Melissa Hopes Change Is Coming
Melissa Halliday knows first hand what’s possible when someone learns the extent of human trafficking globally and in Australia. Change is what’s possible. Melissa gained a deep understanding of human trafficking and supply chains during her work with Caritas Australia and in the years since she has tried to learn more and modify her buying practices.
In her new job with ACRATH, Melissa hopes to educate and encourage others to consider their role in building a slavery-free world through their actions and consumption of food, clothing and other goods. But she knows how complex the issues around human trafficking, forced marriage and forced labour can be. As a young volunteer teaching English in Indonesia and then art therapy to children in Bolivia, Melissa saw the many factors that drive people into poverty, making them vulnerable to exploitation.
“That experience in Bolivia and Indonesia raised lots of questions for me about the role of people like me in ‘helping’ people in developing countries when the issues are so complex,” she said. “I realised that the issues facing so many people are complex and can’t be solved just with money because many of the challenges facing people are very disempowering.” A young teacher at the time, Melissa returned from her volunteer work and studied for her Masters in International and Community Development.
Melissa, whose family came to Australia from El Salvador as refugees in the 1980s, takes up her role as a part time Community Development Worker with ACRATH in February and will focus on forced marriage and human trafficking within healthcare. Much of her work in the past decade has been writing resources for schools, parishes and not-for-profits, firstly with Caritas and then for Alto, a small for-purpose organisation, developing an “online learning and professional development platform designed to build a culture that does better at doing good”.
During her time at Caritas Melissa also travelled to communities in Fiji, the Philippines and Cambodia, connecting with program participants and seeing the direct impact of campaigns such as Project Compassion.
She is looking forward to gaining a greater understanding of human trafficking and working with health providers including St John of God Health Care and St Vincent’s Health Australia. ACRATH has worked closely with both health services in recent years to educate frontline workers on how to identify a trafficked person and to develop referral pathways of support.
Melissa’s passion for justice is palpable and her commitment to working against human trafficking has become part of her daily life, particularly when it comes to ethical fashion.
“I’m the sort of person that once I learn about something, I can’t help but make changes in response to what I know. Once I learned about the involvement of children in the production of chocolate, I implemented change so that we only buy slavery-free chocolate. It’s the same with choosing clothing,” Melissa said. “Once I learn something and what I need to do to try and affect change, I’m an all-in kind of person.”