The Australia Director at Human Rights Watch shares her experiences defending human rights – from human trafficking in Nepal to the 'drug war' in the Philippines to treatment of detainees in Papua New Guinea and in Australia – offering an extremely involving personal account of how far we’ve come, and how far we’ve got to go.
Growing up in Perth, Elaine Pearson always dreamt of the wider world. Her British father and Singaporean-Chinese mother meant that her family extended beyond our shores, but it wasn’t until later in life that she fully understood how her professional calling might have been influenced by personal history: she learned that her beloved maternal grandmother had been sold to an opera troupe as a child to save the family from starvation.
As soon as she could, Elaine 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.
Elaine Pearson is a writer and human rights activist. She is the Asia Director of Human Rights Watch, overseeing the work of the division in more than 20 countries. She has worked for Human Rights Watch since 2007 in New York and Sydney and conducted human rights investigations around the globe. She was Human Rights Watch’s inaugural Australia Director from 2013–2022. Elaine 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. Prior to Human Rights Watch, Elaine worked for the United Nations and non-governmental organisations in Bangkok, Hong Kong, Kathmandu and London.
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. Elaine holds degrees in law and arts from Murdoch University and obtained her Master's degree in public policy at Princeton University's School of Public and International Affairs. She lives and works on Gadigal land in Sydney.
Publisher: Scribner Australia (September 7, 2022)
Length: 384 pages
Raves and Reviews
‘Few in Australia have the vast practical experience, courage and unflappable purpose in championing human rights than Elaine Pearson. In this book, her iron belief in the basic rights of all, our shared humanity and a vision for a more equal world is buttressed by real stories at the intersection between not just rights or otherwise, but sometimes life or death.’
– Craig Foster AM
'Elaine Pearson has a long history of struggling for people oppressed around the world while working in several human rights organisations, most notably Human Rights Watch. This book Chasing Wrongs and Rights gives us an opportunity to explore intersecting systems of oppression that operate in various parts of the world. With a wealth of experience, the writer opens our eyes to the intimate effects of such systems as she interweaves her own personal narrative through the text. Challenging and revealing, this book is as an important offering to young activists to come.'
– Behrouz Boochani, Author of No Friend But the Mountains
'Elaine Pearson is hope and justice personified. Her powerful story reminds each and every one of us there is always something we can do, and always more to be done.'
– Fran Kelly
'Refreshingly honest, captivating, funny, heartbreaking, illuminating and educational all at once. Everyone who values human rights should read this book. Everyone who dreams of, or cares about faraway places should read this book. Everyone else should read this book too.'
– Vicky Xu
'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
'Many young people (even lawyers) dream of tackling some of the local and global challenges described in this book. For Elaine Pearson, every day brings new challenges which she meets with endless reserves of energy, embodying the motto: “Never give up".'