‘I spent 3½ years photo-documenting enslaved prostitutes in Cambodia – Vietnamese women who were trafficked across the border.
‘These women were being raped repeatedly. One of the women’s wrists was covered in suicide marks and she was one of the women who knew what she was going in to. The state of mind, the cultural beliefs that are engrained in to these women or young girls, I can’t grasp it. It was a big hurdle for me to get over and I realised I can’t; it’s not a hurdle for me to jump.
‘I was back in Sydney and got an email from the NGO I’d been working with over there saying the raid had been performed and the women had been rescued as a result of my work. Up until that point, I had very little faith in what was happening from the NGO point of view. I got the impression that they were only investigating the shacks (brothels) while I was over there. Unfortunately it took a 9 year old child’s presence in that brothel to perform the rescue. Human trafficking is illegal and the police knew there were women in there that had been trafficked. I asked them what it took to perform a raid and the Cambodian police said to me they had a thousand other brothels like this one, why should they choose this one?
‘This whole experience has definitely challenged me. I had to see two psychiatrists while I was away. It centred me a lot as a person but it’s made me sad. I’ll never forget those women – especially the first girl I photographed – she was crying and curled up in a foetal position.
‘I feel proud now about what I’ve done – knowing that the 9 year old girl is now being educated and the NGO will give her a job when she finishes school as they will with the other women that were rescued in the raid. It’s a breaking of the chain. When the girl grows up, her children will then know they can get an education and get a job.
‘One of my favourite quotes is, “Every waterfall starts with a drop of water”. If I can help someone or inspire someone to do what I did or help in some way, I know I’ve succeeded.’