A commitment to compassion
Only a person with a big heart is able to give more than is requested of her… she helped so many women get back their dignity, their lives and their humanity.
Anti-Slavery Australia’s Joanne Pugsley has been recognised in the 2018 UTS Human Rights Awards for her sustained contribution to the abolition of human trafficking and slavery both in Australia and internationally.
The Jo Wilton Memorial Award for Women recognises an individual woman or group of women who are working towards improving outcomes for women.
Jo Pugsley began her professional life as an investment accountant at Macquarie Bank but a commitment to human rights led her to enrol as a mature age student in the UTS Law degree.
She completed her Practical Legal Training with the Faculty’s Anti-Slavery Australia Centre (ASA) and went on to work for commercial law firms, the Immigration Advice and Rights Centre and the Refugee Advice and Casework Service before returning to the Centre.
ASA Director, Jennifer Burn says Jo is driven by her deep concern that women and girls have access to justice.
She represents women and girls at their most vulnerable, including Australian girls taken from the country for forced marriage, women forced into domestic servitude and women trafficked to Australia for slavery purposes.
Those who have worked with Jo across a range of organisations have nothing but praise for her professionalism, compassion and commitment.
Caitlin Read from the Australian Red Cross:
Jo has an excellent understanding of the legal, migration and welfare issues impacting women affected by trafficking and/or slavery and through her legal practice she has supported women to access their rights. This has assisted the safe recovery of many women in the local community.
A law enforcement officer who must remain anonymous says she has played a fundamental role in transforming the lives of so many women:
Joanne’s ability to connect with these women with compassion and humility, combined with her tenacity in pursuing all available legal and migration protections and outcomes is unparalleled.
It’s this kind of support which has helped empower some of these women to tell their stories to police and seek justice.
As one of the only specialised modern slavery lawyers in Australia, Joanne has been a voice and legal advocate for some of the most marginalised and vulnerable members of our community.
Unfortunately, Joanne’s physical voice has been silenced in recent months. She has been diagnosed with Motor Neurone Disease which is affecting her vocal chords and now uses a computer to generate speech.
In her recorded acceptance of the Human Rights Award, Jo acknowledged the personal challenges she has faced during the last year but says her work will continue.
I have an underlying interest in the rights of the less privileged and I am inspired by their resilience. There is still so much work to be done.
As one of her students in the Law Faculty says:
She has taught me the importance of perseverance and strength through adversity …. pushing through and continuing to fight for those who need a fighter even when dealing with your own challenges.