Taking Healing to Heart


Pip McIlroy is the sort of person Lisa McDonald has in mind when she talks about the ‘head and heart’ needed to combat human trafficking. Lisa, the Group Mission Leader at St Vincent’s Health Australia (SVHA), has been part of a partnership with ACRATH for several years. Pip entered the picture a year ago when the responsibility for leading SVHA’s national response to Modern Slavery was included in her role at St Vincent’s.

Pip, who works on ethics education, advice and strategy and supports staff formation across the SVHA network, including the Modern Slavery Advocates for Change Program, heard about victim/survivor *Karlie, who had completed a health care certificate and was looking for work in the health sector. Karlie has been supported for the past five years by an ACRATH volunteer in regional NSW, through the Companionship program.

Pip’s determination to help Karlie set off a chain of events involving many staff and departments within St Vincent’s. All worked together to try and find work for Karlie within the network. Pip took a lead role when Karlie’s application for work at one of the SVHA facilities in Sydney led to an interview.

“We are a very large network so I was able to explore several options to determine where Karlie might best find work. I ended up talking to colleagues in Sydney and there was a sense ‘that we can make this happen’,” Pip said. There was a clear commitment to put Karlie, a victim/survivor of human trafficking at the heart of the ‘story’. We were no longer talking about abstract cases, but about a woman who had survived human trafficking.”

Pip became Karlie’s mentor in the lead-up to the interview, running through possible questions with her and explaining the process of the interview and familiarising Karlie with the St Vincent’s staff on the panel. The pair even tested the Zoom technology that Karlie was required to use for the interview.

“Karlie had never had a job interview before, so I just tried to allay her fears by giving her as much information and preparation as possible. She had the qualification, the skills and the passion, she just needed support.”

Karlie got the job in clinical support at St Vincent’s Private Hospital Sydney. ‘Team Karlie’ involved many St Vincent’s staff and a Sister of Charity who help Karlie find accommodation in Sydney.

“I was just a tiny part of this story that involved various St Vincent’s staff and ACRATH. We are a big organisation, our mission is at the heart of who we are and it was such a privilege to be part of Karlie’s story, which is ongoing.”

Dr Lisa McDonald said: The work we do to combat human trafficking is about more than complying with the Modern Slavery Act, it’s about ensuring the dignity and flourishing of every human being, especially where a person is vulnerable. I cannot imagine any organisation whose purpose is healing being committed to anything less.

*Karlie is not the woman’s name.

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