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Giving a voice to the vulnerable

The true impact of war – it’s toll on mothers, fathers, sons and daughters – often goes unreported in the mainstream media. Our 24hr headlines and sound bites report events but don’t tell the human stories behind those events.

Australian photojournalist, Tracey Shelton, wants people in Australia and around the world to do all they can to support people affected by conflict. And she believes that the best way to inspire them to act is to tell the human stories of people caught up in these devastating situations.

Tracey Shelton Image Frame

Tracey faces daily dangers in order to give a voice to vulnerable people. Most recently, she travelled to Iraq, risking her own life to help those fleeing the Islamic State (IS) to share their stories.

Brutal captors

A 15-year-old girl, named Sara*, had considered giving up on her life many times during her monthlong ordeal with IS. The old man she had been given to as a ‘gift’ beat her frequently. He taunted her with videos of Islamic State militants beheading her neighbours. He even drew blood from her arm to make her weak so she couldn’t fight back.

Sitting in a makeshift camp for the displaced outside Duhok, Sara told Tracey, “They didn’t feed us much. I used to pass out a lot, but I would make trouble for him as much as possible and fight when I could. Many times I thought of giving up but I kept thinking of my family and my brother. I lived only for them.”

Sara was fortunate enough to escape her captors when skirmishes between IS fighters and the Kurdish army gave her and a few others a chance to run away.

Tracey met Sara in August last year while on a freelance assignment for Act for Peace’s partner in Iraq, Christian Aid. She felt it was her responsibility to share her story with the world.

Tracey believes that if Australians could meet Sara through images and video they would want to help. Tracey returned to Australia to share not only Sara’s story but many other heartbreaking first hand accounts of families and communities ravaged by war and living in fear of IS.

A tough choice

As an award winning freelance photojournalist, Tracey has made the tough choice to turn away from a relatively safe career reporting on domestic issues for Australia’s leading media outlets. Instead Tracey has decided to risk her life overseas to report in some of the world’s worst conflict situations. She believes it is a choice that needed to be made in order to share the stories of those who often remain voiceless.

Tracey was once tied up and brutally beaten in her hotel room in Benghazi, Libya, during an attempted kidnapping. She is well aware of the persistent dangers facing journalists. Even with the ongoing risks associated with her job, Tracey says it’s her responsibility to do all that she can to tell the stories that need to be shared.

Since returning to Australia, Tracey says it’s not the news cycle that drives her but the need to bring some humanity to war. Her reports on the situation in Iraq have had a tremendous impact on how people have viewed the conflict. By bringing a face and a voice to vulnerable people she has helped Australians connect with the situation and be inspired to help.

At least 39 journalists are currently missing around the world. Sixty-three cases of kidnapping were reported in 2013 alone.

* Names have been changed for safety reasons

Acting for Peace in Iraq

In July you responded to the crisis in Iraq generously and with compassion and continued to show your support to those fleeing violence.

Since then you have raised over $64,000 for the appeal. Thank you. Through our partner on the ground, Christian Aid, you have helped to provide food parcels, clothing, hygiene kits, blankets, psychosocial support and cooking sets. Two refugee camps have been established in Erbil and Dohuk and with your help we are providing a safe environment and much needed shelter to displaced families who have escaped from the persecution of IS.

Find out more or to give to the Iraq Crisis appeal here

Iraq Crisis Appeal

More ways to take action

Remember someone in need through the Christmas Bowl.

By giving a monthly gift, you can help bring safety, justice and dignity to people around the world who have fled from conflict and natural disasters.

Give a gift that will make a lasting difference.