In Australia, slavery is not a word we think of. It’s easy to take our freedom for granted. So looking around, it would appear like we live in a slave free society. But can modern slavery really exist here?
Most of us probably think of people in chains or the Atlantic slave trade. We think freedom is our right. As a result, we don’t think that slavery can exist in our ‘lucky country’. But surely Modern Slavery cannot be happening right now in Australia. Can it?
In fact, there are at least 15,000 people living in modern slavery in Australia. That is according to the Global Slavery Index.
People may not be restricted by physical chains. But they are held through psychological and financial manipulation.
It can be hard to believe. Especially when it’s something you don’t see around you. But the truth is, modern slavery does happen in Australia and it is hiding in plain sight.
What is Modern Slavery?
Let’s just take a moment to understand the type of slavery happening in Australia today.
Modern slavery refers to some of the worst kinds of exploitation and restriction of freedom. The three main types of modern slavery in Australia are: forced labour, sexual exploitation and forced marriage.
Forced labour is a found in construction, domestic work, agriculture, meat processing, cleaning, hospitality and food service industries.
At particular risk are migrants on temporary work visas. They can be vulnerable to being exploited. Terrible work conditions for minimal or no pay. Debt bondage, language barriers, and a lack of support network can create the exploitation. Also a lack of knowledge about Australian employment laws can have devastating results for these groups.
Sex trafficking and sexual exploitation is one of the most known types of modern slavery. This is a concerning issue in Australia. Women from Asian countries are the most impacted demographic. However, it can impact Australian citizens and other migrants too.
Being forced into a marriage means without free and informed consent. In Australia, most identified cases are children under the age of 18. In 2011-13, over 250 cases of child marriage were identified.
Understanding more about these types of modern slavery makes it easier to see how it can happen. It is much more widespread it is than you may think.
Industry and Supply Chains
Australia doesn’t just have an issue with slavery within our country. We impact global slavery as well. Many imported goods have slavery within their supply chains.
Some of the worst industries are electronics, such as laptops and phones, fashion and apparel. Food can have slavery in the supply chain too, particularly things like fish, rice and chocolate.
What is being done?
Slavery is illegal in Australia. (under the Commonwealth Criminal Code Act 1995). Both forced labour and forced marriage are specifically outlawed. However, laws are not enough to eradicate slavery because it is often something that is hard to find.
Australia has introduced the Modern Slavery Act 2018. This puts obligations on businesses to report on their efforts to avoid modern slavery. So this new law will make a widespread difference in preventing slavery.
Caring for Victims
The Freedom Hub is the only organisation in Australia supporting victims of slavery, long term. Escaping conditions of slavery is only the first step to freedom. It is often a long road to rebuild confidence, stability and financial independence after such a traumatic experience. So a short term program does not meet their long term needs.
The Freedom Hub’s Survivor School
We assist victims of modern slavery to find their feet again. It also helps them achieve their life goals. They have a safe and supportive community around them. There is no end date to the support given to them. So it can be five or ten years later that a negative life event can re trigger emotions and stir up problems.
The Survivor School is partially funded by The Freedom Hub Cafe and event bookings. So the cafe ensures it is fully stocked with ethical slave free supply chains.
What more can I do?
Modern slavery in Australia can seem like an overwhelming issue. It can leave you unsure about how to help. The good news is that there are simple, practical steps you can take right now to make a difference.
The first, is to educate yourself. There are plenty of resources available online for you to learn more about modern slavery and how to recognise it. For example The Anti-Slavery Australia e-learning course is an excellent example.
As a small business owner:
It is also a really good idea to do an anti-slavery training session, such as those run by The Freedom Hub. This will help you to run an ethical business and minimise your business’ contribution to slavery. That’s not just in Australia but around the world.
As a Consumer:
Being aware of where your electronics, clothes and even food comes from can help you make good decisions. You can choose options that don’t have slavery in their supply chains. Resources like the Good On You App and Shop Ethical are a good start. You can also look into food labels such as Fair Trade, which can be a helpful indication for products such as chocolate.
Shopping in The Freedom Hub shop is a great way to be ethical. There are great gift ideas and products. These products not only ensure there is no slavery in them, but 100% of the profits help victims recover. Check out the shop.