe possible. I take great heart from the relationship of Simon of Cyrene with Jesus the Nazarene. One generous enough to help Jesus carry his cross and the other

the same. This generosity to help with the ‘cross’ is inspiring. Many survivors speak of overcoming adversity in often terrible circumstances. What is important about this kind of resilience is that we learn it. Resilience has context amongst family, friends, and community. We are rarely truly resilient on our own or in isolation. The goldfish helps us learn important life skills as we lovingly place them in shoeboxes.

the donation, the phone call, the cooked meal at the door, the food hamper, the prayer, the gathering together in solidarity, communal celebrations and fundraising, the outpouring of shared grief, the flowers, notes and toys left at the site, the letter to authorities calling for change. It’s an acceptance and sign that we are not alone, that we are in this together.

There is a generosity that offers help and a generosity that accepts it.

The best signs are the ones where we don’t look for thanks or gratitude, our help is enough.

I have felt privileged and humbled listening to incredible stories of survival and rescue. My hat goes off in reverent tribute to the bravery of those who risk everything to save another. How amazing it is to witness people being pulled alive from rubble, rescued from classrooms and carried to safety.

In the face of tragedy, we rarely feel resilient. We often don’t feel strong. Overwhelmed, lost, distressed and powerless are phrases used by those in the tragedy and those who witness it. We naturally look for help from authorities, neighbours, friends. They are ‘Simon of Cyrene’.

Being resilient is not easy. Small steps are important. The first step, often the biggest, is the decision to get out of bed and open the curtains. It can also be helpful to remember the challenges we have overcome in the past by pulling together. Jesus wasn’t called to carry his cross alone, neither are we.

Stories of rescuers not giving in, in their desperate search for survivors. Many reflect humbly that ‘anyone’ would do

We don’t need to do much to be a Simon of Cyrene. It’s the hug when there are no words, the card of encouragement,

Fr Greg Barker is the Diocesan Administrator in the Diocese of Maitland‑Newcastle.

“ In the face of tragedy, we rarely feel resilient ”


Moving forward and taking the good with us SEAN SCANLON There is always a long list of pressing issues that confront any incoming government. This reality does not appear lost on Australia’s 31st Prime Minister, Anthony Albanese, who hours after taking office, boarded a flight to a meeting of Quad leaders in Tokyo. In taking on the reins of Australia’s top job, many welfare groups have urged the Labor leader to ensure he remains true to his Catholic roots and creates policies that focus on the common good. Change is often lauded as a chance to embrace new opportunities. Irrespective of personal political preferences, as a nation we will be best served by supporting our new Prime Minister. History reveals the most successful leaders are those who unite people. This often takes great courage and an ability to ‘hear the people’ and their aspirations of the time. Accordingly, government leaders would do well to take inspiration

from another famous Catholic leader, Pope Francis. Last year, as he launched the historic consultation process entitled, ‘For a Synodal Church: Communion, Participation and Mission,’ Pope Francis urged Catholics to not “remain barricaded in our certainties” but “listen to one another”. The first stage of the three-part process which is now underway, is the ‘listening phase’ and reflects the Pope’s advocacy on the importance of collaboration between all people, including leaders and laypeople. This approach is also consistent with his writing in Evangelii Gaudium where he states, “The whole is greater than the part, but it is also greater than the sum of its parts.” As governments worldwide responded to the challenges posed by the COVID-19 pandemic, it was clear the crisis led to a necessity to do things differently.

Moving away from their typical functions as regulators and providers, many significantly amplified their efforts as connectors and facilitators of capabilities. As a result, private and non-government providers responded by increasing their provision of ministry and pivoting their operational models to help deliver essential services. Our own Diocese played a part in this process. We worked with government at all levels to address the challenges we faced as a community in social welfare, mental health, childcare and educational services. The outcome of this approach was clear: the whole was greater than the parts and, the sum of its parts. While I am glad to assume the worst of the COVID-19 crisis is now behind us, I hope that Anthony Albanese takes forward the collaborative model that underpinned our ability to weather the storm as he sets about his new role.

Constructing a 47th Parliament that produces policies designed as part of an open and participative process will help to harness the passion, expertise and capabilities that exist within our community and help us to move closer towards a society that truly services the common good. Sean Scanlon is the Chief Executive Officer of the Diocese of MaitlandNewcastle.


02 4979 1200 841 Hunter Street Newcastle West 2300 NSW Australia

Published 2022

For more than 200 years, the Catholic Church has provided education to generations of Australians. While the provision of schooling in this diocese does not extend back quite as far, a new book entitled Snaphots in Time bursts with interesting stories of our journey in education. The book, launched in June, has been a labour of love for Frances Dunn, Marie Hughes rsj and Liz Latham. The pages regale with photos and are complemented by a comprehensive timeline that encompasses the opening dates of the 135 Catholic schools that have operated in the Diocese of MaitlandNewcastle. History lovers will delight as they read the book and are taken


New book launched that will delight local history buffs





on a journey through time, spanning from the opening of our very first school, St John the Baptist Primary School which opened its doors in ‘West Maitland’ in 1833 all the way through to the commencement of Catherine McAuley Catholic College in 2021. The book is dedicated to our late bishop, Bishop Bill Wright, who was an avid historian and as Ms Latham points out, “enjoyed glimpses into the stories of those early pioneers” and as such, was part of a conversation that planted the seed for the publication.

CATHOLIC NEWS FROM ACROSS THE DIOCESE Conference to be led with ‘a great pastoral heart’ Maitland-Newcastle Diocesan Administrator, Fr Greg Barker, has welcomed news that the Australian Catholic Bishops Conference elected Archbishop Timothy Costelloe SDB as president of the Conference and reelected Archbishop Anthony Fisher OP vice‑president.

Costello will lead the conference with great a great pastoral heart,” Fr Greg said. “Archbishop Fisher has served our Church well in his role as vice president and I think that together with Archbishop Costello, they will continue this great work.”

The president and vice-president’s two-year terms will commence on 13 July, after the Second General Assembly of the Fifth Plenary Council of Australia. Archbishop Costelloe is the first president of the Bishops Conference from Western Australia and, as a priest of the Salesians of Don Bosco, the first member of a religious order to be elected president. “I have every faith that in his new role as president of the ACBC, Archbishop

TWEC dinners back on the menu The first TWEC (Tenison Woods Education Centre, an initiative of the Sisters of St Joseph Lochinvar) Dinner was held in 1995. Since then, with the exception of 2020-2021, the annual dinner has been an occasion to get together with friends and be informed by a thought-provoking speaker, while also enjoying fine food and wine and supporting the adult faith formation work of TWEC. You are invited to attend TWEC’s upcoming dinner, and to share stories of the Josephite spirit within the diocesan community. It will also be a time to imagine the next chapter of the TWEC story together. Date: Friday 24 June Time: 6.30pm for 7pm Cost: $60 pp Venue: Therry Centre, New England Hwy, East Maitland Book at

Invitation to participate in upcoming Plenary Council assembly Catholics from across the country are invited to participate in a prayer pilgrimage for the Second General Assembly of the Fifth Plenary Council, which will be held in Sydney from 4-9 July. Writing teams have looked at the “Fruits of the First Assembly”, held in October 2021 and the 278 Plenary Council members have been discerning the work of these writing teams. The papers are to be presented and discussed at the Assembly and will be made public by the beginning of June. Ahead of the Second General Assembly, our Diocese will be holding virtual Coffee Conversations with our diocesan Plenary Council members on Thursday nights in June, commencing on 9 June. To find out more visit PlenaryConversations.


More than just a meal With the rising costs of living, many in our community do not have access to regular, nutritious meals. CatholicCare Social Services Hunter-Manning hosts a variety of meal services across the diocese where individuals, couples and families are welcomed with food, support and a smile. If you know someone who would benefit from this service, please pass on this information. Toronto Every Thursday: 5.00pm-6.30pm The Hub, Toronto Community Centenary Hub at 97 The Boulevarde, Toronto Hamilton South Every Wednesday: 12 noon-1.00pm Hamilton Community Hall 29 Fowler Street, Hamilton South

“Newcastle is enriched by our multicultural residents and City of Newcastle wants to ensure that all members of our community can access the services they require to seek and maintain employment, explore study options and connect with their local community, regardless of their background and language spoken at home,” Cr Nelmes said.

Driving towards a future of possibilities Breaking down barriers faced by newly arrived refugees and asylum seekers on their pathway towards education and employment is the goal of a new initiative being delivered by CatholicCare’s Refugee Hub, with support from the City of Newcastle, NRMA and volunteer mentors. The Refugee Hub’s driving program will provide support to 20 refugees through funded driving lessons, a NSW Driving Test and NSW Driver’s Licence. Lord Mayor Nuatali Nelmes said the worthy initiative is a recipient of City of Newcastle funding under the expanded Community and Economic Resilience Package.

The Director of CatholicCare Social Services Hunter-Manning, Gary Christensen said equipping refugees with driving skills and ultimately a driver’s licence will open future employment opportunities and provide access to study and other community services.

Newcastle Every Saturday: 6.30pm-7.30pm Civic Park, King Street, Newcastle Taree Monday to Saturday: 12 noon-1.00pm 250 Victoria St, Taree Forster Monday to Thursday: 12 noon-1.00pm 33 Lake St, Forster If you are interested in volunteering your time or goods to assist CatholicCare deliver these meal services, please contact CatholicCare’s volunteer coordinator on 0456 580 781 or email Changes planned for secondary schooling in Newcastle Over the next five years, the Catholic Diocese of Maitland-Newcastle is renewing its approach to secondary schooling in Newcastle to ensure it best supports the educational needs and outcomes for its students now, and as we look to the future. The Director of Catholic Schools in the Diocese of Maitland-Newcastle, Gerard Mowbray said, “The Diocese of Maitland-Newcastle is committed to continually building on our schools’

strong foundations. Students’ learning outcomes and wellbeing have been at the core of this decision making. In addition, we believe that delivering fully integrated education opportunities will lead to many other benefits including enhanced learning environments and opportunities for staff.” From 2024, Catholic secondary schools in Newcastle will commence a staged transition to Year 7 to Year 12 schools, this includes: San Clemente High School, Mayfield – with the inclusion of Years 11 and 12

St Francis Xavier’s College, Hamilton – with the inclusion of Years 7, 8, 9 and 10 St Pius X High School, Adamstown – with the inclusion of Years 11 and 12 The transition of schools is expected to be completed no later than 2027. Staff, students, families and the wider community are invited to collaborate on the implementation plan to meet the unique needs of each school. More information is available at 7to12SecondaryEducation

To read more Catholic news from across the Diocese of Maitland-Newcastle and around the world visit or scan the QR code below. There, you will also find links to upcoming events, important dates for your diary and to live stream Sunday Mass from Sacred Heart Cathedral.


Community action needed to stop domestic and family violence GARY CHRISTENSEN When news outlets report on the death of a person at the hands of a current or former partner, many of us feel angry and sad. Despite our horror and collective sympathy for the victims, rarely do we consider that someone close to us could be in an abusive relationship. Unfortunately the reality indicates this is often the case. Family and domestic violence knows no boundaries and occurs across all demographics and socioeconomic categories. Complacency is complicity; never for a moment should you think that you and your loved ones are immune to the ever-growing risk it presents. The first thing you can do to protect yourself is be educated. Family and domestic violence can affect anyone but the majority of perpetrators are men and the majority of victims are women and children. Both forms of violence include a range of behaviours including but not limited to physical violence, emotional abuse, psychological abuse, including; intimidation and harassment and coercive control which could be controlling a partner’s access to finances; excessive or unreasonable monitoring of a person’s movements; and isolating a person from contact with their family or friends. According to the Australian Bureau of Statistics Personal Safety Survey one in six women have experienced physical and sexual violence by a current or previous partners since the age of 15; one in four women have experienced emotional abuse by a current or previous partners since the age of 15; and one in five women have experienced sexual violence since the age of 15.

The Australian Institute of Health and Welfare surveyed of 15,000 women online and found that during the three months leading up to May 2020, 4.6 per cent of women had experienced physical or sexual violence from a current or former cohabiting partner. Almost two-thirds of women said the violence had started or escalated since the commencement of the COVID-19 pandemic. Relative to other age groups, young women aged 18–24 had the highest prevalence rates across all types of domestic violence reported. Domestic and family violence is abhorrent. Every person should be safe to live in relationships that are free from any form of abuse, coercion, or violence. Why is it then, that some people stay in these relationships with those that cause them harm? There are many factors that may lead to a person staying in a violent or abusive relationship, some of these reasons include the victims having a deep sense of guilt or shame, or a fear of retribution if they leave. They may feel a sense of obligation to the perpetrator or lack the resources or money to leave, often because the perpetrator also controls their finances and other assets. They may have a limited support network or have other reasons they cannot explain. Whatever the reason, we as a community need to be careful that we are slow to judge and quick to support those who are affected by this crime. Based on the statistics of how many people are victims of domestic and family violence it is probable that you know of or will come in contact with someone who is, or has been affected by violence at the hands of an intimate partner or other family member. Family and friends are often the first people a victim will tell. Whilst this can be very confronting if you are the family member or friend being confided in, it is important that you remain calm and listen without judgement. Give the person time to speak and tell you their story, help them make a safety plan and if possible assist them find a safe place to stay if they choose to leave. Whilst we all want our family and friends to be safe and free from harm, it is important that we are supportive, not directive and we give victims of abuse the space they need to think and make their own decisions. That said, we need to support them to seek help and report their abuse to police. After all, domestic and family violence is a crime. There is no place for it in our community. If you are in immediate danger, call the NSW Police on 000. If you or someone you know is experiencing domestic and family violence call 1800 RESPECT (1800 737 732) or visit Gary Christensen is the Director of CatholicCare Social Services Hunter-Manning.


Fleeing war to find salvation in Fern Bay

Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. PHILIPPIANS 4:6-10

LIZZIE WATKIN The unprovoked Russian invasion of the Ukraine has horrified us all but for Ukrainian expats like Inna and Yurii Chuchenko, daily reports from the warzone are especially traumatic. On 3 March, as Inna prepared for bed in Phuket, Thailand, she got on her knees and prayed. A few months prior the couple had used their life savings to open a travel business aimed at Russian-speaking tourists in Thailand. COVID-19 travel restrictions had begun easing and they were confident of success. Unfortunately, as the situation in Eastern Europe began to deteriorate people again bunkered down at home and Inna and Yurii’s business collapsed before it could become established. Because the business failed, the Thai government refused to renew Inna and Yurii’s visa which was just weeks away from expiring. Meanwhile, their family was pleading with them not to return home to Kiev as it was too dangerous. Inna, who was five months pregnant at the time, had suffered three heartbreaking miscarriages in the two years prior. That night she spoke to God, and asked God to lead the way. The next day she received a message from a stranger in Australia via Instagram that would change her and Yurii’s life. What happened next, she described to Aurora as a ‘miracle’.

Photo Peter Stoop

- 10 -

“I hope you and your family and husband are safe Inna. Please know that we are very happy to provide any help you and your husband need,” Mark Chapple wrote in a message to Inna on Instagram. The pair had never met before, but after seeing reports of the atrocities unfolding in Kiev, Mark felt compelled to offer assistance. The agricultural worker lives in the Newcastle suburb of Fern Bay with his wife, Jenni. In 2016 he visited Ukraine as part of a work trip and was struck by the kindness of its citizens. Over several months he made connections with people he met in person and via public profiles on Instagram. Following the invasion, Mark reached out to about 25 of those people on social media to offer his support. “Jenni and I had been watching the stories on the news, and felt compelled to do something,” Mark said. In the days that followed Mark assisted by connecting some Ukrainians with their fellow citizens who were able to provide transport, temporary housing and welfare checks on loved ones. It was a noble gesture from a person on the other side of the world that made a difference to the lives of many. Mark then received a response from Inna. Initially he was unaware that she and her husband had relocated to Thailand. When he visited the Ukraine, Inna was a well-known public figure, having worked as a television presenter. At some stage they began to ‘follow’ each other on Instagram, publicly commented on each other’s posts, but never privately messaged or built a genuine connection. Despite this, Mark was eager to assist anyone he could who was suffering due to the war. His message of compassion could not have arrived at a better time. In their initial exchanges Inna conveyed to Mark her concern for her family. Inna and Yurri with Mark and Jenni in Newcastle

Photo Peter Stoop

- 11 -

“Relatives and friends in Ukraine are in basements. We are very worried. Pray for Ukraine,” she wrote. Mark and Jenni began speaking to Inna and Yurii via Facetime. The two couples, from opposite sides of the world, quickly forged a connection that transcended language barriers and provided a sense of hope for the desolate Ukrainians. Within one week of their first exchange, Inna and Yurii had accepted an offer from Mark and Jenni to help bring them to Australia. With Inna and Yurii’s Thailand visa soon to expire, the Australian couple knew they were working against the clock. “I have spoken with the office of our Deputy Prime Minister,” Mark wrote to the couple. “There is a pathway for you to come to Australia on a humanitarian visa which also gives you an option for permanent residency if you wish… we are prepared to support you in this process - this will help you both.” Mark and Jenni nominated themselves as sponsors for Inna and Yurii, and Yurii’s visa application was approved within hours. However, Inna’s pregnancy meant that she had to undertake various biometric screenings that caused significant delays to her application. While Mark lobbied government officials on Inna’s behalf, Jenni reached out to Newcastle community groups on social media, requesting antenatal support for when the expectant mother arrived. “I was contacted by a midwife who said she would be happy to provide support, and that she knew a Russianspeaking obstetrician who was also willing to assist,” Jenni said. “I felt like I’d won the lottery, tears were rolling down my face knowing that we had invited them into a community that

was so willing to support them.” On the 25 March Inna and Yurii arrived in Sydney where they were greeted with open arms by Mark and Jenni who at first did not recognise the weary couple.

emotional as a flurry of pink confetti and the love of their newly adopted family surrounded them.

have property in Quirindi and so we have visited there a few times and really enjoy it,” Yurii said.

Following the gender reveal, Inna and Yurii decided they will name the baby Alice.

“It seems like a lot of Australians do not like the idea of living in smaller country towns, but to me, they have everything you need to build a happy life for a family. I was so surprised to see that even in the smallest of towns there are medical centres and libraries, it’s amazing and so different to home.

Reflecting on the remarkable journey that led them here, Inna said, “When God shows you the way, you just follow it.”

Yurii explained they took inspiration from one of his favourite books, Alice in Wonderland.

Mark and Jenni, who combined have eight children and 15 grandchildren, said their family had been incredibly supportive of their efforts to bring Inna and Yurii to Australia. Mark’s daughter and son-in-law Lauren and Michael Cousens, who are of similar age to Yurii

“It’s a story filled with lots of craziness and unexpected twists and turns, which is not unlike our life- particularly these past few months.” While the couple still faces a long process to make their stay here permeant and continue to fear for the

“There are so many opportunities in Australia, everywhere we look there are possibilities”

Jenni, who works for a specialised homeless service in Newcastle supporting people experiencing homelessness, said they felt blessed to have had Inna and Yurii enter their lives. “Despite it appearing like a spur of the moment decision, we have never questioned our decision to bring Inna and Yurii to Australia and welcome them into our family.” “It was easy to do, it’s been an enriching experience,” Mark added. The successful outcome with Inna and Yurii has only strengthened Mark and Jenni’s resolve to help other Ukrainians seeking to flee the war. After recently seeing a couple with a young child post a desperate plea for support and guidance on an online forum, they reached out again.

and Inna, and live only a few streets away, had no hesitation to open their home for them. As Easter approached, and following Inna’s 20-week ultrasound, the couple were handed an envelope containing the baby’s gender. The envelope remained closed and handed to Jenni. On Easter Sunday, and with Jenni leading the way, the Chapple & Cousens households arranged a ‘gender reveal party’. “It’s a girl,” Jenni shared with excitement. Inna and Yurii became

safety of their loved ones in Ukraine, for now they are embracing the chance to call Australia home. “There are so many opportunities in Australia, everywhere we look there are possibilities,” he said. The former participant on Ukraine’s Masterchef says he does not know any other Ukrainians currently living in Australia and is keen to share his experiences here with people back home. “Mark and his sisters, Nerida & Annelie

As with Inna and Yurii, Mark and Jenni assisted the family with their visa applications. As Aurora went to print, the family had just arrived in Australia with only hand luggage in tow. At 10.00pm on the 25th May, and following a 30 hour journey from Sofia, Bulgaria, Volodymyr, Julia and daughter Daneliia emerged from the arrivals gate at Sydney Airport. Mark and Yurii were there to greet them. True to their goal to always help others, Mark and Jenni intend to share their home with the refugees for “as long as they need”.

- 12 -

New Nuncio selects Maitland-Newcastle as first stop in his new assignment Photos: Peter Stoop

LIZZIE WATKIN For a Diocese still mourning the death of its beloved bishop, a visit by the newly appointed Nuncio to Australia provided comfort to the congregation at Easter. Archbishop Charles Balvo became the first Nuncio to preside at the Sacred Triduum in the Diocese of Maitland-Newcastle, just two weeks after presenting his credentials to the Governor-General of Australia on 1 April. Archbishop Balvo said the recent death of Bishop Bill Wright was a factor in his decision to make the invitation, as he wanted to go somewhere there was an obvious need. “I wanted to go where I could be helpful,” he said.

Archbishop Charles Balvo visited Sacred Heart Cathedral, Hamilton in April.

His experiences at the cathedral were positive. “I was very favourably impressed by the beauty of the liturgical celebrations and the care and attention shown by the musicians, the choir, the readers, the servers and assistants and all those who were involved in the planning and in carrying out their different roles.”

Aurora observed Archbishop Balvo happily speak at length with parishioners of all ages after each Triduum service. “I had the opportunity to greet a good number of people after the celebration of the liturgies, and I was certainly made to feel very welcome,” he said. “I was also able to gain some sense of the local Church and to meet some of the priests and religious leaders and those who serve in different roles.” A native of Brooklyn, New York, the 70-yearold has served 35 years in the Vatican’s diplomatic service in countries such as New Zealand and the islands of the Pacific, Kenya, South Sudan, and Czech Republic. Archbishop Balvo describes the role of Nuncio as being “the eyes, ears, and hands, of the Holy Father”, who can’t be everywhere. “A Nuncio is an extension of the Holy Father’s Ministry, because the Holy Father has his

- 13 -

concern for the Church, for all aspects of its life,” he said.

and that his time here provided a useful context.

“The essence of our work is to communicate through what we say, in homilies and other things and then to keep the Holy Father informed about how life is, both the life of the society and the Church in the places where we live.”

Chancellor of the Diocese of MaitlandNewcastle, Fr Mathew Muller, hosted Archbishop Balvo during his stay, showing him the local surrounds and the original bishop’s residence and adjacent chapel in Maitland.

However, he says possibly the most important work of Nuncios is to gather information to submit to the Holy Father for the appointment of bishops. This is particularly relevant to the Diocese of Maitland-Newcastle as a new bishop for the region is yet to be named. Archbishop Balvo said he did not visit the Diocese to gather information on the appointment of a new bishop but told Aurora the process was underway,

“I learnt a great deal from Father Matthew about the history and the life, both spiritual and material, of the people of the Diocese,” Archbishop Balvo said. He also met with Diocesan Administrator, Father Greg Barker, to discuss local matters. Archbishop Balvo was unable to provide a timeline for when a new bishop will be appointed, but suggested whoever takes on the role will face big challenges.

“The abuse of minors and vulnerable people by members of the clergy has done a great deal of damage to the credibility and the overall mission of the Church,” he said. “Therefore, it will be necessary to rebuild people’s trust and confidence, which will be painstaking work. From our human experience we know how hard it is to rebuild relationships that have somehow been damaged.” However, he said the responsibility should not lay with the bishop alone. “It is a mission that will have to be carried out by everyone in the Church and, while I do not think that there are easy solutions, a path can be found in lives of simplicity, service and love, with the help of the many spiritual means that the Church possesses,” he said.

Due to his age, Archbishop Balvo believes his appointment as Nuncio to Australia may be his final assignment and is hopeful he will get the opportunity to visit many dioceses across the country. He hopes to engage with and address the needs of young people in the Church, “so that they have a feeling of belonging to the Christian community and can dedicate themselves to the mission of evangelization”. “It will also be important to address the many issues that relate to the social teaching of the Church, such as poverty and climate change, so that the whole of society may be transformed by the message of the Gospel,” he said.

Photo: Peter Stoop

- 14 -

Celebrating culture in colour Milla Turner pictured with her winning artwork ‘My Family’.

Love of family and an interest in her Worimi and Biripi culture inspired 8-yearold artist Milla Turner’s painting ‘My Family’ and earned her the top prize in the Hunter category of the Young Archie Awards. Milla said she is inspired by Aboriginal artworks because of the stories they tell. “For my portrait I included a watering hole because it’s beautiful to look at,” she said. “I also painted a meeting place because the artwork is about my family and I like to spend time with them. The other symbols are for man and woman, my Mum and Dad, and the four circles are for the children of my family.” Inspired by the Archibald Prize, Australia’s oldest and much loved portrait award, the Young Archie competition invites children and teenagers to submit a portrait of

someone who is special to them. In the Hunter, 66 children young people had their portraits shortlisted across four categories. Milla’s portrait won the 5-8 years category. “I love creating but Mum and Dad don’t always love my mess,” Milla joked. Milla’s father, Brad, might not enjoy the mess but he loves the fact Milla has taken an interest in Aboriginal culture. “Growing up we didn’t have the same opportunities as Milla does today to learn about our family’s Biripi and Worimi identity,” Brad said. “Now that we have the means, our family is really interested in finding out as much as we can about our culture, so our children can know their history. I’m happy Milla has taken such an interest, it’s really special,” he said. Milla’s mother, Tash, is equally excited by her daughter’s desire to learn more about her Aboriginal identity.


“I love seeing kids create and love that Milla has taken an interest in her culture and has chosen to explore this further through her art,” said Tash, who often paints alongside Milla. A student at St Joseph’s Primary School in Dungog, Milla said she has learned a great deal about Aboriginal culture from her family as well as from her school community. “My Year One teacher, Miss Cooper, read dreaming stories to the class. Then we would look at the artwork and discuss how it helped tell the story,” Milla said, adding that the school’s Pastoral Care worker Karen Tucker had also taught her a lot. “Karen runs the Culture Yarn, and she is always sharing stories or showing us new things,” Milla said. Milla’s parents are grateful St Joseph’s invited Milla to submit her artwork for the Young Archie prize and

appreciate the school’s commitment to providing opportunities for students to explore their culture. “St Joseph’s excels at nurturing this part of what makes the children ‘them’. It’s done so in a really holistic way, not just in a tokenistic ‘tick the box’ approach,” Tash said. “It’s pretty special and a model that other schools could learn from.” Milla’s winning portrait was exhibited in the Maitland Regional Art Gallery. In recognition of her achievement and in celebration of NAIDOC Week (3-10 July), Aurora approached Milla to include a copy of ‘My Family’ on the cover of this edition – she kindly agreed. Milla also created a second painting, entitled ‘Home’ that is featured on the page opposite and tells the story of her family at their home, which has recently been inundated with rain and is bursting with nature.

- 15 -

Appreciating Aboriginal Art CHERIE JOHNSON

Many question the fine line between appreciation and appropriation of any art form, and this is especially so when it comes to Aboriginal art. To fully appreciate and be inspired by Aboriginal art, we must first understand its purpose. The true essence of Aboriginal art is to record knowing of Country; the resources that it provides such as food, water and shelter; the way it changes through the seasons; family connection to place; the poetries and songs of the story; and its relationship to the artist. Traditionally Aboriginal art was noted in sand, carved in trees, etched into stone, painted on walls and on artefacts. Having the honour to really know Country, you would sing the poetry and wear the paint with pride on your body as you participated in the ceremony. However, due to forced removal of Aboriginal people and the subsequent

Photo of Milla Turner’s artwork ‘Home’.

denial of speaking languages, much of this knowledge and cultural practice has been erased from history. Today, we are in a season of revitalisation. Our cultural storytelling has evolved. Nowadays, much Aboriginal art is created using acrylic paint on canvas. Importantly, while the materials commonly used have changed, the articles are no less significant in noting the intimacy of Country story and song. The artworks are still rich in knowledge and hold true to the cultural purpose of art and story. Art created by Aboriginal artist, Albert Namatjira, has been critised by many who hold the belief that his approach should not be considered “Aboriginal art” as it was not in keeping with cultural styles that were typical of the 1900s, in terms of depiction or use of materials. However, as we now know,

true Aboriginal art is story telling. It is not the medium or even the technique. In his paintings, which feature landscapes in fine art, Namatjira was holding the essence of stories. They are a record of the Country he intimately knew; his visual stories reflect his understanding of the light refraction at different times of day, the hues, the colours and the curve of every boulder. While Aboriginal art continues to evolve and take on various forms, I encourage you to not appropriate it. Each artwork should be unique and reflect stories and song that have been handed down through bloodline. This principle is important as it is not your place to tell someone else’s story; and applies to both Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal people. Instead, I invite you to create art that is inspired by your experiences and relationships. Learn Country, let Country talk to you

and teach you. This is the essence of Aboriginal art. Cherie Johnson is a proud Gamilaroi and Weilwun woman, and is an active member of the Awabakal community. Cherie founded local organisation, Speaking in Colour, and consults on matters including Aboriginal arts and education.

- 16 -

For many, the performing arts are a form of healing, providing solace during times of stress. When the COVID-19 pandemic forced the closure of the live performance sector, it had a devastating impact on the artistic community. Aside from the substantial loss of income for thousands of performers, the indefinite hiatus created a gap for people who rely on artistic pursuits as a means of self-expression and social engagement. Actor and student of St Francis Xavier’s College, Hamilton, Emma McNamara, said the past two years had been an isolating period for herself and many of her fellow performers.

Emma has been involved in the Catholic Diocese of Maitland-Newcastle’s ASPIRE program for several years and said that for creative types like herself, the restrictions on live performance during lockdowns made coping with the pandemic even more challenging. “We didn’t have the outlet at a time when we needed it most,” Emma said. “For many performers, being on stage provides a release that has flow-on benefits to other areas of their life.” For two consecutive years, the ASPIRE cast and crew worked tirelessly to create original annual productions, only for both to be cancelled at the eleventh hour due to surges in local COVID-19

cases. The cancellations affected hundreds of student performers. ASPIRE’s artistic director, Anna Kerrigan said she could feel how challenging this setback was for students. “They live for that live theatre experience,” Ms Kerrigan said. “So much of what you are able to give as a performer depends on the energy you receive from an audience.” Emma agreed, explaining that while she was grateful the 2020 production, ‘The Pecking Order’, was able to be delivered as a filmed production, the experience didn’t compare to previous years. “In the past, ‘show week’ had been so much fun being around everyone and

seeing the audience’s reactions as we performed onstage,” Emma said. “We knew filming the production wasn’t going to be the same, but we still had a lot of fun.” Despite the disappointment, Emma said the experience brought with it some unexpected benefits. “I think it created a greater sense of comradery and by filming the production there was relief that we were at least finally able to do what we loved.” Ms Kerrigan was inspired by the sense of optimism from students like Emma, and said she was heartened to witness it in many students throughout the pandemic.

Waiting in the wings ALEX FOSTER

The student’s enthusiasm prompted Ms Kerrigan to work with them to develop a new production related to the challenges of the pandemic. “We actually took what was happening with the pandemic and created a play called ‘I hope…’, which we ended up live-streaming from The Playhouse,” she said. A huge success, the play went on to win a CONDA (City of Newcastle Drama Award). “It was really nice to be able to take something so problematic and turn it into a piece of art,” Ms Kerrigan said. The need for adaptation in performing arts extended beyond the stage and into the classroom, leading educators including Callam Howard and Asha

Lunarzewski, to modify their teaching approach to ensure students remained engaged during home learning. Mr Howard, a drama teacher at St Clare’s High School, Taree said the shift to online platforms presented new opportunities. “Some activities that I found effective included ‘character meetings’, in which students would develop a character, raid their wardrobe for some semblance of a costume, and arrive in our online meetings in character, ready to improvise their way through a series of questions and interact with other characters,” he said. The students enjoyed the creative exercise so much that similar improvisation tasks have become

increasingly common in class, even with the resumption of face-to-face learning. Mrs Lunarzewski teaches music at St Pius X High School, Adamstown and faced some different challenges to the drama department. “Programs like Microsoft Teams and ZOOM weren’t as conducive to teaching the practical components of music as they were for other subjects,” she said. “I tried to run rehearsals online, but because of the delay it was impossible to do well.” In response, she temporarily shifted students’ focus from performance to composition and recording. As restrictions continue to ease, Ms Lunarzewski believes many

students are hungrier than ever for the opportunity to get back on stage and is buoyed by the support St Pius X High School has provided to accommodate additional rehearsal and performance opportunities. ASPIRE’s Ms Kerrigan agrees and is confident the performing arts sector will now enter a period of massive growth. “All students benefit from feeling like they’re a valued part of a community and now that restrictions have eased, it’s our job to ensure we do everything we can to get the performing arts sector back up and running,” she said.

Photo: Standing Free Photography

- 17 -

St Pius X High School students have embraced the return of live permance.

St Clare’s High School students found new ways to improvise during the pandemic.

Photo: Lizzie Watkin

Photo: Cal Howard

“All students benefit from feeling like they’re a valued part of a community”

St Francis Xavier’s College student, Emma McNamara looks forward to returning on stage.

- 18 -

More than just a house LIZ BAKER

Sister Carmel Hanson with friends at the House of Hospitality Photo Peter Stoop

- 19 -

Lawyer, Sister of St Joseph, counsellor, advocate and carer – many titles can be applied to Sister Carmel Hanson, but ‘ultimate multi-tasker’ is perhaps the most fitting. As she sits ready to be interviewed to mark the 30th Anniversary of the House of Hospitality, an accommodation service for the homeless she created and has delivered for over three decades, the action swirls around her. On hold to Legal Aid, she happily begins answering Aurora’s questions. She pauses briefly to greet volunteers at the door before scooping up a crying two-year-old who has wandered into the room, all the while continuing to share anecdotes about her life’s work. Her reputation for multi-tasking is clearly well founded but her passion for helping those in need is far more impressive. “As a Sister of St Joseph, I am guided by Mary MacKillop’s words, ‘Never see a need without responding to it’. And I feel that’s what we do here – respond to need,” Sister Carmel said, while acknowledging the valuable support she receives from a small faith community of volunteers. “Even though the needs have changed across the decades, we have always applied this philosophy.” Originally based at Adamstown, the House of Hospitality began by offering accommodation to men who were engaged in alcohol and drug rehabilitation programs. However, as social welfare policies changed and gaps in community support services appeared, the House began taking in refugees and others in need. Now based at Broadmeadow, the House provides a safe haven for many including women escaping domestic violence.

COVID-19 really showed us how quickly circumstances can change. “But what is also encouraging is I feel there has also been a change in attitude at a societal level. When I started this work, the people I supported were seen as being in the gutter. Now, there is a broader awareness in the community around hardship, and people can better relate.” Despite some changes to the operation over the years, Sister Carmel said the fundamental ethos of the House remained consistent – ‘ease the burden and provide some stability to people in need’. “I advocate for many causes but to me we need more social housing. That’s the stability that vulnerable people need. It connects to other aspects in life – finding a job, getting children to school – an address isn’t just shelter, it’s stability,” Sister Carmel said. Jessica*, who has been living at the House of Hospitality for the last three months with her six-year-old son said it had been the broader supports that helped her most. “The House of Hospitality has given me the stability I needed. It’s been somewhere to breathe. My son and I were homeless after leaving domestic violence. I was sleeping on friends’ couches but my son has behavioural challenges and it was just so stressful. Sister Carmel has not just stopped me from moving around but she’s helped connect me to services, programs and the other girls here.”

“I’m so grateful to the Parish of St Laurence O’Toole, Broadmeadow. We’ve been welcomed by them and they really make this all possible – the house, the donations. I can always call on them,” Sister Carmel said.

Another resident, Jade*, has been living at the House for the past four months after she and her two-yearold daughter left a partner who was using drugs. Jade said she was particularly grateful for the strong community within the House.

“In all my work I have never seen things as bad as they are now. There are so many people in need and

“I’ve just been accepted into a transitional house which is so

amazing, but I know it’s also going to be lonely. Here it’s not just accommodation, it’s life. I’ve learnt so much. We’re starting cooking classes and Sister Carmel is having us create a recipe book; these skills I’m learning here are as important as the house,” she said. There are thousands of people who have been impacted by the House of Hospitality and each have a story to share. “It’s a privilege to be let into peoples’ lives,” said Sister Carmel. “I’ve learned so much here and I’m always humbled by people’s courage. I’m in awe of others’ resilience and tenacity to hang in despite their rejection. Here, I see the human spirit live on every day.” *Names have been changed to protect identity.

- 20 -

Leaving on a jet plane GEMMA LUMSDEN Nobody likes airplane food. There’s just something about it that doesn’t taste quite right. While this may not be top of mind when moving across the world, when Shammah Ntore boarded a plane for the first time with her family at six years of age, to escape violence in Burundi, she shared that same sentiment. Each and every one of us has our own unique story to tell and as Refugee Week approaches, 19-15 June 2022, we recognise the importance for us to hear different stories from a variety of people, cultures and perspectives. Inspired by the book Donkeys Can’t Fly on Planes, which features a collection of 25 true stories of survival written and illustrated by refugee children, Aurora invited students from Catholic schools across the Diocese of Maitland-Newcastle to share their experiences of arriving in Australia as a refugee. A child’s perspective is not one often published but is one we could all learn from. Reflecting on her story as an adult, Donkeys Can’t Fly on Planes co-author, Angeth Malual hopes that hearing the stories of young people and children can help us to recognise their resilience and to empathise with others, no matter where they come from. “If we come to an understanding that we’ve all been through something and we all came from something, at the end of the day we can realise that we’re not that different from each other.” Their perspectives serve to remind us that while we all come from different walks of life, in many ways we’re not that different from one another. Even in our dislike for airplane food.

Shammah Ntore, Year 4 Me and my brother were born in Burundi in Africa. That’s where my grandma was before she came to Australia and my dad was born in Congo. It’s pretty nice there. My family cooked a lot in Burundi. I like the food there. My favourite food is rice and soup and chicken. I was six-years-old when I moved to Australia. I was kind of sad because I had to leave my grandma and my uncles, but now I am happy because I feel more safe here. In Burundi I would hear

gun shots and I was really scared. Before coming to Australia, I had never been on an aeroplane. I was very nervous, and I was sitting with my mum. My dad was sitting with my brother. I didn’t quite like the food. They spoke English in the aeroplane, and I couldn’t understand a word they said but my dad translated it for me. I was also pretty excited to come here [to Australia]. I wanted to make friends and talk to new and different people. Now that I live

here, I have met many different people and made new friends. I really love it here. It is my home. My grandma came over with my two uncles and one of my aunties this year. My aunty is the youngest; she’s 17-years-old. I have an uncle that is turning 20 and my other uncle is 25. I felt happy when they came over because it’s nice to be with family.

- 21 -

Rahaf Allawi, Year 9 I am from a place called Sednayah. It is a small town and there are a lot of Christian churches there. It has one of the oldest convents in the world. It is called Our Lady of Sednayah. Sednayah is located in the mountains, 1500m above sea level. In the winter it snows a lot. The mountains are very beautiful. We used to climb the mountains for fun. Many of my relatives still live there. I have four in my family, my father, my mother and little brother. We arrived in Australia on 13 March 2019. It was weird and strange to be in such a different place. At the same time, we were also very relieved to have finally arrived here.

Australia seemed very spread out, calm and full of people we couldn’t understand! It wasn’t easy to move to Australia. Prior to arriving, we had to move to Iraq for one year. This was very difficult because we couldn’t go to school there, my parents couldn’t work and we had to rely on friends and organisations to help us. Every day we would hold onto the hope that we would hear from the Australian Government. It was difficult waiting and not knowing when the waiting would end. While we are glad to be here, it’s difficult to live without your relatives around you. It’s also sad to miss out the culture you grew up with and it takes a long time to feel comfortable in a new culture.

The photo is of Rahaf’s hometown and church, and was captured by Rahaf’s Mum’s cousin, Shehade Alahmar, who is a photographer.

Margerit Kuku, Year 5 My mum and dad are from Sudan. While they were living in the Nuba Mountains, there was a war. My parents ran away to Egypt with my brother and three sisters. I was born there. Then the UN helped them and sent us to Australia. I was 11-months-old.

My mum and dad told me that when they first came to Australia, they were excited because me and my siblings could go to a good school and have a good house and good friends. I sometimes speak Moro at home and when I speak to my grandparents on

the phone, I speak Moro because they don’t know English.

I like how I have a big backyard to play in and in a safe country.

My aunties and cousins have moved to Australia too. When we get invited to barbeques, we go all the way to Sydney because they live there, and we go to weddings in Melbourne.

I like to play soccer. I’m a defender. I like it because I don’t have to run a lot. I sometimes practice in the backyard with my brother and my dad because my dad likes to play soccer.

- 22 -

School and historic town evolve together to embrace innovative future TIM BOWD For over a century Kurri Kurri has been synonymous with coal mining in the Hunter Valley. It is a town with a rich and prosperous history, surrounded by the hugely productive South Maitland Coalfield, which at the advent of Federation was the richest coalfield in the Southern Hemisphere. By the mid-1960’s the coal had all but run out and there came a period of mine closure, forcing Kurri Kurri to readjust. In the years that followed numerous light industries were established and ensured the town’s ongoing prosperity. Today Kurri Kurri’s growth is based on community development. Numerous festivals have begun, and Tidy Town competitions won. It’s also become colloquially known as ‘the town of murals’, with over 60 outdoor public artworks on display.

The growth and sense of community in Kurri Kurri is mirrored by the local Holy Spirit Primary School. The school has many achievements to its name, most recently being its National Assessment Program – Literary and Numeracy (NAPLAN) results. Holy Spirit principal, Paul O’Heir, said the town’s modest beginnings had mistakenly led many to consider the school to be an underdog when it came to the national testing regime. ”We’re delighted by the results,” Mr O’Heir said. “Our progress reflects the emphasis we place on positive behaviour for learning (PBL) and our belief that all students can achieve.” The principal explained Holy Spirit students are given the opportunity to have input into their learning and, based on feedback from their teachers,

empowered to set personal goals. “This approach ensures they are clear on what is expected of them, and they thrive on this ownership”, Mr O’Heir said. The school’s classroom teachers are supported by a Student Support team, including a learning support teacher, school psychologist and a pastoral care worker. With a hydrogen hub proposed for Kurri Kurri, the next stage of development in the Lower Hunter township will be very different from the coal-fuelled growth experienced in the 20th century. Meanwhile though, the positive evolution of Holy Spirit Primary School will also continue as it benefits from the implementation of new data collection systems introduced by the Catholic Diocese of Maitland-Newcastle.

The data analytics provide insights into trends in student outcomes and are designed to inform teacher planning. “It will be another valuable tool in assisting our staff to identify students who may benefit from additional support, as well as those who require extension tasks to ensure they are appropriately challenged,” Mr O’Heir said. Despite the benefits of modern reporting systems Mr O’Heir insists the school will always remain data informed, and not data driven. “Just as you should never underestimate the resilience of the Kurri Kurri community, you can never replace the power of a strong interpersonal relationship in a student’s educational journey,” he said.

Discover our new app Local Mass times, news, events, and parish giving are now right at your fingertips.

Free download from:

To learn more, scan the QR code or visit



Wednesday 27 July

Thursday 28 July

FRIDAY 29 July

FRIDAY 29 July

saturday 30 July






Bookings through Civic Theatre Newcastle Adult: $36 | Concession: $26 | Under 19: $26 | Group 10+: $30 | Family Ticket: $92 | SCHOOL GROUP: $13.50

Turn static files into dynamic content formats.

Create a flipbook
Issuu converts static files into: digital portfolios, online yearbooks, online catalogs, digital photo albums and more. Sign up and create your flipbook.