The Australian Border Force (ABF) leads the whole-of-government response to modern slavery, working in close partnership with the Australian Federal Police (AFP) and other government agencies, and collaborating with international partners, civil society, business, unions and academia.
Today is World Day Against Trafficking in Persons. This year’s theme, Victims’ Voices Lead the Way, highlights the importance of listening to and learning from victims and survivors.
In Australia, the term ‘modern slavery’ refers to a range of serious exploitative practices, including human trafficking, slavery, slavery-like practices, and the worst forms of child labour. While each of these practices are distinct, they all involve the manipulation of complex relationships between an offender and a victim, and undermine a victim’s personal freedom and ability to make choices for themselves.
Australia is committed to a future where the human rights of all people are valued equally and no one is subjected to modern slavery. The National Action Plan to Combat Modern Slavery 2020–25 provides the strategic framework for Australia’s response, and is supported by a Government commitment of $10.6 million for implementation. Through the National Action Plan, the Government aims to actively prevent and combat all forms of modern slavery wherever it occurs, while supporting, protecting and empowering victims and survivors.
ABF Group Manager Customs, Vanessa Holben said victims and survivors are at the centre of the Government’s response to modern slavery.
“The Government provides a dedicated Support for Trafficked People Program, and a visa framework that enables suspected victims and survivors of modern slavery to remain lawfully in Australia to receive support and assist with criminal investigations.”
“Our work under the National Action Plan is guided by the principle that the voices of victims and survivors, particularly women and children, inform our responses to modern slavery,” says Ms Holben. “We look forward to developing a Victim and Survivor Engagement and Empowerment Strategy to further embed victims’ and survivors’ voices.”
Other key aspects of the Government’s response include a new multi-year grant program to fund projects and research to combat modern slavery in Australia, and the implementation of Australia’s Modern Slavery Act 2018 to drive positive change by holding businesses publicly accountable for their actions to address modern slavery in their global supply chains.
AFP Assistant Commissioner Northern Command Lesa Gale said human trafficking is happening right here in Australia in 2021.
“Human trafficking, debt bondage, servitude and other forms of exploitation and slavery are not a thing of the past that only happen on the TV, it happens right here in our own backyard, often in plain sight.
“People subjected to human trafficking and slavery like offences suffer the most heinous treatment including; physical, psychological and sexual assaults, deprivation of food, money and breaches of basic human rights and freedoms.”
“Due to the actions of the AFP and our partners thirty people have been convicted of human trafficking offences in Australia since the criminalisation of human trafficking and slavery like practices in 2014,” Assistant Commissioner Gale said.
Between July 2020 and June 2021, 224 suspected instances of modern slavery were reported to the AFP. This included 79 reports of forced marriage, 42 reports of sexual exploitation and 35 cases of forced labour. Twelve of these reports involved children.
However, research estimates that for every victim and survivor detected in Australia, four remain undetected.
The general public has an important role to play in combating modern slavery. If you suspect that you or another person is experiencing, or at risk of, these serious crimes, you can use the AFP’s confidential online form to report this: https://forms.afp.gov.au/online_forms/human_trafficking_form.
If you have immediate concerns for your safety, the safety of another person, or there is an emergency, dial Triple Zero (000).
Learn more about the red flags (known as indicators), which could suggest the occurrence of modern slavery, on the AFP’s website: https://www.afp.gov.au/what-we-do/crime-types/human-trafficking/human-trafficking-slavery-indicators.