Stories of Activism in WA
ACRATH members in Western Australia are good at raising much-needed funds, given the organisation runs without any government funding. But Heather McNaught knows that every speaking and social engagement is an opportunity to spread the word about human trafficking.
“It’s never just about the money. But it is always about telling the stories, advocating for those people who are forced into labour, those women forced to marry and those people making products in unsafe conditions,” said Heather, one of three people leading WA. “Fundraising is never our end goal. We set out to raise awareness no matter what the event is and the byproduct is sometimes raising money. Because the reality is that we do need to have funds to continue doing the work we do.”
An ACRATH group formed in WA in 2009. It is now a thriving group of 25 members with leadership shared between Heather (Administration and Fundraising), Rosa Ranieri (Education) and long-time WA Co-ordinator Kathy Fagan (Forced Marriage and Companionship). Each brings particular skills to the group, but creating awareness, often through partnerships, is a talent they all share.
In the past year ACRATH members in WA have run a Bollywood and a movie night, handed out information at the Fremantle Festival, produced fliers and posters that were distributed to all Catholic schools and parishes in the state and spoken at many schools. The secret to the group’s success is teamwork, ensuring each person’s skills are recognised and utilised.
The excellent networks the group has made through the Catholic Archdiocese of Perth and Catholic education enhances their capacity to create awareness. One example is a recent presentation at Iona Presentation College in Perth by Rosa and group member Sr Kaye Bolwell rsm that resulted in a $500 donation, but more importantly, a raft of projects to combat human trafficking. One student was so inspired by the talk that she used the topic for her English essay and received the top mark in the class
The students created their own posters around the school, had a fair trade cake sale of products made with Fairtrade certified ingredients (where possible) and produced a video. Rosa said the girls’ energy and creativity showed the power of raising awareness and advocating.
Volunteers Heather and Rosa would like to focus more next year on school presentations using ACRATH resources, to inspire the students, who in turn will become the change-makers in the fight against human trafficking.
The group has also focussed on building its database this year in order to spread the message further.
“We have stories of human trafficking to tell and the challenge is how to reach more people. But we are trying to build our networks so the story can be told to more people. Human trafficking is happening here in Australia and globally and if people know that then they will want to act to end it,” Heather said.
Rosa added: “It’s so important to continue advocating and raising awareness as you never know who is touched by your presentation. I was so humbled when I did a presentation at a school a student came up to me and said ‘I remember you from last year you were teaching us the game about ethical fashion at the Catholic Youth Festival and I have now started only buying clothes from ethically sourced retailers’.”
Heather knows only too well the power of story. A few years ago Kathy Fagan spoke at St John of God Health Care in Perth where Heather’s husband, Keith was Mission Director. That night he told Heather of the amazing work of ACRATH and ….the rest is history.
Caption: Heather McNaught and Rosa Ranieri.
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