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  • A Father’s attempt to be with his child
  • By Shanaka Fernando
  • A letter of compassion
  • 21/10/2009 Make a Comment
  • Contributed by: admin ( 15 articles in 2009 )
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Re: Brendan Howarth Carter

I first met Brendan Carter in December 2007. He was siting outside a restaurant named Lentil As Anything at the Abbottsford Convent in Melbourne. I learnt from Brendan that he was from Canada. Brendan was focused and compelling but had the demeanour of a person deeply troubled and reaching out for help.

In the days that followed I heard Brendan’s story. He was in Australia attempting to unite with his daughter. In 2003 a young Australian girl, Katherine, a traveller drifted into his world. His life was in British Columbia Canada. He had his own successful business and his house was two storey affair which he had built himself. The romance of six months that followed saw Katherine fall pregnant. Two months after discovering that she was pregnant Katherine returned to Australia with uncertainty hanging over the relationship. The impending birth of his daughter triggered his biological instincts and he came to Australia in the hope of playing an active role as a father. Despite arriving here two months before the birth, Brendan experienced rejection from Katherine and returned to Canada suppressing his emotions in favour of bending to Katherine’s desire for him to go back. In December 2004 Sylvia his daughter was born.

Brendan’s life and business in Canada slipped into a state of paralysis.

Unable to avoid his fatherly feelings and avoid the awareness that his child would grow up without a father, he returned to Australia in November 2007. Brendan having such an extremely considerate nature made Katherine aware of his presence and willingness to participate in the upbringing without any fuss or force. However his attempts have been continually rejected. He is a father without a child; unable emotionally to return to Canada and unable to see his biological daughter.

Brendan has been volunteering at Lentil As Anything in exchange for food and accommodation since December 2008. Lentil As Anything is a non profit organisation that runs three restaurants that offers food in exchange for a fair reciprocation. It’s a unique “no fixed prices” philosophy makes room for the participation of a broad cross section of the community. The organisation is kept afloat by the vigorous generosity of the community involved. Brendan’s sensitivity to the people around him and his willingness to seize initiative and provide labour is a significant driving force in the organisation. Ignoring his personal pain Brendan has inspired the dejected and rejected in the community with his smile, calmness and searing wit.

His unwillingness to coerce Katherine in any legal avenues only enhances him as a sensitive human being. Quietly each day, each minute, each second Brendan endures the pain of parental separation. It also enhances his vulnerability to the inconsiderate actions of others. At the moments of extreme distress Brendan withdraws to the privacy of his circumstances. He cries from within so that others are not affected. I am a Father of a daughter born five days before Sylvia. A disagreement with her mother resulted in me being separated from my daughter for only three weeks.

These were by far the most excruciating painful 3 weeks of my life. I cried everyday. Brendan has been separated from his daughter for almost five years. His strength and stamina reminds me each day that the human spirit may endure with dignity undiminished. Over the last 18 months I have been inspired by Brendan’s depth of engagement with life. I see the tragedy that his own daughter is not privy to his life here as a father and human being.

The Department of Immigration has no allowance available to allow Brendan to remain beyond the 9th of October 2009. His forced removal from Australian will possibly be the act that breaks him. The justice system in Australia does not recognise equal access to both parents. Surely a child having access to both parents equally should be the starting point of any consideration. When parents disagree and have irreconcilable differences the child should not be victimised. Sylvia being at the mercy of her mother’s judgment whilst her father sits powerless and waits and waits is an indictment on our conscience. On the 9th of October a decent, wonderful human being will be detained and deported from Australia. Is this the best a sophisticated and progressive modern society can offer Sylvia and her father Brendan?

According to today’s laws Brendan has no legal rights in Australia. He is not the holder of a substantive visa. Immigration has no provision to offer a visa to a father with an Australian child. If ever there was a need for an immediate international agreement this is it. We can’t expect children to grow up to be custodians when they are the victims of custody themselves. Hopefully with ministerial compassion he could be offered permanent residency. If he can stay and become a resident he will have time and hopefully access to mechanisms that will allow a fair and humane resolution to his situation.

On the 26th of September over a hundred thousand people poured into the MCG in a euphoric display of social interaction whilst a powerless father and a helpless daughter in close proximity remained disenfranchised.

Brendan has already displayed the attributes of a fine father. Time is running out for a man’s attempt to unite with his daughter and I await a miracle of human compassion.

Yours Sincerly

Shanaka Fernando

(2007 Australian Hero of the year- Australian of the year awards)

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