Tireless campaigner awarded University’s highest honour

Wednesday, 15 April 2009

1 April 2009: Tireless campaigner Patricia Burke AM was awarded Australian Catholic University’s (ACU) highest honour yesterday, Doctor of the University, in recognition of her compassionate contribution to social justice through her work with Caritas Australia and other Catholic organisations.

 Photo:(hon-doc) Patricia BurkeHonorary Doctorate Patricia Burke

One of three children, Patricia regards hers as a fortunate life, and strongly believes “from those to whom much is given, much will be expected.”

And much she has given, mostly as a volunteer. Since 1985 she has been the Sydney Archdiocesan Director of Caritas Australia, the development and overseas aid agency of the Catholic Church.

Alongside this she has been a member of the Lowe electoral region of Catholic Parents and Friends Associations; of the Cardinal’s Abortion Law Reform Committee; co-founder of Heartline; NSW Bishops’ nominee to Australian Catholic Social Welfare Commission; President of the ladies auxiliaries of Centacare and of the National St Vincent de Paul Society; Vice-Chairman of Strathfield Community Services and a member of Australian Church Women, of the Queen’s Trust, and of a number of Sydney aged care and child care committees.

Her husband, Ray, a retired judge, points to the particular strengths that have guaranteed success in the many activities Patricia has led. He says she is “a good organiser, a fearless delegator and a fearless supporter of the delegates”.

Whichever communities she has visited, from East African villages to the Villawood detention centre, Patricia has been aware of, and worked with the power of Catholic partnerships, from the Edmund Rice Foundation, to the Jesuit Refugee Centre, Caritas world-wide or suburban Sydney parishes.

Vice-Chancellor of ACU, Professor Greg Craven, said Patricia’s contribution to numerous social justice causes, from local aged care to supporting some of the poorest communities in the third world, was nothing short of extraordinary.

“Her work has been marked by unwavering compassion and enthusiastic participation,” he said.

Patricia said the support she has received over the years – particularly from her family and Cardinals Pell and Clancy, should not go unmentioned. She said her work had merely involved being enthusiastic and using the abilities she has.