News Release … June xxx 2009

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					News Release … June 16 2009

Good Shepherd in Australia Pledges To Strengthen Anti-Trafficking Networks
Good Shepherd‟s Social Justice Network in Australia has called on religious orders and community groups to strengthen anti-trafficking networks worldwide and to support those fighting against human trafficking in poor countries, particularly in Asia. Christine Carolan, Executive Officer of the Good Shepherd Social Justice Office in Melbourne, said a greater understanding of the issues around trafficking, and the enormity of the problem, may prompt groups to help resource those who are tackling the problem. Christine has just returned from a trip to India where she worked with Good Shepherd and Loreto Sisters, and lay people, who are trying to provide services for trafficked girls and women as well as working to stop the trafficking of children as young as eight. “Good Shepherd is committed to strengthening networks in the Asia-Pacific area in order to help people who are fighting this terrible human rights abuse, often with very limited funds and resources,” Christine said. Good Shepherd helped found, and now „houses‟ the Victorian branch of the Australian Catholic Religious Against Human Trafficking (ACRATH) group which was established in 2005 to combat the problem in Australia. The group has developed a strong network of religious congregations within Australia who are committed to the fight against trafficking of humans. Christine said most anti-trafficking workers in countries like India (where it is anticipated thousands of girls are trafficked each year) had little money and were keen to forge links with anti-trafficking organizations in Australia and call on whatever resources could be used. She visited several places in India where Good Shepherd Sisters are running shelters and schools for trafficked children as well as trying to stop the inhumane practice. In Andra Pradesh in India, Christine visited a shelter, Karunalayam, run by Good Shepherd Sister Aruna George. The shelter offers a home, education, and health care to more than 60 girls who have been trafficked or for child brides who have been abandoned. The girls are picked up around the city and brought to the shelter for care and to hopefully be returned to their families, with support from social workers at the shelter.

“Aruna is running the shelter, managing schools in other villages for children who have been rescued from child labour situations, as well as many other tasks. At the same time she is trying to find money to keep the shelter going and working to prevent more „at risk‟ children being trafficked,” Christine said. “As a global community we need to support anti-traffickers like Aruna because we have financial resources and she does not. Aruna has extraordinary knowledge and insights into how her country works, but she needs our support to continue.” Christine also traveled to the north of India where she met with Loreto sisters and other NGO workers who provide support to young women who have been trafficked for domestic labour within India as well as to other Asian countries. Christine worked with the group to establish links with the international STOP THE TRAFFIK campaign that is also operating in Australia. In Siliguri, a town in northern India near Darjiling, Christine became familiar with the stories of many young girls and women, including the following two cases. Case 1: „Maya‟, a young Nepali woman with a husband and young baby, decided that she would accept an agent‟s offer of going overseas to make a lot of money. She ended up working for a family in Singapore, was paid no money for long hours and treated very badly. Maya found the Good Shepherd sisters in Singapore and their support centre for migrant and trafficked labourers. After three months the young woman was safely repatriated. Without the strong advocacy of workers at the Mary Ward (founder of the Loreto Sisters) Development Centre in Siliguri, and the support of the Good Shepherds in Singapore, the story could have had a very different outcome. “Maya‟s story illustrates the importance of collaborating and what a difference it can make to someone‟s life,” Christine said. Case 2: „Julianna‟ was enticed to go and work for three months during the summer holidays by someone she knew from her village in India. Her parents let her go because the person taking her said she could go and earn enough money in three months to pay for her studies when she returned. However, Julianna did not return and nobody was able to contact the agent or the child. She was 16 or 17 years old. This case came to the Mary Ward Development Centre (MWDC) and, with the help of someone from another NGO who does rescue work, they were able to track her down. Julianna was brought back home with about 500 IRs (AUS $17) in her pocket after having worked for about nine months. She had experienced very tough working conditions in Delhi. She was not given her own food; she had to eat the leftover food from the plates of the family where she worked. She came back in such a bad state, dirty, with lice in her hair and marks all over her body, maybe from some kind of skin disease. Most significantly, she had been trapped in the house in Delhi; she could not get home.

After Julianna was found and brought back from Delhi, a family friend said, „her body has come home, but her soul has not.‟ “As international citizens I think we have a great capacity to support each other by sharing knowledge, practices and resources,” Christine said. “Examples include the „warning‟ brochures and booklets that Good Shepherd developed for women working in „high risk‟ areas in Thailand, which could be modified and used by anti-trafficking campaigners around the world. Importantly, money could be provided by Australian organizations to support fledgling anti-trafficking groups in poor countries.” “But our work does not end with financial assistance to other anti trafficking groups,” Christine said. “We need to work as an international movement to stop human trafficking.”

Interviews Christine is available for interviews. Please contact her on: M: 0427 302 755 T: 03 9421 6873 OR Contact Rosie Hoban on 03 9481 8943