First nations advocate takes her place on the world stage

Griffith University international relations alumnus Sasha Purcell is the recipient of a prestigious Fulbright Award.

Human rights lawyer Sasha Purcell (Whaleboat) is one step closer to realising her dream of advocating for her people at the United Nations – winning a Fulbright scholarship to study a Master of Laws at New York University.

Griffith alumnus Sasha Purcell at the United Nations in Geneva

The proud Torres Strait Islander and Griffith University alumnus will pursue her passion for human rights and social justice on the world stage, after receiving a prestigious Fulbright award earlier this year.

“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 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.

“It was a really valuable degree, and it was a stepping stone to the world I’m in now,” she said.

“I’m really proud to be a graduate of Griffith University – it set me up in life to excel and achieve my dreams.

Griffith University Vice Chancellor and President Professor Carolyn Evans with Sasha Purcell

“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.”

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

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

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