KASAMA Vol. 17 No. 4 / October-November-December 2003 / Solidarity Philippines Australia Network


Human Rights Print Media Award

Wednesday, 10 December 2003

A series of articles on the sex trafficking trade in Australia by Natalie O'Brien and Elisabeth Wynhausen from The Australian newspaper has been described by judges as 'a standout winner' in this year's Human Rights Print Media Award. The Human Rights and Equal Opportunity Commission presented the award to the journalists for their groundbreaking work in promoting and protecting human rights in Australia at a ceremony in Sydney today.

It began in March this year with the inquest into the death of a young Thai woman inside Sydney's Villawood Detention Centre. Her case prompted a series of news reports by O'Brien and Wynhausen which aimed to reveal the extent and nature of sex slavery in Australia; expose the lack of official action over sex slave traffickers; and, in the process, to highlight the gross human rights abuses suffered by the trafficked women and girls.

The O'Brien-Wynhausen disclosures soon revealed that the Thai woman was one of many trafficked into Australia every year for the sex industry. They wrote more than 35 stories on sex trafficking issues over six months in The Australian from March to September 2003.

The judges chose this entry for 'the writers' tenacity, for staying with it when all others had given up ... and above all for the result ... it placed increased pressure on the government and led to a change in laws'.

This year the Print Media entries covered a range of topics, including self determination and Indigenous issues, asylum seekers and refugees, people with disabilities and the trade of sex trafficking. Judges highly commended Russell Skelton from The Age for his article I hate Australia, I am not a criminal, I have done nothing wrong, which featured in-depth interviews with detainees from Baxter Detention Centre in Port Augusta and detailed the traumatic effects of immigration detention on children.

From: Project Respect [
URL: ]

Sent: Wednesday, 10 December 2003 6:20 PM

Congratulations to Elisabeth Wynhausen and Natalie O'Brien for winning this year's HREOC Print Media Award. Elisabeth and Natalie played an absolutely key role in raising awareness in Australia about trafficking. The recent government anti-trafficking package would not have happened without them.

HREOC highlighted Elisabeth and Natalie's tenacity. In our experience at Project Respect, Elisabeth and Natalie have also shown unwavering commitment to ethical journalism. They demonstrate that it is possible to report on trafficking and prostitution without reinforcing old, destructive stereotypes and exploiting the women involved.

Project Respect salutes them.

Kathleen Maltzahn, Founding Director, Project Respect