A life dedicated to the abolition of slavery
Compassionate, humble and tenacious are just three of the words colleagues use to describe lawyer and migration agent, Jo Pugsley.
Jo, who works for Anti-Slavery Australia (ASA), has a strong commitment to human rights and has dedicated her life to the abolition of human trafficking and slavery both in Australia and internationally.
“She represents women and girls at their most vulnerable,” said ASA Director, Jennifer Burn.
“This incudes Australian girls taken from the country for forced marriage, women forced into domestic servitude and women trafficked to Australia for slavery purposes.”
While slavery has been illegal in Australia since 1824, offences are still occurring today, often under the radar, which is exactly why the work of Jo and ASA is so vital.
ASA is a specialist legal research and policy centre, located in the UTS Faculty of Law, dedicated to the abolition of human trafficking, slavery and slavery-like practices such as forced labour and forced marriage.
The centre engages in active research and high-level policy development and performs a significant role in raising community awareness of all forms of trafficking and slavery in Australia.
Their legal team, which includes both Jo and Jennifer, provides representation to trafficked and enslaved men, women and children.
While Jo has become an invaluable part of the ASA team, she actually began her career in a completely different field.
Jo started her professional life as an investment accountant at Macquarie Bank, before her passion for human rights saw her enrol as a mature-age student in the UTS Law degree.
In the final year of her degree, Jo reached out to ASA where she completed her own practical legal training. From there she went on to work for commercial law firms, the Immigration Advice and Rights Centre and the Refugee Advice and Casework Service, before eventually returning to ASA.
The impact of Jo’s work is far reaching, going beyond just those who she represents.
A law enforcement officer who worked with her said, “Jo’s ability to connect with vulnerable women with compassion and humility, combined with her tenacity in pursing all available legal and migration protections and outcomes is unparalleled. She has played a fundamental role in transforming the lives of many women and their families and helping them safely reintegrate into society.”
ASA also offers practical legal training and placement opportunities for law students. One of the students said of Jo’s influence, “She taught me the importance of perseverance and strength through adversity, as well as the importance of pushing through and continuing to fight for those that need a fighter, even when dealing with your own challenges.”
“Jo Pugsley’s rigorous attention to the law and advocacy for clients has changed the way that human trafficking and slavery is perceived in Australia,” said Jennifer Burn.
“In collaboration with ASA, Jo has contributed to the recognition that modern slavery is a significant human rights abuse that takes place in local Australian communities and internationally. Her dedication to ensuring that women and girls have access to justice and are fully protected before the law has been of extraordinary benefit to individuals affected and to the broader community.”
In 2018, Jo received the ‘Jo Wilton Memorial Award for Women’ at the UTS Human Rights Awards for her work in this space.