Sisters For Sale

Posted March 03

The search

Scroll down to see the most recent posts, or click here to see the complete list of blog entries. For her protection, all media links with M's name and image have been temporarily removed.

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Posted April 13

Since my work against human trafficking began four years ago, there has been a high level of uncertainty in my life.

I didn't know what had happened to my kidnapped friends, or how to find them. 

I didn't know what would happen to my friends - or their children - after I found them. 

I didn't know if I would be able to continue my work, or complete the documentary, at all. 

I didn't have the equipment I needed, and didn't even have enough funds left to live in my own country. 

Now - for the first time in four years - I have certainty, and continuity. I have the time and funds needed to finish 'Sisters For Sale'. 

It has made an incredible difference to be living a simple, clean life on a steady rhythm. 

To wake up in the same place every day, and have a good idea of what the day holds in store. 

To have a sense of control, to be making this documentary out of something more than desperation. 

To be able to listen to the rhythm of the story, not just the ticking of the clock. 

I still spend far too much time on the computer, but now it's a choice. 

There are many people who know me as a nomad, a risk-taker, a perpetual wanderer. 

They might be surprised to know how easily I've slipped into a more stable life, a comfortable cycle of editing, writing, and reading. 

'Sisters For Sale' is progressing even better than I'd hoped, as it grows ever longer and gains new depth. It's right on time, too - on schedule for September. 

In about six weeks, I expect to have a complete edit of the documentary, and will start collaborating with the rest of the team to finish the sound, colours, music and animations. 

You might not hear from me until then. That's a good thing. 


In 2015, Belinda Bauer - one of the world's best crime writers - released 'The Shut Eye', a novel inspired by our work in Vietnam. 

'The Shut Eye' was shortlisted for the prestigious Golden Dagger - an award Belinda has won previously - competing against both Stephen King and J.K. Rowling. 

I've finally had a chance to get my hands on a copy, and it's not hard to see why Belinda's recognised as one of the best in the game. 

Knowing the inspiration for the book, I thought I had an unfair advantage - and Belinda still managed to fool me at every turn. 

If you've been following our work and are looking for some weekend reading, I'm sure you'll enjoy it!

To keep up with all the news on 'Sisters For Sale' and 'The Human, Earth Project', subscribe here

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Beyond the waves

Posted February 24

This week marks not one but three milestones. 

On Tuesday I shared a birthday with 'The Human, Earth Project', now in its fifth year, so this - my 200th blog post - seems like a good moment to pause for reflection. 

I was fortunate enough to have been born and raised in a safe, comfortable home where my basic needs were all met. That's an easy thing to take for granted, when you've never known anything else. 

Five years ago, my life fell apart in ways I never imagined possible. All at once, I found myself without money, a job, a home or friends in a city where I couldn't even speak the language. 

What followed were the most difficult months of my life. An experience like that can teach you a lot - about the world, about others, and about yourself. 

You'll learn to separate the things you need from the things you merely want, and learn to recognise the things that are truly important to you. You'll learn just how strong you can be, and how much you're capable of. 

Four years ago, I launched 'The Human, Earth Project' to raise awareness of human trafficking, and to help people in situations far more desperate than my own. 

In a sense, by pushing me back into the world, this work also became part of my own healing. I was hurled back into the current of humanity, not knowing where it would take me. 

So where has it taken me? 

To plunge into that current of humanity is to open yourself to the full spectrum of human emotion. 

There is a popular belief that we human beings are fundamentally kind and caring creatures, willing to use what power and privilege we have to help those less fortunate than ourselves. 

In many cases, that's true, and it certainly makes us feel good - but it leaves so much of the story untold. 

Working against human trafficking has exposed me to the most hideous parts of humanity, the horrendous cruelty and suffering we inflict on one another to get ahead. 

For my efforts to share a difficult, complex but vital message, I've received both praise and blame from around the globe. 

I've been accused of, and occasionally congratulated for, all kinds of things I've never done. I've been lifted by applause, and struck down by heartless attacks. 

I've witnessed outpourings of incredible kindness and generosity from complete strangers. I've felt envy and misguided anger from those who understand neither my work, nor the struggle and sacrifice behind it. 

There was a time that I kept a close eye on each of those waves as they came rolling in, monitoring traffic to the Project's website and social media, carefully handling each response. I rode the crests, and sank into the troughs. 

As the years pass, however, the individual waves no longer seem so important. I see them now as fast but meaningless oscillations, tiny pieces of a much larger pattern. 

Somewhere beyond those voices of praise and blame are the ones I'm doing this for, and they don't have voices. 

I understand that I'm here for the long haul, and - though I'll never see the final results of my work - I'm going to keep pushing forward. 

I understand that there will always be detractors, people incapable of believing in the goodness of others. 

Me, I need that belief to continue, so I'm going to focus more on the positives. 

I'm not going to waste my time worrying about the waves, when the tide rises more gradually. 


The CNN Freedom Project reaches huge international audiences in their efforts to raise awareness of the global human trafficking crisis. 

Yesterday they began sharing a short film on my own work, both online and via their international TV network. 

You can check it out here - I'd like to thank Stephen Roberts, Kerstin Raitl, Annalena Moritz and 'Explain-It' for making it possible!

To keep up with all the news on 'Sisters For Sale' and 'The Human, Earth Project', subscribe here

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Posted February 03

Some of you haven't heard from me in three months, and I apologise. 

A technical glitch has prevented delivery of news via the mailing list. You'll have missed some interviews, my year-end reflection, and my new year's resolution

Today I'll be looking at where 'The Human, Earth Project' stands, where it has come from, and where it's going, for those of you who have been following and supporting the project. 

Behind the scenes

Over the past four years, 'The Human, Earth Project' has been incredibly flexible. 

At times, there have been a dozen or more people working with me on the project. They come with particular skill sets for particular tasks - be it filmmaking, coding, communications, or whatever - and when their work is done, they disappear. 

With the 2016 fundraising campaign behind and a long edit ahead, the project has returned to its original state: just me. For the next four months I'll be immersing myself in vast seas of sound and vision, working alone to complete the rough cut of our feature documentary, 'Sisters For Sale'. 

(Well, that's not quite the whole story: there are a few exciting things happening behind the scenes, but it's too early to share those just yet!)

When the rough cut is finished, I'll be bringing together a team of professionals to help finish the music, sound, colours and animations for the film, which is on schedule for completion in September. 

A year in review

Since the very beginning of 'The Human, Earth Project' four years ago, I've been keeping a close watch on my finances, to minimise expenses and continue my work against human trafficking for as long as possible. 

Last January, I began collecting more detailed information, keeping a close watch not only on how I spent money, but I how I spent my time, so that I can keep making that work as effective as possible. 

This January, for the first time, I had a chance to review my 2016 data. 

For me, 2016 was a year split in half, dominated first by post-production on 'Sisters For Sale' - researching, scripting, editing, creating graphics and animations - then by our overwhelmingly successful fundraising campaign, which involved a huge amount of preparation and promotion. 

My work expenses were lower in 2016 than in any other year, by a significant margin - less than half those of 2014. (2017 is expected to be much more expensive, however, as I purchase additional equipment and software, and bring together a team to complete 'Sisters For Sale'). 

As dull as it might sound, sifting through the data has been of great benefit in helping me to identify where time and money is best spent, and where it is not, to make plans and allocate resources going forwards. 

This blog is one example. While still a useful means of updating existing supporters, writing this blog can be very time-consuming, and has never been a highly effective way of raising awareness of my work. 

Last year I wrote 36 blog posts for this project. At an average of 3.5 hours per post, that's three full working weeks. I'll be blogging less frequently this year, and using my time in more effective ways. 

Reaching millions

The overarching purpose of my work is raising awareness of the global human trafficking crisis. 

Our feature documentary 'Sisters For Sale' will be the key channel for raising awareness - but it is not the only one. Sharing our story via traditional and digital media can also be extremely effective. 

Last year, our story reached the front pages of Imgur (four times) and Reddit (twice). It was shared by major news sources, including VICE

According to Imgur, our story reached six million people via their site alone, in a period of just two months. Our most popular Imgur post continues to rise, currently standing as their 29th most popular post ever, from over a billion posts. 

It's worth taking a moment to recall that 'The Human, Earth Project' started with a single human being and a seemingly impossible idea. It has been kept alive by a little luck, a lot of persistence, and the support of countless individuals around the world. 

Don't ever let them tell you that one person can't make a difference. And, hey - you're one person. 

Going the extra mile

I'm grateful to each and every one of you who have helped keep this dream alive by contributing to my work, and by helping to spread our message. 

I'm overwhelmed by those of you who have gone the extra mile, using your energy and initiative to raise funds on behalf of 'The Human, Earth Project'. 

There's Carola Irvine, who rallied her family and friends in the Netherlands to support our 2014 fundraising campaign;  Suzie Hanlan, who raised money by teaching yoga classes in Alaska; and This Is Water, who ran a one-day yoga event in Malaysia in December. 

And of course, there's Myste Laquinta, whose search for more intelligent uses of social media brought countless thousands to our cause, made her the true heroine of our 2016 fundraising campaign, and embarrassed us all by making it look easy.

My mother Susan reached out to family, friends, and many of her contacts within the Girl Guides, with whom she has volunteered for 20 years. One of her guide leaders, Sammantha Mavin, organised a fundraising trivia night on our behalf with her group. 

Most recently, I've been deeply grateful to Rita Schaad and her band of "Xmas pudding ladies". For two decades, Rita, Margaret Smith, Susan Callister and other members of the former Lambton/Mayfield Girl Guide Support Group have been making and selling Xmas puddings in my hometown in Australia. 

This December, Rita's group used their work to support my own, which was amazing: Thank you!

A story worth telling

I find it beautiful that 'The Human, Earth Project' seems to have reached a point where it has taken on a life of its own, and no longer needs me to guide it through every step. 

All but one of the fundraising efforts mentioned above were undertaken without my knowledge. Articles have begun appearing promoting my work, written by people I've never spoken to, published on sites I've never heard of. 

While ours is a complex story about a complicated issue, and details can be lost or confused in the re-telling, awareness of the core message is spreading. 

It has proven itself as a story that people want to hear, and want to pass on to others - even before the documentary itself has been completed. 

I'm excited to see where the film itself will take us... 

To keep up with all the news on 'Sisters For Sale', subscribe here

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Posted January 12

Over the past four years, for many people, I've become the human trafficking guy. 

They'll recommend to me the books, films, articles and interviews they find on human trafficking. They'll want to speak about human trafficking when they meet me. 

I've never experienced human trafficking firsthand, and I've never conducted any formal research into the subject - yet I've gone deeper into that world than most people will ever go. 

"Human trafficking" is a neatly clinical term concealing a terrifying world of horror and abuse inflicted upon the most vulnerable members of our societies, and it's a world that few enter willingly. 

As part of my work against human trafficking, I've heard countless stories from victims and survivors. I've read the articles, watched the documentaries, trawled through the statistics. 

It's important work - but it can also be hard, to soak up an endless stream of such horrendous, heartbreaking information. 

It can be hard, knowing that this world exists within our own, knowing just how perverse and pervasive human trafficking is. Knowing that both the traffickers and their victims can be anyone, of any age or gender. 

It can be hard not to feel weighed down by the terrible knowledge of it all, even when life is otherwise going well. It can be hard to see the world the same way, to keep faith and trust in humanity. 

It's a process I've been going through for years now - to take the knowledge I've accumulated and use it as a weapon against human trafficking, without harming myself on the blade. 

To stay positive, to separate these horrors from my immediate reality, to separate the things I can change from those I can't, and to act accordingly. 

Over the past year, the entire Western world seems to have been going through a very similar process. 

Since September 11, we've been riding countless aftershocks of war and terrorism. We've been jolted by environmental catastrophes and economic turmoil. 

For a generation that has never experienced any major depressions or pandemics, nor the brutality of war in our own backyards, it has seemed like turbulent time - yet now the world seems on the brink of something very different. 

The Information Age has become plagued by misinformation. The concepts of freedom and democracy have become meaningless banners. 

Europe seems on the verge of cracking up, with a round of major elections on the horizon. 

The global superpowers of the United States, Russia and China have all violated lesser nations, trampled civil rights, and gotten away clean. This year, all three will be in the hands of powers that are utterly terrifying, with no regard for popular opinion. 

The world seems like a powder keg just waiting for a spark. It no longer seems a question of "if" but "when" - and "what", with new technologies leading us in unfamiliar directions. 

Meanwhile, the state of the planet upon which we depend for survival slips further out of control, and further down our list of short-term priorities. 

Perhaps 2017 will be the year we realise that 2016 wasn't so bad after all. 

In times of fear and uncertainty, it is only human to narrow your field of vision and follow the herd - and herds are notoriously easy to manipulate. 

When the wrong hands are pulling the strings for the wrong reasons, terrible things can happen, and often will. 

It's easy to feel powerless, and overwhelmed by it all. 

It's not easy to keep your balance when the world seems to be spinning out of control. 

It's not easy to pull when everyone else is pushing, to stay quiet when everyone else is screaming, or to speak out when everyone else is silent. 

It's not easy to navigate according your own deeply-held values when everything else seems to be shifting around you. 

Then again, the right thing to do is rarely easy. 

I don't ordinarily make new year's resolutions, but 2017 isn't shaping up to be an ordinary year, so here goes: 

This year, I will breathe deeply, 

I will keep an open mind, 

I will keep smiling,

I will question the sources of information I act upon, 

I will follow my conscience,

and I will not give in to fear. 

...Oh, and this year I'll finish that damn film, too. 

Let's get through this.

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