The
Inspiration
Project

WITH BRENDAN CORR

GUEST Sally Irwin

Episode 15

Sally Irwin: Episode Summary

On this episode of ‘The Inspiration Project’, Brendan Corr talks to Sally Irwin about global slavery, setting up The Freedom Hub and finding God in her 30s.

Among other things Sally shares:

  • Her transition from botox and ball gowns to fighting slavery.
  • What modern day slavery in Australia looks like.
  • The pros and cons of the Modern Slavery Act.
  • How to spot slavery in your neighbourhood.
  • How the birth of Sally’s daughter led her to Christ.
  • Breaking the stronghold of the money idol in her life.
  • The way God prepared Sally for starting The Freedom Hub.
  • Struggling through the challenges of a global pandemic.

Sally Irwin: Episode Transcript

Sponsor Announcement
This podcast is sponsored by Australian Christian College, a network of schools committed to student wellbeing, character development and academic improvement.

Introduction
Welcome to The Inspiration Project where well-known Christians share their stories to inspire young people in their faith and life. Here’s your host, Brendan Corr.

Brendan Corr
Good morning everybody. Welcome to another episode of The Inspiration Project podcast. Hope that you’re enjoying the conversations we’ve been having with these leading people of faith as they work their ministry into everyday life. This morning, I’m delighted to be able to welcome Sally Irwin. Sally is a young woman who has entered the heady world of business but with a particular bent. In 2014, Sally commenced or started The Freedom Hub, a company that was dedicated to ethics and the eradication of modern slavery. Things happened fairly quickly for that business and in 2017, Sally was nominated as one of the top 50 business leaders. And in 2019, The Freedom Hub won the Sydney region, New South Wales Business Chambers Award for social enterprise. Sally, the particular area that you have dedicated or had the focus of your business, is in the area of ending modern slavery. Can I ask, for a young lady entering business, what was it that attracted you to that particular cause?

Sally Irwin
First of all I have to say, I love the fact that you’re calling me a young lady. I appreciate that very much. I don’t feel that young right now. So, what made me pick that course is the fact that I had spent some time in Europe. And I had been working for four years as a volunteer on the frontline, in a little needle exchange where girls had been sex trafficked out of Eastern Europe, into Berlin, in Germany. And it was a pretty confronting, life changing, scary, horrible situation. That I spent four years really feeling like I had no impact or very little impact. Felt hopeless, felt there’s got to be something I can do to change this. And I honestly thought that for the rest of my life, that’s what I would be doing. No more corporate world or business world for me. And I was all set for that because I just couldn’t feel being an Australian, with any female in the world not being able to have freedom of choice and being stuck in the circumstances that badly.

Brendan Corr
So Sally, it was a first hand experience of witnessing the devastation of lives that this issue brought you? But many people would have that encounter and not be propelled to do anything. What was the drive, you say “I’ve got to do something”?

Sally Irwin
Well, the drive for me was finding out it was happening in Australia, really.

Brendan Corr
Really?

Sally Irwin
Sorry, just the initial drive was because… There were a lot of reasons actually, it was a combination of a number of things. First of all, we were diplomats. So we were living in a very wealthy situation, we were doing cocktail parties every night. And as a Christian from Australia I was like, hang on God, I’m not here for four years to drink cocktails and talk about botox and ball gowns every day. There’s got to be a reason I’m here. So that was me looking for something to do. Then I chose the issue of human trafficking because I heard about that from my daughter, who was in Christian school, a Christian school here in Australia. And she had been confronted by slavery, by a World Vision presentation at her school before we left. So she was like “Did you know slavery’s happening?” And really alerted it to me as an issue. And then certainly, I knew that we were on the border of… Berlin’s very Eastern European. So I knew that we were in an area that had poverty and was a high risk area. So I really did go looking, specifically for something that would help women. And I also, being a diplomat’s wife, I was all day shopping with women, faced with all kinds of faiths and nationalities. And I thought there’s got to be something that I could rally them to feel that they could be giving money towards. And then finally, my own sister back here in Australia, had contracted leukaemia and potentially was dying. She survived, thankfully. I’ve got to say that because when I get into stories I get to mention that. But the fact that I was confronted with that, as well. I realised that I just couldn’t do nothing while I was in Europe for four years. When people in Australia… The GFC happened, people are losing their job. My sister was sick, I just knew I had to do something with a cause. So I literally went looking for a cause and chose modern slavery for the reason that really, women can help women. I thought I could make a big difference. I couldn’t because I was a diplomat’s wife and I was a foreigner in another country. You can’t lobby with ambassadors from countries that were causing the problem or the offending countries. They’re sitting at our dinner table, I couldn’t really offend them. And so I was bound in many many ways, not to be able to do as much as I would have liked to have. But when I came to Australia and found out slavery was happening here, I realised okay, game on now. It’s my language, I can lobby, I can make a difference. And why should this be happening in Australia? Why? We’ve got border control, we’re an island. We don’t have the extreme poverty that we saw in Eastern Europe. We don’t have the organised gangs and crimes that we see in Eastern Europe and all these countries that are controlling modern day slavery. So I just thought this should not be happening in “the lucky country”, the fair go, the country that I grew up in. This is ridiculous. Now I can actually do something. So there’s a lot of drivers and that’s a nutshell over a four year journey I’ve just given you.

Brendan Corr
Yeah. So that all led to the commencement of The Freedom Hub as a business enterprise.

Sally Irwin
Yeah.

Brendan Corr
Yeah.

Sally Irwin
It started as a charity. It started as me running the Survivor School, for survivors of slavery in our country. To try and help them get back on their feet.

Brendan Corr
Right, so the school came first.

Sally Irwin
It was later that I thought of a business to fund it.

Brendan Corr
Yeah, that’s good. I think some of us will know from a distance, that this terrible, despicable practise of human trafficking and modern slavery happens in other parts of the world. And we might have views of dark, dingy buildings and set parts of cities where the trade is practised. What does it look like in Australia?

Sally Irwin
Right. Well in a Australia, it’s well hidden. That’s the first problem that we have. A lot of it’s in domestic labour. So it’s hidden in au pairs or nannies. It’s hidden in the kitchen, the restaurant. Cleaners at night in high rise buildings. Backpackers or people on farms harvesting fruit. Mining, building. It’s a very hidden crime. It’s in every single industry, the forced labour is one of our biggest areas. And also forced marriage is also another area where young girls who’ve grown up in Australia, who are being forced into a marriage to fit in with their parents’ culture. So those are our biggest. Sex trafficking is still very real, what I experienced in Germany. However, it’s probably as low as 35 to 40% here. And really, it’s very hard to know even that because it’s so well hidden in statistics are not really forthcoming, people are not putting their hands up. They don’t even know they’re in slavery. They’ve come over here or they’ve ended up in our country and then got tricked and lied to. And they think well, this is what it’s like back home. Why would I think it’s any different here? They don’t have any English skills, so they prescribe to another system that’s controlling them. So it’s difficult to really paint the picture but the official figure’s 15,000 people in Australia. I would suggest that’s grossly underestimated. I think there’s a lot more than that.

Brendan Corr
Sally, you mentioned that sometimes the people suffering from this situation don’t realise, they wouldn’t put a label on it the way we do. Does the definitions of what is right, what is ethical, what is fair… Is that something that is justifiably different in different parts of the world or for different people?

Sally Irwin
Yes. Australia’s the first country in the world to define modern day slavery. In a Recent Modern Slavery Act came the end of 2018. So we’ve actually defined exactly what it means. It is a very big and long paper. Which, I’m not a lawyer and I’m not even going to try to attempt to define it legally. Sally’s definition of slavery versus exploitation is that exploitation is I’m accepting $5 an hour from you and I can walk out the door and get on with my life if I’m not happy with that. Someone in slavery has lost their freedom. They usually cannot leave their situation without the fear or threat of death to themselves or to someone in their family. And it may just be how it’s perceived, it may not be a real threat. It may be see, they see that this is going to happen and it’s believable. I even know of an Australian survivor, who hasn’t come from another country. Her controller just had to show her a photo of her grandma at her house. And this young girl was fearful and believed that this person, without even saying a word… Because he knew where her grandma lived. She was never going to not do whatever he said. And that was the young girl who was tricked and forced into sex slavery up in Queensland. So for a foreigner or someone who’s a migrant, who’s come here to work or to improve their skills at university or for whatever reason they’re coming for. They’ve all come here legally. They have no idea that we have human rights, that we have Fair Work Australia, that we have award wages. They don’t know these things and they’re very easily convinced and supported by people, often from their own culture. Or from a similar culture, whereby there’s no human rights in that country. And so they believe what they’re told and they end up in a very vulnerable situation.

Brendan Corr
So the issue of these horrendous scenarios that you’re mapping and the realisation that some of the life that we enjoy in Australia, the ready availability of our fruit in our supermarkets, may be the result of some people experiencing terrible conditions, unethical conditions. What’s your perception about the change in people’s awareness or their commitment or their interest in the backstory of the life that they are enjoying and their responsibility for what that backstory means? Has that changed over recent years?

Sally Irwin
So, yes. I think the Modern Slavery Act is a great first step in that. A lot of people are critical of it because it really is talking about supply chains overseas. But the fact that it’s got conversations happening and it’s forcing businesses to look at their supply chain. Yes, the businesses that must comply are large companies and they are to audit the risk in their supply chain overseas. But even within Australia, if they’re a large company, they must audit all their supply chains. So what it’s doing is, it means that all the smaller businesses that supply those large businesses must start thinking about their supply chain. But even if you speak to just the big companies, not only do they have to audit their supply chain but they’re also responsible for making sure that’s rolled out through their company. So therefore, everybody in their company, the hundreds and thousands of people they employ are hearing of that slavery exists. And therefore, it’s raising the issue. It’s a conversational thing that’s been happening in Australia. So it’s really really helping. Like I said, the last year, I managed to train over 400 businesses in modern day slavery. And I don’t know that I would have had that opportunity if there wasn’t an act coming out. It opens the door for most of us in this area to either go into businesses and say, “What are you doing to make sure the girl on reception is buying the ethical chocolate?” It’s someone who’s reading. “What are you doing to make sure she’s thinking about whether that chocolate’s ethical or not?” Whether it’s been sourced correctly or not. So it’s actually opened up the conversation, it’s given the media something to report on. And they’re doing a lot of reporting. I just think that’s going to really change the awareness level.

Brendan Corr
Yeah, yeah. So one of the possible follow on from that Sally, which I’ll just ask your thoughts on is Modern Slavery Act comes in, it’s applicable to big business. They now need to take responsibility for checking supply chains and sourcing products. Does that mean that the everyday Joe and Jill don’t have to worry about it any longer? Is it just well, we can leave it to the big companies to get sorted?

Sally Irwin
No. No, I think the big companies are going to really change the way certain businesses operate and then just the way we trade in both overseas and here. But it’s still very much up to the everyday household person to identify people who have been victims in their neighbourhood. Because there is no task force, no one running out raiding houses and looking for cleaners or au pairs or whatever. A lot of people are identified because a neighbour or somebody who said, “Hey look, my neighbours have had a cleaner there for the last two years and I’ve never seen that person outside.” We’ve got survivors of slavery that have been identified that way. Or that cleaner or that domestic helper has actually been outside and managed to slip a note or say something to someone. It takes a brave Australian who wants to see the right thing done or ask the question, that makes the call to the Federal Police. They’re the people that have really helped a lot of our survivors be identified. Particularly in forced labour.

Brendan Corr
So it’s interesting because while you’re dealing at a systemic level, with the structures and the institutions, you’re also recognising the importance of the personal. The individual taking notice, taking care of what’s going on around them.

Sally Irwin
Yeah, yeah. So even in car washes, there are many in car washes. There are girls in nail salons and massage parlours. If someone doesn’t actually go, this person is not looking happy about what… In sex trafficking we’ve even had men who’ve come out of the brothel and said “That girl didn’t want to be doing that.” It’s the Australian going, this isn’t right. This person’s not happy in this job. They look like they’re in trouble. And they’ve actually highlighted that, it’s actually really helped the Federal Police. They then go in and start to investigate and look and watch. Yeah, it is definitely the average person as well.

Brendan Corr
That’s fantastic.

Sally Irwin
You’ve probably seen the poster at the airports, with forced marriage as well.

Brendan Corr
Yeah.

Sally Irwin
There’s a lot of young girls out there that have no idea what to do. They aren’t in a situation where they’ve been to an Australian school and they’ve reached the age of 16 and they’re told they’re not going to go to uni like their friends. They’re going to have to be a wife for the rest of their life. Who do they tell? They don’t want to put their parents on the stand, they’re not going to go to the police. Who do they talk to? So it’s their friends and their neighbours and their school mates. Those are the people that need to go, this person’s looking more and more depressed and they’re talking about an overseas trip soon. I’m a bit suspicious what’s going on. So that really does help.

Brendan Corr
There’s a bit of a tendency in the Western culture that Australia is part of, to mind your own business, not to cause a fuss. Just to keep those sorts of things to yourself. Is that a changed norm that we need to encourage people to get beyond Sally, do you think?

Sally Irwin
Probably, I think when it comes to people that are in prostitution or they’re under suspicion of it, yeah. Yeah.

Brendan Corr
Sally, you mentioned that you grew up or your daughter was in a Christian school and that was the first point in which you became aware that this was a field of life. Can I ask you what role has your personal Christian beliefs had in this becoming important for you?

Sally Irwin
Yeah, I would say because I did grow up in a church-going family, doesn’t mean we were actually active Christians. But I was dragged to church every Sunday of the year. I know biblically, that the seed was definitely planted. I certainly rebelled against that for many years. I didn’t actually become a Christian until I was in my 30’s. But even when I look back through my later teenage and my career days, I can see that I was always naturally wanting to help people who seemed to be either bullied or persecuted. I even had a Barnardo’s child in my 20’s. I’ve just always had that rescue capacity within me, I suppose. Of course, I had to pay for all the rescue because you’re not really rescuing anybody. People have to choose to be rescued. It’s more just a helping hand. So that’s always been within me. I’ve just never really understood why until I guess, I became a Christian. And as I said, being overseas and being completely out of the Christian world and forced into this incredibly… Just a world I never ever thought I’d be in. With people that just live for themselves, it really highlighted that in me. It really made me go okay God, there’s got to be purpose to this. You wouldn’t send me overseas and rescue us from a GFC and put me in this place if there wasn’t some purpose. And so I did really, actively go looking for that purpose. So I’d say yeah, my Christian faith led me to what I’m doing.

Brendan Corr
That’s good.

Sally Irwin
I’ve deliberately not set up a Christian organisation. I’ve deliberately set up a different sort of business. Because I really want everybody to be able to do something about this crime. I think it’s very disabling to read or learn about such a horrible crime these days. But not just this crime, anything. You feel disabled when you see what’s going on in Africa or you see what’s going on in some countries. And it’s that disability that I think desensitises people.

Brendan Corr
I was going to say hearing your conversation, you were a Christian when you went across as a diplomat to Europe.

Sally Irwin
Yeah.

Brendan Corr
What I’m hearing is that it was a part of the contrast of the life that was part of that role.

Sally Irwin
Yeah.

Brendan Corr
And your inner life of faith and spirituality.

Sally Irwin
Yeah.

Brendan Corr
That was in contrast. Can I ask you, how did you become a Christian? How did you discover that deeper life of faith and spirituality within you?

Sally Irwin
Well interestingly, my daughter before she was born or as she was was born, led me to the Lord. She was six weeks early and it’d been quite a long struggle. I had been a high powered, very selfish… Just like all those diplomatic women, I had been very high powered, money driven, career driven, executive for Myers Australia. Anyway, yeah and I was pregnant and my daughter came six weeks early and probably it was that. It really was that that led me to the Lord because I hadn’t prayed for many years. I was self sufficient. I could do and control anything that was going on in my life and this was out of my control. I was looking at this baby and she was blue and I didn’t think she’d live.

Brendan Corr
Really?

Sally Irwin
And I sat there going, “this isn’t how the world’s meant to be”. And yeah, I can look back and see I was driven by the Holy Spirit. I didn’t even know what the Holy Spirit was then. I can now look back and see that I was called to prayer. And I just prayed out to God, where are you? And really sensed the where have you been? I’m here sort of thing. And in a very different life, I didn’t know God and I didn’t know Christ, as a friend. I just knew God from my Sunday school days. I didn’t know Him personally. So I found that I just sat there negotiating, really. I’ll go to church forever, I’ll be in ministry forever. I’ll be a nun if you want me to be. It was this prayer of just save my baby. Oh and one of those days, just before that prayer, I had thought I know, if I touch her and hold her and she knows I’m here, she’ll be okay. And I opened up the crib door and touched her. And all these alarms went off, her heart rate was crazy. Nurses and doctors came from everywhere and told me I wasn’t allowed to touch her. And that’s when I went, this isn’t right, I should be able to touch my baby. God, where are you? Why aren’t you here? And so the prayer happened. As soon as I said that prayer, even though it was all wrong, with regards to me wanting to be a nun or do whatever. It was definitely a prayer of I will give up my life for her and it was genuine in my heart. And I had the biggest sense of peace and within a minute, I opened up that door and put my hand in and touched her again. And not a single alarm went off. So I witnessed my own miracle.

Brendan Corr
That’s amazing.

Sally Irwin
Yeah, I didn’t believe in miracles before. But I just sat there and I literally felt… Now I say what it was, I felt like it was the Holy Spirit passing through me into her.

Brendan Corr
Wow.

Sally Irwin
I just felt this life go into her. I didn’t have words for that but I certainly didn’t tell my husband or anybody because I thought they’d lock me up as a crazy. But at the time, I just knew that it was God.

Brendan Corr
Wow.

Sally Irwin
I just knew that she had been saved by Him. So I felt very obliged then and had to go to church. And started my Christian faith. Because then I found the Bible and realised all those Bible stories that I’d learned in Sunday school were real. And so it went from there really. Yeah, it was my daughter. So she’s been quite an impact on my life.

Brendan Corr
Indeed. It seems as though these confronting experiences are something that God, whether you’re conscious of it or not, introduces at the key moments when He’s revealing His purpose for you.

Sally Irwin
Yeah, exactly. Yeah, yeah.

Brendan Corr
So you had this encounter, there’s no experienced Christian leading you into the Sinner’s Prayer or point of repentance?

Sally Irwin
No, no.

Brendan Corr
It was a one on one encounter.

Sally Irwin
It was me in an emergency room. Yeah, 100%.

Brendan Corr
Wow. I don’t want to put words in your mouth but it must give you a tremendous sense of confidence in the reality of what your faith is. When it’s so undeniably direct between you and God.

Sally Irwin
Well, yeah it really was. Of course, I had to understand what I just happened to see. So I was also in the game to see and trying to find that out. So I threw myself into studies and reading the Bible and learning the Bible and doing a theology degree. I just threw myself at knowing everything I could. I did everything wrong in regards to every friend having to be converted on the spot. I lost a lot of friends because I was so busy trying to help everybody understand that there’s God out there that can change their lives. And yeah, it was a very interesting time. My husband was an atheist. He was like “Absolutely, you’ve gone mad.” and it took a lot of prayer to get him across the line. But fortunately, he followed fairly quickly himself.

Brendan Corr
That’s fantastic.

Sally Irwin
But he was definitely led through an amazing Christian man who had been an atheist himself and had the same sort of education. It was just the perfect person to lead him through what he was going with. I was all about faith stuff and he was more about the Bible. Is it real? How do we know it’s real? What’s the evidence?

Brendan Corr
Work it through, yeah.

Sally Irwin
Yeah, he had to work it through. Yeah.

Brendan Corr
So you’re a high powered executive in a very significant company in Australia, you have this encounter and become a person of faith. What change did it bring in the next weeks, months, years to how you were going about life?

Sally Irwin
Well, everything changed because, you can probably tell my husband’s in the defence force, so we got posted to the UK within about three or four years of that. And it was in the UK that we went to a Church of England, church that was charismatic. And it was a church that was running the Alpha course and so we threw ourselves into that. Because we were one of few Evangelists really, we wanted everybody to know. And it was really there that I discovered the Holy Spirit, I’d probably say. I discovered that all I’d been through and these things are possible, that God’s love feels safe, that God does miracles today and uses his voice today. So that was the beginning of our Alpha journey. Came back to Australia and launched the Survivor School and it’s been 15 years nearly. And I’m doing a ministry with Gibb around Australia. And so Gibb, yeah he is pastor and doing youth work. So it changed me completely. I never went back to a career.

Brendan Corr
That’s the point at which you were captured by something else. Something bigger than business. Something more than profit.

Sally Irwin
Yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah. Yeah but in my mind, I’d also promised God that I would never work for money again. Money was my idol. Before, when I was in Myers it was whatever it took. If you’ve seen The Devil Wears Prada, you’ve got a bit of an idea about what life was like in the buying office of Myers, it was pretty full on. It was all about money, career. Yeah, I decided I was moving out towards money again and I resolved that because it was my stronghold, it was my idol. Yeah, so I never have. I’ve never gone away from this place. So I just make sure I… Yeah, I stuffed it up really. Even though I went into that promising it wouldn’t be the wrong reasons, I know that that was a lie.

Brendan Corr
Yeah, I hear what you’re saying. And yet Sally, in the reality of that, the truth of your commitment not to let business become the dominating thing in your life, you have chosen to use business.

Sally Irwin
Yes, yeah.

Brendan Corr
The other way.

Sally Irwin
I guess one of the things, you can’t take the race heart out of the girl. I spent the rest of my life travelling the world, following my husband around. But wherever I went, I was always watching retailers, always looking. Knowing how they’re doing. With my business, I do this but I’ve studied it and longed for it. But I’ve always longed for being able to do a business for good. Because the business world in the late ‘80’s, ‘90’s was pretty corrupt. It wasn’t transparent and there was a lot of lying and a lot of greed and it was all about profit, not people. So I’ve always had that longing as well. Which of course now, I can look back on life and go, well of course, God gives you the desires of your heart because that’s why that longing was there. But I always thought, wouldn’t it be great if you could run a business and use the money for good? So it was really probably, six months into The Freedom Hub Survivor School that I just thought… I’m like, I can’t keep fundraising as a charity, this is crazy, it’s hard hard work. But I also really believe that the next generation don’t want to give like our generation did.

Brendan Corr
Yes.

Sally Irwin
They want to be part of the change.

Brendan Corr
Yes.

Sally Irwin
They want to do things to change the world. So going with the charity model was never really something that I wanted to continue doing. So setting up a bit of hospitality, even though I had no experience in it, thinking it would be easy. And of course, it’s the hardest thing I’ve ever done. It’s got very low margins and it’s really tricky. But people honestly think one cup of coffee’s changing the world but I actually would rather that. I’d rather have a person in my coffee shop with the right intentions to have a cup of coffee. Believing that they’re doing good because they are doing good. But learning and hearing about this issue of modern day slavery and aligning with our cause. So that was the beginning of The Freedom Hub cafe. And the cafe in Sydney is a big warehouse. And thankfully, it’s bigger than I could’ve seen. It’s turned into an event venue for weddings and bar mitzvahs.

Brendan Corr
How marvellous.

Sally Irwin
Corporate… Yeah, so that’s really where the money comes. Not from the cup of coffee. But I would still love that people can come and have a coffee. Our coffee rehabilitated child soldiers. Rescues and rehabilitates child soldiers. And then when we serve it, all the profits are divided there.

Brendan Corr
That’s awesome.

Sally Irwin
So the coffee has a story in itself. So that’s great but yeah, weddings and events is the big thing.

Brendan Corr
Yeah, that’s good. And your commitment to this has moved into helping other businesses adopt or learn about ethical practices?

Sally Irwin
Yeah, so when I started I had three main points. First of all, was to end slavery in Australia. Second was to help victims of slavery recover and the third, was to partner in the fight to end global slavery. Because obviously, I had been part of that overseas. I never foresaw the Modern Slavery Act. I really saw that partnership more being about me being on ground levels and lobbying the government. And being part of the change in our country and what importance that would have overseas. So when the modern slavery… When that started to look more like something, I was obviously part of helping with the lobbying of that and very active with that. And still am, I’m still getting invited in by the government to talk about how to roll it out and stuff, with the consultations. And I’m on a number of boards that help with businesses rolling it out overseas. But the thing is, I never foresaw that and so that’s been my Esther moment, “for such a time as this”. I really think that now, with my experience overseas, the fact that I was even a national procurement manager… I was in buying for Myers Australia. So it’s as if all the things of my past had all come together for this time. I’ve got experience identifying and working with victims of slavery. I know where to find it, I know how to be in business. I’ve been making sure my own supply chains offer a small business and have been ethical for the last five years. So I’ve been active in that area and so I thought, why not? So yeah, I’ve set up a bigger business and we’re doing as much consulting and helping as I can of small business and other businesses. Because 40.3 million people in the world in slavery minimum, 75% of them are in Asia Pacific.

Brendan Corr
Yeah right.

Sally Irwin
So suddenly as Australian businesses, we can impact global slavery dramatically. So I’m extremely passionate about seeing our businesses think about what they’re doing in Asia Pacific.

Brendan Corr
Yeah, it’s almost like God had a plan for you, Sally.

Sally Irwin
Yeah, fancy that!

Brendan Corr
To take you through these different backgrounds and then bring you to a point where it all falls into place and it maps out. I wanted to ask you very quickly, it appears on paper as though The Freedom Hub had a very overnight success. Started in 2014 and within years, held up as a prominent success story. Do you believe in overnight success?

Sally Irwin
No, if you saw what was going on in our books right now. There’s a thing called a pandemic going on and all my funding is gone. So I’m back to the charity model. I’m literally running round trying to write grants. It takes a crisis like this to really help you see, first of all, the fault. With a perfect model in a perfect world but of course… It did grow quickly, I’ll give you that. But as a result, it was just a supernatural growth where I wasn’t thinking about our foundation. And now, with one part of the funding falling over, I’m at risk of losing the whole ship. And I’ve got over 60 survivors in my care. So I am literally running around now trying to fund as much as I possibly can provide. And now, I can see that I need to talk to lawyers and we need to restructure so that we can have all different entities. So if one goes down, it doesn’t actually impact the whole ship. So that’s the situation I’m in right now. It’s really scary and I think there’s a lot of Australians that are in that boat right now. It’s a scary time for all of us. But because of the miracles and the things and the drive and the purpose that I think I have in my life, I’ve got peace. I really believe that it’ll work out somehow. And it’s that situation you reach where you have to go, I cannot do anymore. I can’t do anymore, I’ve applied for the grant. I’ve applied for what the government’s offering. I’ve applied for everything, I’ll just sit back and see what happens. That’s where I think Christians have a hope but I don’t know how people without… I don’t know how they’re coping. People that have a business and they’ve got their houses tied up. I don’t know how they’re coping and I feel a lot of fear out there right now. And so, yeah. Yes, we did grow quickly but it’s not a stable success.

Brendan Corr
Sure. I think regardless of any period of history, I think there’s a number of organisations feeling similar pressure as you are. But I also take your testimony Sally, that you’ve seen miracle after miracle. In fact, your life story is itself an expression of a miracle.

Sally Irwin
Yeah.

Brendan Corr
And your business is working miracle after miracle, in the lives of those that you are helping to rescue and set free from difficulty and oppression and slavery and exploitation. And so, with a life that is littered with examples of miracle, I’m sure that we want to pray with you that The Freedom Hub will experience it’s own miracle of provision. And being sustained and continue to be successful and effective in the work that God’s called you to do through that.

Sally Irwin
Thank you, yeah.

Brendan Corr
We’ve reached the end of our time allocation, Sally. Is there anything that as somebody who’s walked a walk and seen a lot things and has a hope for a better future, any last words that you might want to leave with any of our listeners? As they’re starting to think about what life might hold for them.

Sally Irwin
Oh look, gosh I think hope’s the big thing. It always has been for me, there’s always hope. I’ve always been a glass half full person. But when you’ve got the power of God behind you and you’re walking in a desire that He has given you. You’re not just trying to power on your own strength. I really believe that He will use you in your capacity. And increase your capacity with more than you could ever imagine yourself. I never thought I could do the things that I’ve been doing. Never had the qualifications or sought after any of this. It’s just been going day by day, month by month. And doing what I believe I’m called to do. And as a result, as you called it, the overnight success has happened but it has been many many many years of getting there. And learning and never giving up hope.

Brendan Corr
Yeah that’s great.

Sally Irwin
Yeah.

Brendan Corr
Sally Irwin, thank you so much for all that you’re doing for the people that need the help that your company, your organisation is giving.

Sally Irwin
Thank you.

Brendan Corr
Thank you for the inspiration that you are providing to the rest of us about the difference that we can make together. And for speaking to us about the hope that we have, together in the future.

Sally Irwin
No problem, thank you for having me. It was great.

Brendan Corr
God bless you.

About Sally Irwin

Sally Irwin founded The Freedom Hub in 2014, a business dedicated to ending modern slavery in Australia. Sally is committed to raising awareness of modern slavery, helping people escape the injustice of slavery, rehabilitating people who have survived slavery and inviting others to help fight this crime. With over 10 years experience working with survivors of human trafficking in Australia and Europe, Sally has expanded The Freedom Hub to include a survivor school for victims of slavery, an ethical cafe and event venue and ethical business services. In 2017 Inside Small Business listed Sally as one of Australia's Top 50 Small Business Leaders.

Photo of Brendan Corr

About Brendan Corr

Originally a Secondary Science Teacher, Brendan is a graduate of UTS, Deakin and Regent College, Canada. While Deputy Principal at Pacific Hills for 12 years, Brendan also led the NSW Christian Schools Australia registration system. Brendan’s faith is grounded in a personal relationship with Jesus Christ and a deep knowledge of God’s Word. Married for over 30 years, Brendan and Kim have 4 adult children. On the weekends, Brendan enjoys cycling (but he enjoys coffee with his mates afterwards slightly more).