Volunteers Spread the Word

Joan Kennedy

In 2021 Volunteer Week is observed May 17 to May 23 2021.

Joan Kennedy, a Presentation Sister, sat at her first ACRATH meeting 15 years ago and was stunned as she listened to the conversations focusing on human trafficking. It struck her that two sisters who had attended a Melbourne school, where she was principal in the early 1980s, may well have been trafficked as a family.

“It was as if a light shone on an incident in 1980. Mid-year two girls arrived at our school with a woman who claimed to be their aunt.  I was told that they had recently arrived in Australia and the mother could not leave her new job. All my efforts to contact their mother failed. One evening three days before Christmas I spotted the older girl working as a prostitute on the street near our school,” Joan said. “I didn’t know about human trafficking in those days, but after going to my first ACRATH meeting everything I heard then threw light on this incident. I sat there at that meeting and wondered how many people were like me, not knowing about things that were happening in plain sight. I knew it was important to join others in raising awareness about this issue.”

Joan has made good on her promise. In 15 years as an ACRATH volunteer she has spoken to groups in schools, Australian Catholic University, parishes, deanery group, inter church gatherings, senior citizens clubs, Probus clubs and many other places. She has volunteered thousands of hours and has spread the word to thousands of people.

Joan is one of the 110 ACRATH volunteers nationally who contributed 8588 volunteer hours in 2019 (COVID19 limited presentations in schools in 2020 so we’re quoting pre-COVID statistics). She is keen to resume her work speaking face-to-face with people about human trafficking, forced marriage and forced labour.

“If you don’t know about human trafficking then you can’t do anything about it. But once you find out about human trafficking it is hard to do nothing.”

Joan’s years as a teacher, principal and pastoral associate have given her an insight into how to ‘reach’ an audience.  She particularly enjoys her work in schools, doing presentations on human trafficking for secondary students.

“Young people are so justice orientated – it is their response which really keeps me going after all these years. I spent seven months working with IPA at the UN and that always interests them. Students are very keen to hear about the global picture and the sustainable development goals and how it is all relevant and connected,” Joan said. “One of the things I always emphasise to young people is that they have the greater power to do something about modern day slavery because of their buying power and their social media connections. I tell them that they can make a greater difference than older people. It is their time”.

ACRATH thanks all our wonderful volunteers who work in many areas including awareness raising through presentations, developing education resources, political advocacy, companionship to trafficked people, fundraising and many other ways.

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