What you need to know about modern slavery

What you need to know about modern slavery

This article is an overall guide to the problem of modern slavery, with some links and helpful resources. Insights will update it semi-regularly with additional sources.

According to Anti-slavery Australia, a specialist legal practice, research and policy centre committed to the abolition of modern slavery in Australia, today, 40.3 million people around the world live in modern slavery.

But what exactly is meant by “modern slavery”? It’s an umbrella term that is used to describe human trafficking, slavery and slavery-like practices. Modern slavery persists today because of several reasons, like poverty, discrimination and marginalisation, civil disruption and armed conflict and weak rule of law, among others.

Unfortunately, against all odds, modern Slavery is happening in Australia. backpackers, international students, asylum seekers and migrants on limited working visas are more vulnerable cause they may not know their rights. Almost half of the cases have to do with forced marriage, followed by labour and sexual exploitation.

The same organisation writes that “In Australia, only one in five victims of slavery are identified. That means that 80 percent of victims do not get the support they need and remain in slavery”

In Australia, efforts to tackle modern slavery have been debated, with critics suggesting that more needs to be done. On 16 June 2020, Daniel Hurst wrote in The Guardian that “Australia’s efforts to tackle modern slavery are at risk of being thrown off course because the government’s newly appointed expert panel is dominated by business interests, according to campaigners and legal advocates […] The group – set up to advise the government on how it implements the new modern slavery laws – has five permanent members. These are the Australian Chamber of Commerce and Industry, the Australian Industry Group, the Business Council of Australia, the Law Council of Australia, and the Global Compact Network Australia – a network that brings together companies and other groups that have signed up to the UN’s corporate sustainability initiative. Unions and civil society groups are not represented”.

Two years ago, The Australian government signed the Modern Slavery Act 2018, that requires Australia’s largest businesses, with annual consolidated revenue of more than $100m, to publish annual statements on the steps they are taking to address modern slavery in their supply chains and operations. The legislation will be reviewed next year, to see if and how it’s working.

Helpful links

The Australian Catholic Anti-slavery Network (ACAN) released the 2019/2020 Annual report Eradication of Modern Slavery. 30/07/2020.

ABC News released a report from the University of NSW and UTS regarding International students facing ‘perfect storm’ of exploitation, and coronavirus could make it worse. 30/06/2020.

Uniting is addressing modern slavery in accordance with the Federal Government’s Modern Slavery Act 2018. This statement outlines the steps taken during FY2018/19 to assess and address modern slavery risks within Uniting and their supply chains, and their plans for review and improvement.

SBS have a comprehensive guide to Australian history and slavery here.

A number of organisations and coalitions are already working to advocate for, and build, a slavery-free future.

Project Didi Australia, works with partners in Nepal and Australia, to support futures of hope, dignity and independence for survivors of trafficking and abuse.

Be Slavery Free is a coalition of civil society, community and other organisations working to prevent, abolish, and disrupt modern slavery.

To find out more about the current situation in Australia, understand what its all about, the signs and how to face them go to Anti-Slavery Australia.

 For free online training and other learning resources go to Anti-Slavery Australia training and advisory.  


1 thought on “What you need to know about modern slavery”

  1. I’d suggest that readers check out the background the Modern Slavery Act a bit more than has been done in this short article. There’s a lot more to be said. I disagree that Australia’s response is at risk of being derailed because business people have been appointed to advise on the Act. The focus of the Act is, after all, on requiring businesses to take action to address slavery in their supply chains. So it’s appropriate for business to be the advisers to the Government on that.
    I also know that the investment community – which played a key role in bringing the Act to fruition – will continue to pressure the corporate world into tackling the issue. UFS, our industry body RIAA and our equity investment partners have been and will continue to be engaged with this process. It’s definitely not ‘being thrown off course’. Google the name “Mans Carlsson-Sweeny” and you’ll see just how engaged with this issue one of our friends and leading investment people has been.

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