The Freedom Hub’s vision is to help survivors of slavery in Australia rebuild their lives for successful independent living and partner in ending modern slavery globally. 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 the mission expands as awareness grows.

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 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 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.

From volunteer hubs and Freedom Fairs to ramping it up with corporates

In 2020, we saw the 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 ensured the Survivor School could continue its work in tough times, and in fact, Freedom Hub satellite groups have now emerged all across Australia.

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.

Also, in 2022, The Freedom Hub expanded 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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