The Freedom Hub’s vision is to help rebuild the lives of survivors of slavery in Australia and partner in ending modern slavery around the world. Our founder, Sally Irwin, pioneered a model for social change by building influential “hubs” that fund and impact the issue of slavery in Australia. Each year as awareness grows, our mission expands.
Foundation of change
Sally became a survivor advocate when she lived in Berlin and was made aware of the human trafficking of women and young girls occurring across Eastern Europe. The violence against these women was horrendous and changed her life forever. Upon returning to Australia four years later, she was shocked to find that modern slavery was happening here, too, predominantly by way of forced marriage and exploitative labour.
“Finding out women in Australia could be living with no rights, no freedom of choice and enduring abusive violence was something I could not live with. It kept me awake at night. But, aren’t we supposed to be the ‘lucky country’?” said Sally Irwin.
Sally launched what has now become The Freedom Hub. This registered Australian charity provides an aftercare program for survivors, offering physical and emotional support in the aftermath of their rescue. Most survivors are women who have experienced abuse and violence and lost all their freedoms, including their freedom of choice.
The Freedom Hub Survivor School
The Survivor School is the heart of our organisation. It provides the opportunity for women liberated from indescribable conditions to rebuild their confidence through life-ready courses and puts them in a position to find safe employment.
The Survivor School Program runs various courses that assist with independent living, social engagement and healthy lifestyle development. At the same time, there is also ongoing legal and income support until the procedure is finalised and they are resettled.
The dedication of our partners sees some of them going above and beyond by employing our survivor graduates or offering paid internships, so they can obtain an Australian reference and experience, positioning them further along the road to recovery and independence.
A self-sustainable business model
Raising funds to carry out this work and vision required a social enterprise model that went beyond the usual 10-20% contribution. The Freedom Hub Café became this self-sustainable model. By leveraging the hospitality side of the business, The Freedom Hub can allocate 100% of profits to support the Survivor School and other charity initiatives to raise awareness and end slavery.
In addition to the revenue generated by the Café, it is also a conduit to fighting slavery globally, making sure that all suppliers have assessed the risk of slavery in their supply chain. The Café’s signature Freedom Fighter Coffee comes from a farm that operates as a business but uses its profits to fund the rescuing of child soldiers. The location of this farm must be kept confidential to protect the lives of the people involved in helping these children, along with protecting the continuation of their work. The Café is a great way to get involved with our vision and participate in ending modern slavery.
Outworking the Freedom Hub’s vision through 2021 and 2022
In 2020, we saw a decline in events and café revenue as lockdowns decimated the hospitality industry. It was a year of reflection and recalibration.
In 2021, The Freedom Hub pivoted to an updated model of volunteer hubs, which recruited volunteer ambassadors dedicated to raising awareness by hosting mini fundraisers and empowering local communities and individuals to get involved or donate. This pivot ensured the Survivor School could continue its work in tough times. It also led to Freedom Hub satellite groups emerging all across Australia.
Our ability to pivot and adapt through lockdowns meant that people in our local communities and throughout Australia could still be involved in outworking the Freedom Hub’s vision of helping survivors and ending modern slavery across the country.
Lockdowns lifted, events returned, and we hosted our first Freedom Fair in 2021, with two more in 2022, engaging a network of ethical suppliers who shared their goods with an activated consumer base wanting to direct their dollars towards organisations with no slavery in their supply chain.
In 2022, The Freedom Hub expanded even further. Wanting to re-connect previous corporate relationships and establish new ones, we launched RAMP – the Risk Assessment & Measurement Platform to help large businesses assess the procedures, operations and supply chains of their organisation and suppliers.
We can’t wait to continue this work in 2023 and welcome businesses, ambassadors, volunteers and advocates to join us on this journey.
Written by: Sarah Jane Lamont
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