Image for The Archbishops’ hurtful and damaging NO Pastoral Letter

First published August 25

A YES Responsible Reasoned Pastoral Care Response to the Archbishops’ hurtful and damaging NO Pastoral Letter.

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• *Julian Punch’s personal profile With his four Brothers and Parents Julian migrated to Australia at the age of ten in 1948 and remembers the difficulty of coming to a new culture.  He experienced bullying because as a British child ‘he was different’ and has always thought how much more difficult it was for other migrants from a non-British culture.  It was his first experience of questioning ‘accommodating the norm’.  Julian family grew up in Victoria and he studied for the Catholic Priesthood at Corpus Christi College in Werribee (1959 – 1962) and Mt Waverley campuses (1966 - 1970).

Julian has now been involved as a Priest, Public Advocate and Community Development worker for forty years in Tasmania.  Julian was ordained as a Catholic priest in 1970 for the Hobart Archdiocese and worked in a number of parishes around the State, Hobart, Invermay, Devonport, Richmond, and Glenorchy. 

Inspired by ‘liberation theology’ he eventually petitioned to work for seven years in the Chigwell housing commission area, living in a shelter run for homeless and unemployed youth. With a team of local people he was responsible for establishing St Monica’s Community Inc as a community organisation engaged in self-help programs for unemployed, homeless, elderly and single parent people.  I was responsible for program development and ‘day to day’ supervision of staff and volunteers (6 - 8 persons) with an annual budget of approximately $200,000.  These programs were modeled on the ‘literacy conscientization’ programs developed amongst the poor in South America by Paulo Friere (Freedom School) and are education programs in the non-violent school of thought! Julian found the gangs and women’s networks in Chigwell were important network support structures to collaborate with.  The programs aligned with the local church assisted people to bring about radical social change and personal freedom through the efforts of the poor themselves. They preceded many of the now established programs like Community Houses, advocacy programs for unemployed and homeless etc.  The programs were assisted by a ‘community development studentship’ for young people inspired by social justice.

In 1989 while still a priest in Chigwell he was arrested for ‘Running a disorderly House’.  At this time he had became involved and chaired several social justice committees set up in Tasmania.  These included the Hobart East Timor Committee, the Anti Apartheid Committee, Tasmanian Peace Group and Catholics Against Oppression as well as the experimental parish and social work in a housing department area.  Julian believed, as did others that the arrest was arranged by elements of the fanatical anti communist right wing ‘Catholic Action’ ‘Groupers’ and political wing the Democratic Labor Party, to denigrate his work in social justice areas because they regarded him as a ‘red priest’.  He was alongside many others disillusioned by the Catholic Church’s support and involvement in the Vietnam War.  It was also believed to have been arranged because he was close to the then Premier Doug Lowe who was not aligned with the right wing, Catholic dominated ‘Industrial Groupers’ or the ‘Movement’ led by Bob Santamaria nationally and Senator Harradine with strong political roots in Tasmania.  The charges were eventually dropped and while the Archbishop (Young) supported him at the time it was increasingly difficult to work in the area of social justice that he was dedicated to.  With increasing pressure from the Archbishop and his right wing detractors Julian lasted another two years but finally resigned from the Archdiocese in 1991.  Julian had taken a job in the Public Service following his arrest working in the newly established Youth Support Unit.  He was advised by Doug Lowe that the ‘branch was being cut from underneath him’ and he needed to have regard for his own welfare. 

He then worked for the next twenty-five years in government areas committed to community development as against welfare initiatives.  Julian had become concerned alongside many others that welfare was a debilitating and destructive force for disadvantaged people.  Julian at this time welcomed the opportunity to meet with people who have moved from a welfare base to that of self-help especially from third world countries, and this commitment has never left.

Julian moved from the shelter in Chigwell (Mac Intyre House) and lived and worked on the Summerleas Youth Co-operative with his partner Brian Doran for nine years as a founding member in association with a number of young homeless people.  Basil Griston an eccentric philanthropist who was similarly disturbed by institutionalized welfare and abuse in the Catholic Church donated the land and original buildings.  The Human Rights and Equal Opportunities Commission Inquiry into Homeless Youth endorsed this farm project as a national model. It also received the Commonwealth of Nations Youth Service Award in 1989 as an innovative and self determined project of excellence.  Unfortunately while the Farm was very successful and assisted over five hundred young homeless people, a large church based welfare organization took legal control of the Farm and the title deeds and then attempted to sell off the property having evicted the young residents.  After returning from making a presentation in New Zealand on the success of the Farm at a Commonwealth of Nations Conference, Julian & Brian learnt that their home, possessions and recently constructed Life Skills Unit at the Farm had burnt to the ground in an arson fire.  This resulted in the irony of them being homeless and reliant on friends for accommodation until they purchase a unique piece of land at Longley a southern aspect to Mt Wellington where they build their own home.  The property known as ‘Baanya’ is particularly dedicated to hospitality and a meeting place for people committed to values of social justice.

In 1991 after being recruited by Human Rights Commissioner Brian Burdekin he was appointed as Governor of the Australian Youth Foundation (AYF) in 1992 and worked as a volunteer for eight years on a number of national projects set up by the AYF Foundation. He is a founding board member of the National Children and Youth Law Centre (NCYLC); a committee of management member for the Young Australians Making the Future Work national project, and Chairman of the Housing/Homeless Working Group (AYF).  After gaining AYF funding for a Tasmanian counseling service for LGBTI Working It Out on the Nth West Coast.  He was then appointed to the Interim Committee of the Outlink Board of Management, a national project to support young gay and lesbian young people experiencing discrimination in rural areas.

In the last twenty-five years Julian has worked with both government and the community to develop local economic initiatives especially amongst disadvantaged groups of people, as the co-coordinator of the Local Employment Initiatives Program with the Tasmanian Government. This program is working through locally self determined Agencies in nearly thirty municipalities in Tasmania. He researched and wrote the reports for both the State Government and Tasmanian Community to the National Advisory Group on Local Employment Initiatives (NAGLEI).

Julian served for some time as President of the Tasmanian Aids Council.  In 1990, he received the Tasmanian Rotary Citizenship Award for his support of homeless and unemployed young people. He received the Order of Australia Award, Member in the General Division AM, announced in the Australia Day Honors List (1991) for “services to disadvantaged and homeless youth”.  In 1993, he received the Tasmanian Award for Humanitarian Activities from the Human Rights and Equal Opportunities Commission;
“For his ability to encourage homeless and unemployed youth to exercise initiative and self-help; and for his work for justice and peace”.

Julian resigned from the Tasmanian Public Service in 2007 after working for three years establishing and managing the Workplace Diversity Program in the Department of Health & Human Services according to the Public Service Commissioner’s Instruction and Guidelines No 3.  The principles of managing diversity in the workplace and his long experience with his brothers and sisters in the sexual and gender diverse community concerned him that law reform and the complaints systems still did not address the disadvantage and inequality that he saw happening to so many in his community •

Julian took his superannuation, which has enabled him to dedicate, and self fund his volunteer work with the sexual and gender diverse LGBTI community in Tasmania.  Much of this work has grown out of informally with a few friends holding social events for sexual & gender diverse people in their own homes or commercially friendly cafes and hotels.  This has built into regional state network of over 1900 members known as the League of Gentlefellows.  With many people expressing their concern at lack of consultation and any self determination as real a community distinct to a politically determined group Established the Coming Out Proud Program from a base of four regional Community Liaison Committees endorsed by over twenty local Government authorities with a management plan to eliminate discrimination. And allow people to ‘come out with pride’ and live in their communities as fully participating and contributing members”.  This process has led to the establishment of subsidiary groups e.g Outright Youth as an advocacy group with a voice for young gay and lesbian people at local & regional levels as well as a COPP Trust to fund initiatives.  The local, regional and state based initiatives are incorporated in the Tasmanian Council for Sexual & Gender Diverse People Inc.  The need for the Council (TCS&GDP Inc) is based on the fact that sexual & gender diverse people are often bullied, hate crime is still prevalent and the old culture that promotes homophobia, conversion therapy, racism and the domination of women from a religious fundamentalist perspective is still alive and well in Tasmania especially in regional and remote areas.  The COP Program is committed to the next stage post law reform that of culture changes. 

Julian’s hobbies are building, gardening, cooking and beekeeping. His relaxation involves watching films and sharing a meal with friends.