News National Hero’s welcome greets Sister Patricia Fox, nun deported from Philippines
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Hero’s welcome greets Sister Patricia Fox, nun deported from Philippines

Sister Patricia Fox walks into a rapturous reception after arriving at Melbourne Airport. Photo: AAP/Penny Stephens
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It was a hero’s welcome home for an Australian nun deported from the Philippines.

A chanting crowd, banners and flashing cameras greeted Sister Patricia Fox as she walked into the arrivals hall at Melbourne airport.

Family and friends rushed to hug the 72-year-old, who was kicked out of the Philippines for speaking out against human rights abuses.

“I’m so happy to be back but I’m sad at the same time,” she Fox told reporters on Sunday morning.

The Catholic nun had lived in the country for almost three decades but had her missionary visa cancelled for challenging the policies of President Rodrigo Duterte.

The woman said she came to his attention after going on a fact-finding mission in the president’s home province, where evidence of murders, land confiscations and jailing of protesters was uncovered.

“There’s been a culture of impunity for a long time, but it’s getting worse,” she said.

The nun said she had been blacklisted from the country and wouldn’t be able to return until Mr Duterte is no longer president.

“I don’t think I can say what I think of him,” she said.

She also thanked members from the Filipino community, who were there to welcome her.

“We didn’t expect it and the support has been amazing,” she said.

But she called on the Australian government to stand up to the Filipino president.

“I think they need to [be more forceful] … we have to start being responsible for what’s happening over there,” she said.

Family and friends at the airport were excited to see Sister Fox but acknowledged how hard it was for her to be back.

Her older brother, Kevin Fox, said he’d been worried about her safety while she was overseas.

“You don’t really know what’s happening over there,” Mr Fox said.

“She didn’t want to leave, but she’s accepted the fact that she’s got to.”

He was proud of his sister and she had always had strong convictions.

Members of the Philippines Australia Solidarity Association were also at the airport to welcome the nun home and praised her courage and unwavering fight for justice.

“We look forward to once again stand with her in the struggle for social justice and human rights in the Philippines and Australia,” PASA spokeswoman May Kotsakis said.

Since April, Sister Fox has resisted attempts by immigration officials to be rid of her.

But her missionary visa expired while various appeals were still being pursued and she was given a temporary tourist visa that expired on November 3.

Her ordeal has stirred debate in the Philippines about the wider issue of whether expatriates should be free to take a stand on human rights.

-AAP

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