In conversation with Elaine Pearson

Elaine Pearson will be in conversation with Helen Watchirs on Elaine's new book, Chasing Wrongs and Rights, in which the Australia Director at Human Rights Watch shares her experiences defending human rights. Pearson, ranging across human trafficking in Nepal to the 'drug war' in the Philippines to treatment of detainees in Papua New Guinea and in Australia, offers an extremely involving personal account of how far we've come, and how far we've got to go.

Elaine, in her career, followed her interest in women's rights and people-trafficking, interviewing sex-workers and victims of trafficking on the streets of Bangkok and Amsterdam's red light district. Her experiences in Nepal and Nigeria profoundly shaped her understanding of how governments and NGOs need to protect the rights of victims, as well as how poverty, corruption and war drive trafficking in the first place.

Elaine's story takes us on a panoramic survey of human rights across the world - into the UN committee rooms of New York and Geneva, as well as to the front-lines of Sri Lanka's search for those who disappeared in the country's civil war, examining death squad killings on the Philippines island of Mindanao and the detention of asylum seekers in Papua New Guinea. And her work on the appalling treatment of prisoners, many of whom are Aboriginal, vividly demonstrates that human rights abuses are something that happens at home as well as out in that wider world.

In exploring human rights abuses and governments' failure to address them, Chasing Wrongs and Rights sometimes shows humanity at its worst. Just as often, though, we see people at their best - compassionate, resilient, determined. Deeply informative and inspiring, Elaine Pearson's story will leave you understanding how much needs to change, and how individuals can make a difference.

'Important and inspiring. Essential reading for those who want to help, because it illuminates the courage, commitment and collegiality needed for working towards a better world.'- Geoffrey Robertson QC AO

Elaine Pearson is the Australia Director at Human Rights Watch, based in Sydney. She established Human Rights Watch's Australia office in 2013 and works to influence Australian foreign and domestic policies in order to give them a human rights dimension. Pearson writes frequently for a range of publications and her articles have appeared in the Guardian, the Sydney Morning Herald, The Australian, Foreign Policy and the Washington Post. From 2007 to 2012 she was the Deputy Director of Human Rights Watch's Asia Division based in New York. She is an adjunct lecturer in law at the University of New South Wales, on the advisory committee of UNSW's Australian Human Rights Institute and on the board of the Global Alliance Against Traffic in Women.

Dr Helen Watchirs, OAM, is President of the Australian Capital Territory Human Rights Commission, and Human Rights Commissioner since 2004. Helen was ACT Senior Woman of Year in 2020. In 2010 she was awarded the Order of Australia Medal for service to the advancement of human rights.

Kim Rubenstein,  Professor in the Faculty of Business Government and Law and Academic Director of the 50/50 by 2030 Foundation at the University of Canberra, will give the vote of thanks.

This event is in association with Harry Hartog Bookshop. Books will be available for purchase on the evening at the Harry Hartog stand in the Cultural Centre foyer. Pre-event book signings will be available from 5.30pm, and available again after the event.

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