Modern slavery expert makes global news

07 Aug, 2020

New Zealand’s first conviction for modern slavery has generated a whirlwind of international media activity for one of the Law School’s most recently appointed academics.

Dr Natalia Szablewska joined the Law School in November last year as a specialist in international human rights and modern slavery. She brings to AUT 17 years of legal research, advocacy and on-the-ground experience in the UK, Russia, Cambodia, Australia and her native Poland.

Last month, Joseph Auga Matamata was sentenced to 11 years in prison and reparations of NZ$180,000 for human trafficking and modern slavery. For more than two decades, he brought workers from Samoa to Hastings on false promises of employment, income and a better life.

Natalia’s expertise has enabled her to shine an evidence-based light on a topic little-known or understood in New Zealand. Through a range of interviews with The Guardian, Radio New Zealand, Newstalk ZB, TVNZ and CNN, Natalia shared important analysis of the case and examined the wider issues of modern slavery in this country.

Thanks to AUT’s strong links with the New Zealand public media, as well as support received from AUT media training and the faculty’s Communications Manager, Natalia was able to seize the opportunities for nationwide public engagement. She says she’s been amazed by the response to her interviews.

“There have been a number of outreaches, from the general public to the industry representatives. I am hoping it will now generate sufficient public support for the government to strengthen the legal aspects of preventing modern slavery, including considering a modern slavery act for New Zealand.”

For Natalia, the act of “translating” her scholarship into real world impact is fundamental to her work as an academic. From informing government policy and influencing industry practice, to educating businesses and empowering individuals, Natalia is keen to explore the raft of opportunities created by the powerful mix of research, translation and amplification.

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