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On 26 February, Saturday evening at around 9.00 pm, Lee-Anne Diano (Manager), Seamus Quinn (President) and June Villadolid (Ship Visitor), all from Stella Maris Melbourne, pulled off a co-ordinated task and vaccinated eleven (11) crew on the TSL Rosemary ship that docked at the Melbourne Port.

The event took days of preparation, endless phone calls and met many hurdles. Seamus recorded one hundred and eighteen (118) phone calls in the three (3) days prior to the vaccination campaign.

Approval from Border Force was only received the day before as they were waiting for the written approval from The Department of Health and Human Services, Victoria.

Seamus contacted Adam Reilly who was a commander at the Centre from The Department of Families, Fairness and Housing during the operation at the centre last year. Adam was on holidays but responded to Seamus’ plea by attempting to contact Jeroen Weinmar. He got hold of Brett Sutton who then referred the request to Dr Rachel Heenan, Senior Medical Outbreak Lead, Victorian Department of Health.

She then set out to get approval, with many conditions listed, one being that the crew needed to have Rapid Antigen Tests (RATs) done prior to going down the gangway. Eleven (11) RATs were located from various sources.

During the day, Lee-Anne had to complete an on-line vaccination course to be able to administer the vaccines. This also cost the team a few hours of time. June prepared two buses with barricades, safety cones, trestles (some had to be bought  that day), PPE, water for the seafarers, chairs, lights, and other resources while still in contact with the Ship Captain and crew making sure they had their Individual Healthcare Identifier (IHI) numbers from Services Australia, and that MyGov registrations were ready. There were some issues due to the fact that some seafarers do not have permanent addresses and are using multiple names (some had four names listed).

The Captain was extremely helpful and co-ordinated the RATs on board with his crew. At the same time, Dr James Quinn drove to his clinic to prepare and draw the vaccines, making it easier for Lee-Anne, a Registered Nurse, to administer. He created a mobile vaccination pack, including resources to cater for any anaphylactic issues, sharp containers, needles and swabs.

During the day, face shields were purchased from a local chemist. Eventually, ‘all systems were go’ and the crew got their vaccines. Needless to say, the Captain and crew were delighted and could not thank Stella Maris Melbourne enough for their efforts.

After the task was complete, Dr Quinn (with the help of June) then started registering the seafarers’ vaccinations onto the Government website. He then made sure that the seafarers were going to get a printed copy of their vaccination Certificate. All the tasks were completed at around 11.20 pm.

Meanwhile, Dr Rachel Heenan will organise her Maritime team to work on a brief Vaccination Guidance document which the team can utilise in the future.

Roslyn Rajasingam, National Director of Stella Maris Australia, thanked the Stella Maris team in Melbourne for a job well done.

“At this point of the pandemic, when Australian citizens are being urged to take their boosters, thousands of seafarers are still waiting for a chance to get vaccinated in one of the ports they are visiting. These seafarers who have worked so hard during this pandemic to provide supplies have not been considered as key workers by several companies and governments. Stella Maris Melbourne has certainly assisted in easing the worries of some seafarers in the current situation.”  

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Ernest was born on 27 June 1926 in Merredin in the central West Australian wheatbelt.  He was one of 14 children and his mother had a café making scones, pies and sausage rolls while his father worked in a cordial factory.

When the family moved to Perth in 1936 Ernest and his brother Philip attended Clontarf Boys College run by the Christian brothers.  But their mother then suffered severe complications in childbirth that left her with paralysis down one side of her body.  Ernest and Philip returned home to help with their mother’s recovery.

Not long afterwards Ernest got his first job in a tiling factory, which allowed him to purchase his first push bike meaning he was able to go to night school for technical studies.

Ernest left home at the age of 14 and worked throughout the wheatbelt as a farm hand in places like Mingenew, Geraldton and Mullewa.  Later he accepted a job at Midland Junction where he was employed as an engine cleaner by Midland railway Company.  Ernest obtained a Fireman’s Certificate.

Ernest then joined the R.A.A.F starting his training at Claremont Barracks.  He enjoyed postings to Port Hedland, Pearce and Darwin. About this time, he met and married Peggy who was a hairdresser.

The young couple spent the War in Darwin where Ernest worked as an aircraft refueller and in maintenance roles.  When the War ended the couple stayed on at the barracks in Darwin.

When their first child Josie was born in 1947, they moved back to Western Australia where Ernest worked as a mechanic, fitter and turner for 12 years before they decided to return to Darwin.  Ernest then worked as the Lighthouse Keeper at Cape Don, north of Darwin.

Ernest then applied for the position as Officer in Charge at the East Arm Quarantine Station in Darwin.  It was at this time that Ernest started the Stella Maris Seafarers’ Centre for visiting seamen. He was still engaged in this work when Darwin was hit by Cyclone Tracy in 1974.  On 11 June 1984 Ernest was honoured with the Order of Australia Medal in recognition of his work for seafarers.

Returning to Western Australia, Ernest and Peggy took up residence in Albany where he worked in the parish and was ordained as a Permanent Deacon in 1991.

Once again, starting from scratch, Deacon Ernest started the Albany Stella Maris Seafarers’ Centre.  He was lucky to find a wonderful couple to assist him – David and Marilou Lomas.  Marilou carries on his work to this day.

Ernest retired but Peggy suffered a major stroke in 2009 and was lovingly cared for by her husband until her death in December 2011.  Ernest then moved to Perth to live first with his son Michael and later with David in Mandurah.

Ernest Carey passed away peacefully at Bethany Nursing Home on 15 December 2021.

On 30 December 2021 Bishop Gerard Holohan from Bunbury Diocese celebrated Holy Mass for Ernest at Our Lady’s Assumption Catholic Church.  Co-celebrant Father Chris Saminal travelled to Mandurah with Marilou Lomas and two Stella Maris volunteers.  Deacon Patrick Moore, from Stella Maris Fremantle, joined them to proclaim the Gospel. 

(Edited by Deacon Patrick Moore from a text written by Ernie’s daughter, Josie.)

Deacon Ernest Carey OAM

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Stella Maris Australia, a Catholic agency that provides spiritual and practical support to those working at sea, has joined an international coalition calling for better treatment of seafarers during the pandemic.

Stella Maris is one of hundreds of organisations that have signed up to the Neptune Declaration on Seafarer Wellbeing and Crew Change.

The Neptune Declaration calls for seafarers to be considered essential workers, and therefore have earlier access to COVID-19 vaccines, as well as for better practices to facilitate changes of crew.

It also seeks greater collaboration between maritime and aviation industries, in partnership with governments, to manage the transportation and deployment of seafarers to ports where they are needed.

Stella Maris has, on several occasions, raised concerns about the welfare of seafarers during the pandemic. They have included the expiration of contracts for some workers, the inability for seafarers to disembark at ports and the mental and physical health challenges seafarers face.

Those issues are among the ones the Neptune Declaration raises. Despite efforts from unions, governments, industry groups, employers and non-governmental organisations and a resolution of the United Nations General Assembly, key issues remain unresolved.

“This is not an acceptable way to treat seafarers, who are the frontline workers of the maritime industry carrying 90 per cent of global trade,” the Neptune Declaration states.

“Fatigue after extended periods at sea has significant consequences on the physical and mental wellbeing of seafarers.”

Stella Maris Australia national director Roslyn Rajasingam said in addition to international advocacy, the organisation is also supporting local efforts to approach the Australian Government. In particular, the Government will be asked to help solve the global crisis by designating seafarers as key workers.

“Almost 70 countries have taken that step, recognising what critical work seafarers are already undertaking and the important role they will play during and beyond the pandemic,” Mrs Rajasingam said.

“Australia’s location makes our reliance on the delivery of goods by sea greater than many countries, which underlines the need for this long overdue step to be taken by the Commonwealth Government.”

Click here to access the Neptune Declaration.

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The current pandemic has severely affected our Stella Maris services to the seafarers that arrive on our shores. Our Chaplains and Managers have not been allowed to visit ships. They also have not been allowed to pick up seafarers on our buses so they can be transported to our centres where they can relax, play games, play music or use our internet and computers.

It is even more challenging for all seafarers around the world who are not allowed to disembark ships to enjoy shore leave nor to travel home at the end of their contracts.

However, our Chaplains and Managers have found creative ways and means to reach out to the seafarers to assist them during this time of Covid-19. They have been ready and willing to procure supplies for seafarers and other necessary resources and services to ease the difficulty they are experiencing while sailing for long periods.

Among other things, the crew of cargo ships and cruise ships have been provided with care packs in most of our ports to let them know that we are still here to assist them, pray for them and care for them while they are on our shores, albeit, unable to physically visit our centres.

Here are some Media Releases of Diocesan newspapers and ACBC Media Blog that describe the work of our Stella Maris Centres and Chaplaincies during this time of the pandemic:

3 July 2020: (Stella Maris Adelaide)


3 July 2020: (Stella Maris Mackay)

26 June 2020: (Stella Maris Sydney)

26 June 2020: (Stella Maris Brisbane)

11 June 2020: (Stella Maris Fremantle)

12 May 2020: (Donations Drive)

4 May 2020: (Mass for AoS Chaplains, Volunteers, Managers)

27 April 2020: (A Nun)

24 April 2020: (Ruby Princess)

INTERNATIONAL Apostleship of the Sea – Stella Maris:

27 April 2020: (Cruise Industry and On Ruby Princess)

https://www.taipeitimes.com/News/feat/archives/2020/04/27/2003735361

15 April 2020: (Stella Maris supports seafarers on the Covid-19 front line)

https://www.apostleshipofthesea.org.uk/stella-maris-supports-seafarers-covid-19-front-line

8 April 2020: (Pope Francis + Pandemic + Conversion)

https://www.thetablet.co.uk/features/2/17845/Pope-francis-says-pandemic-can-be-a-place-of-conversion-

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Pope Francis has been busy this year hosting Bishops from many Bishops Conferences around the world. He also travelled to half a dozen countries including the United Arab Emirates, which made him the first Pope to visit an area in the Arabian Peninsula. He also had many meetings, audiences and visits within the Vatican, around Rome and within Italy. And this is only the middle of the year!

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When I visited our seafarers’ centres and chaplaincies in the eastern seaboard of the country, it was obvious that most of our ship visitors, Chaplains, managers and volunteers were in their senior years. It was impressive to watch their generosity and deep concern for seafarers from all over the world. They were real signs of God’s presence in our ports.

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