Brisbane-based Good Samaritan Sister Pauline Coll has received a national award for her distinctive contribution and commitment to the fight against human trafficking, slavery and forced labour.
Pauline is one of seven individuals to receive the inaugural Anti-Slavery Australia Freedom Award, presented during a ceremony at Parliament House, Canberra on November 23 by the Honorable Brendan O’Connor, Federal Minister for Home Affairs and Justice.
From late 2004 until early this year, 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.
According to her award citation, Pauline was “indefatigable in her personal endeavours to get human trafficking on the government and community agenda, forging effective and enduring partnerships with a range of diverse groups”.
Pauline said she was both “surprised and delighted”, “proud and humbled” to receive the award.
“I feel humbled because it is a wonderful recognition not just for the work I have done within Australian Catholic Religious Against Trafficking in Humans, but also for all the members of this organisation both past and present,” she explained.
“I also feel that in the face of such a monstrous trade, even a small chink in the solid wall of such evil should be celebrated because it gives strength and hope to continue against the odds.”
Brigidine Sister Louise Cleary, who worked with Pauline to establish ACRATH and is now the organisation’s national chair, also received an inaugural Anti-Slavery Australia Freedom Award.
ACRATH was established in 2005 following meetings of interested religious sisters in late 2004 in response to a declaration from the Union of International Superiors’ General to commit to eradicating the trafficking of women and children.
Since that time, representatives from more than ten women’s religious congregations across Australia have become part of ACRATH. A small number of men’s religious congregations have also become involved in the intervening years.
“ACRATH can truly be said to be a model of being in partnership across many women’s and men’s religious congregations,” said Pauline.
“We knew that there was power in partnership at national and international levels, and with many other NGOs for the good of the women and children for whom we existed.”
Endorsed by Catholic Religious Australia, the peak body for 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 at pastoral and structural levels to combat and prevent human rights violations; providing educative resources about human trafficking; and offering direct services such as counselling, rehabilitation and reintegration programs for people who have been trafficked.
The inaugural Freedom Awards were developed by Anti-Slavery Australia using federal funding from the Proceeds of Crime Act. To read the entire list of individuals and organisations who received an award, visit Anti-Slavery Australia.