Nurses have a role in protecting victims of human trafficking

For every one victim of human trafficking and modern slavery in Australia, another four go undetected.[1] Nurses are on the front line and can potentially help identify and protect vulnerable people who are being exploited and harmed.

Today the Australian College of Nursing is releasing its Human Trafficking Position Statement in a bid to raise awareness of what tonight’s ABC Four Corners program called the “staggering scale of modern slavery across the world” and help protect victims here in Australia.

It is estimated that as many as 1,900 people were the victim of human trafficking and slavery in Australia in 2015-16 and 2016-17. Individuals from Asia, particularly Thailand, Korea, the Philippines and Malaysia are primarily targeted for human trafficking into Australia (APF 2020).

“Nurses play a key role in detecting and protecting victims and vulnerable populations from human trafficking. As frontline health care workers, nurses in the acute and primary health care settings are well placed to identify signs in suspected human trafficking,” Australian College of Nursing CEO, Adjunct Professor Kylie Ward FACN said.

“More so, nurses have a duty of care to protect suspected victims of human trafficking and to report to the authorities.”

The ACN Human Trafficking Position Statement provides nurses with key indicators which will alert them to potential victims enabling nurses to provide safe advice and sensitively support people they believe may be victims of human trafficking.

“Nurses are advocates for their patients and this means they speak up and help those who are victims of abuse,” Adjunct Professor Ward said. “Nurses must be supported in this role and therefore ACN believes nurses should be provided with appropriate professional development to enable them to recognise and report human trafficking. The Australian College of Nursing would welcome working with governments and key stakeholders to develop and provide access to education that addresses the specific health, mental well-being, cultural, and social needs of vulnerable populations to prevent human trafficking.”

[1] Australian Institute of Criminology Statistical Bulletin 16, February 2019: Estimating the dark figure of human trafficking and slavery victimisation in Australia, Samantha Lyneham, Christopher Dowling and Samantha Bricknell.

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