Father Peter Maher is no stranger to pushing boundaries from within the church and the community, to speak out for human rights and acceptance.
A vocal advocate for gay, lesbian, bisexual, transsexual and intersex (LGBTI) rights, for the last 17 years he has provided a weekly mass for LGBTI Catholics in his capacity as Parish Priest at St Joseph’s Church, Newtown.
"There are lessons in moving the marginalised to the fore, making their plight more visible."
He has spoken out on behalf of victims of sexual abuse at the hands of members of the Catholic Church, and his view of the institution’s inadequate response. He’s also provided support and pastoral care to people following abortion experiences, and advocated justice for Indigenous people as a long-serving member of the Aboriginal Justice Support Group.
Challenging long-held doctrines from within the church and community hasn’t been an easy path, and he’s faced dissention and often hostility. “I take inspiration from what I term a political reading of the bible,” Maher explains. “There are lessons in moving the marginalised to the fore, making their plight more visible. It’s an important step in breaking down our societal systems of oppression.”
Maher’s impact extends well beyond his parish bounds. As Chaplain with Palms Australia, he enables volunteers to build capacity within communities in Africa, Asia and the Pacific towards a just, sustainable, interdependent and peaceful world, free of poverty. He co-founded the Benedict Barkat Foundation in support of children’s education in Pakistan, and is a National Board Member of InterPlay Australia, a global social movement dedicated to connection, human sustainability and play.
He is dedicated to fostering personal and social transformation. It’s a labour of love and something the Master of Adult Education (2001) graduate is keen to inspire in others. “I’m particularly interested in how we support those in helping professions and pastoral care to be more professional, ethical and most importantly, self-aware,” he says.