First Nations lawyer has a global ambition

First Nations human rights lawyer Sasha Purcell (Whaleboat) has taken a step closer to fulfilling her dream of advocating for her people at the United Nations.

Ms Purcell, a proud Torres Strait Islander and Griffith University alumnus, is featured in the Griffith University publication Griffith News this week, where she speaks of her plan to pursue her passion for human rights and social justice by using a Fullbright Scholarship she earned to study a Master of Laws at New York University.

Sasha is a member of the Queensland Law Society Reconciliation First Nations Action Committee – advocating for reconciliation and advancement of First Nations communities.

“My goal is to work for the United Nations advocating for Indigenous people, including the Torres Strait Island people,” she said. “I want to ensure a just and equitable future for Indigenous communities and help put my people on the map.”

Sasha Purcell at the United Nations in Geneva.

Sasha was invited to speak at the United Nations in Geneva last year – presenting at the 12th ‘Expert Mechanism on the Rights of Indigenous People’ (EMRIP) on the issue of climate change in the Torres Strait as a delegate of the United Nations Association of Australia (Queensland).

“Torres Strait Islanders are a minority within a minority, and one of my biggest drives is ensuring that we don’t become displaced people in our own country,” she said. “Climate change has caused drinkable water shortages, exposed sacred burial sites and decreased traditional ocean, plant and animal resources in the Torres Strait, and these issues threaten to exacerbate economic, social and health inequalities.”

Sasha’s journey to becoming an international advocate began at Griffith University, where she studied a Bachelor of International Relations.

“I’m still a part of the Griffith community – the Vice Chancellor is also a Fulbright scholar and she has reached out to me and become a wonderful mentor,” she said.

After graduating from Griffith, Sasha studied law and was admitted to practice in Queensland, New South Wales and the High Court of Australia, and worked as a police prosecutor and child protection lawyer.

She was the founding Secretary of Pride in Law in 2017 – Australia’s first independent not-for-profit networking association designed to bring together members of the LGBTIQ+ legal profession.

The high-achieving alumnus has also been awarded the Roberta Sykes Academic Scholarship and the American Australian Association Aurora Scholarship.

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