It is a year ago now that my sister told me about an event that she attended at The Freedom Hub. Within the beautiful venue, enjoying the food and wine, an alarming reality check was also served. That is, modern slavery continues to be rampant around the world, and Australia is no exception. With at least 15,000 victims currently enslaved in a nation we take for granted as free.
The information she passed on stayed with me. So I reached out to the organisation to find out more. Like what is its mission, goals and what the everyday person can do to contribute.
The Freedom Hub’s vision is to help survivors of slavery in Australia rebuild their life for successful independent living. With the wider purpose being to partner in the goal to end modern slavery globally. Is the goal ambitious? Of course. It has to be.
This goal requires a strong foundation and a clear direction. Enter Sally Irwin, Founder of The Freedom Hub, and her mission, which is to pioneer a model for social change by building influential ‘hubs’ that fund and impact the issue of slavery in Australia.
How the Freedom Hub was Established
Sally’s story is an incredible one. Her journey as a survivor advocate began when she lived in Berlin. She became acutely aware of the human trafficking of women and young girls that was occurring across borders of 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. Aren’t we supposed to be the ‘lucky country’ ?” said Sally Irwin
This revelation launched Sally into the vision of what has now become The Freedom Hub goals. It is a registered Australian charity that provides an aftercare program for survivors, offering physical and emotional support in the aftermath of their rescue. Most of the survivors are women who have experienced abuse and violence and lost all their freedoms including choice.
The Freedom Hub Business Model
Raising the funds to carry out this work required an innovative idea. Most social enterprise models give 10-20% to a nominated charity, but The Freedom Hub needed a greater commitment and a more self-sustainable model. This is how The Freedom Hub Café and event venue came to be. Through leveraging the hospitality side of the business, The Freedom Hub is able to 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 in order to protect the lives of the people involved in helping these children, along with protecting the continuation of the work they do.
The Survivor School is where the passion of the organisation shines. It provides the opportunity for women liberated from heinous conditions, to rebuild their confidence through life-ready courses, and puts them in a position to find safe employment.
The Survivor School Program runs a variety of courses that assist with independent living, social engagement and developing a healthy lifestyle. 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 go 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.
Despite all the upheaval of the pandemic last year, our survivors continued to thrive. During that time, The Freedom Hub was supporting around 70 survivors with 24 in the Survivor School, 5 survivor babies were born, and 6 survivors were newly employed, when retaining existing employment was a challenge for many Australians.
Empowerment of survivors changes their lives forever and those around them, the greater impact of which, will continue to chip away at the prevalence of modern slavery globally.
The mission to increase volunteer ‘hubs’ around Australia
COVID-19 has upended the world and forced businesses all over to pivot. The Freedom Hub was no different but embraced this as an opportunity to expand the organisation across Australia, virtually.
Initially, 2020 saw the decline of events and café revenue as restrictions and lockdowns thwarted the hospitality industry. Therefore, in early 2021 Sally implemented an updated model of volunteer hubs, beginning firstly in Sydney and the Gold Coast, where the organisation was already established. These hubs sought volunteer ambassadors dedicated to raising awareness and hosting mini fundraisers, and individuals with experience who could be a support to survivors. This meant that the reach of The Freedom Hub in offering a lifeline was not restricted by location and The Survivor School could continue its work.
The result of this strategy? The rapid development of satellite Freedom Hub groups in Sydney, Wollongong, Gold Coast, Brisbane, Sunshine Coast, Melbourne, Perth, and we’re only just getting started. The numbers of volunteers and survivors continue to grow. Even the monthly face-to-face meeting of all volunteers has gone national, virtually. The Freedom Hub model has become a connecting force bringing likeminded people together who are motivated to enact change.
This rippling butterfly effect demonstrates that a small change (or even a small outlay of one’s time) can have a big effect – in the lives of a survivor, their family, The Freedom Hub organisation, the eradication of Modern Slavery in Australia and the world.
Written by: Sarah Jane Lamont
Want to Make a Difference NOW?
High Teas for Humanity – Celebrate freedom on Human Rights Day (10th December) by coming to our High Tea or you could run your own high tea and fundraise for victims of violence in slavery in our Survivor School.
End of Year Giving – purchase from our shop and know that 100% of the profits from your purchase supports victims of violence in slavery in our survivor school.
Join our Community
Help raise awareness and join a local volunteer team, contact us here.
Or if you would like to get our monthly update, opt-in here.
If you would like to support a survivor, donate here. (tax-deductible)