Among the 683 Australians recognised in this year’s Australia Day Honours list is Good Samaritan Sister Pauline Coll of Brisbane.
Pauline was appointed a Member of the Order of Australia (AM) for significant service to the Catholic Church in Australia, and as an advocate for the protection of women and children, particularly in the Asia-Pacific region.
Pauline said she was “amazed” and “shocked” to receive a letter late last year from the Governor-General’s office informing her she’d been nominated for the award.
“When I read it more carefully, I realised that I would have to decide whether to accept the honour or decline. When I read the citation, I realised that it was mostly for my work in helping to found ACRATH (Australian Catholic Religious Against Trafficking in Humans). So this decided [it for] me,” she told The Good Oil.
“If I accepted, then it would once again, at the highest level, bring attention to the work of attempting to eliminate trafficking in humans – and the work of so many women religious in those early years.”
Pauline said the honour, although in her name, includes all those who worked with her, “especially those who from the early days did the hard yards and struggled” with her.
“It also includes all those – including the Sisters of the Good Samaritan – who in many ways supported me during those seven years of struggle, joy, pain, success and failure.”
From 2004 until early 2011, Pauline was a driving force behind the establishment of the national organisation, Australian Catholic Religious Against Trafficking in Humans (ACRATH), of which she was a founding member and the inaugural chair.
Pauline believes collaboration with a range of organisations and individuals was fundamental to ACRATH’s foundation and its ongoing development.
“It’s collaboration that gets you somewhere… that gets the momentum going,” she said.
“I had a dream that such an organisation with such collaborative underpinning was needed so that those of us who helped establish it could then walk away when it was time and know that it wouldn’t ‘fall over’, [that it would] continue in all sorts of new and creative ways.”
Endorsed by Catholic Religious Australia, the peak body for more than 180 religious orders in Australia, ACRATH actively campaigns against human trafficking on a number of fronts: raising awareness, sharing information and building networks nationally and globally; facilitating action to combat and prevent human rights violations related to human trafficking; providing educative resources about human trafficking; and offering direct services such as counselling, rehabilitation and reintegration programs for people who have been trafficked.
These days Pauline lives at the BallyCara Village of Friends in Scarborough where she continues “to be a Good Samaritan woman in any way that might offer itself” to her.
“Although I suppose I am ‘retired’, as Good Sams there are always opportunities that arise to live out of the Parable [of the Good Samaritan], whether it be as the one in the ditch, the ones who walk by, the donkey, the inn-keeper, part of the crowd looking on, or the one who does something about what is being presented,” she explained.
“As I grow older I want to do the inner and spiritual work that I need to do in these later years – to become a more compassionate and contemplative woman.”