My name is Brinda. In this blog I want to share what I learnt about slavery and how working at the Freedom Hub impacted my life. Firstly about me. I am an international student from a middle-class family in Nepal. I came to Australia almost two years ago to pursue my Master’s degree. I came to know about The Freedom Hub (TFH) while I was looking for a field placement* for my last semester. One of my friends introduced me to the National Charity Manager of TFH. She conducted my interview for the internship*. During the internship interview, she explained to me what TFH does. When I heard that it was working with survivors of Modern-day Slavery and Human Trafficking, I was a bit confused. I knew what Human Trafficking and Slavery meant. But Modern Day Slavery? What is Modern Day Slavery?

Three things I Learnt About Modern Day Slavery…

First Discovery

So, I went back home and the first thing I did was googled what Modern Slavery was. The result was a bit shocking for me. Because never in my mind had I thought that something like Modern Slavery exists in a more advanced and developed country, like Australia. It was something more prevalent in underdeveloped and developing countries. More like my home country, Nepal. As I started to get involved with TFH, I began in-depth research into Modern Slavery and its prevalence here in Australia. The more I researched, the more interested I became and the more I learnt that modern slavery is everywhere.

Second Lesson

In my findings I also learnt that Forced Marriage was one of the most common forms of Modern Slavery in Australia. I was a bit sceptical about the findings because the laws here for human rights are very stringent. Also, the people here are far more educated about their rights and freedom. However, the interesting thing was that most of the cases of Forced Marriage came from people with a diverse cultural background. Australia is the home of many multicultural and diverse communities, where Forced Marriage can be a common practise.

In many cultures, marriage has always been a connection between two families. Especially within diverse communities. Despite the willingness of the persons who are getting married, the relationship between families takes prevalence. It is merely related to the pride of the head of the family. This leaves the children and young people with no other option but to be forced to marry against their will.

The Third thing I Learnt

Another interesting thing that I learnt during my research was a factor I had not considered. It included people like me, international students. It has been found that most international students are underpaid and exploited in the workplace. We are generally prone to being the victims of Modern Slavery, given that we are unfamiliar with work rights and laws here in Australia.

I have encountered friends of friends who have been exploited in the workplace and underpaid. They have been the victims of Modern Slavery. So, what did I do when I found out?  As I am aware now about this situation, I am making my friends aware about this ill-treatment we are facing and how we can have our own voice and fight for our rights. Yet, to take action and stand up for oneself is one’s own responsibility. I can advocate and support, but to take the action is in their own hands.

So, what does this all have to do with TFH? Well for starters, I am now much more aware about Modern Slavery, all thanks to my internship with TFH. I now have a better understanding of how I can start a meaningful conversation with other people regarding this topic. To make more people aware about this global issue, we need to have more discussions, and, just like that, “one person’s conversation can create many more conversations”.

Question: What exactly is TFH doing to help survivors of Modern Slavery?

Since TFH is a charity organisation we are mostly funded by the profits of The Freedom Hub Cafe (P.S Do give us a visit!). The funding goes to The Survivor School which is a place for the survivors to get trained, encouraged and prepared to live a successful independent life. To learn more about The Survivor School, please visit our website.

Most of my internship is involved with The Survivor School, and, to be honest, I could not be more grateful for this opportunity.

‘It has been a profound life-changing experience for me.’

To have a connection with our survivors and be a part of their journey to a successful independent life, is more than an achievement for me. I have always found a great sense of achievement and satisfaction when being able to help others. Even for the simplest help I provide, the heart-warming gratitude that the survivors show to me is truly fulfilling for me. I truly feel blessed to be a part of TFH.

What I Learnt about TFH’s fight Against Modern Slavery

In addition to the Survivor School, now let me tell you what I learnt about TFH’s involvement to fight against Modern Slavery in a global platform. TFH has been providing ethical business services to all business enterprises, large and small, helping them to comply with the Modern Slavery Act (MSA), mapping risk in supply chains, ethical operations and procedures and other compliance trainings. The compliance training for the staff provides awareness about Modern Slavery among them.

This is our commitment in the fight to end Modern Slavery at a global level. We believe in “small change big effect” the motto which can be seen around The Freedom Hub Café.

“The café itself is a masterpiece and an eye-pleaser. Once you step in the cafe, the ambiance makes you calm and relaxed.”

If you look around, you will find big posters hanging on the wall with information related to Modern Slavery. There are also small flyers which tell you how the café has been working to help the survivors of Modern Slavery. While you wait for your order of Slavery-Free coffee, while browsing the Slavery-Free retail range, you find yourself getting immersed in the calming ambiance. It is as that moment when the words keep running in your mind and remind you that you can make a difference.  You realise how getting a small cup of coffee is going to bring a difference in the lives of our survivors and this realisation is what brings a smile to your face.

What Next?

There is a lot going on in the world lately. Everyone is facing his/her own issues which for him/her might feel like a mountain. Yet, if you think for a while, you will realise that some people have Mt Everest to climb. Knowing that you can make a difference in their lives to make it a bit easier is what matters. At TFH we are trying to bring this change and make a difference in the lives of our survivors. Modern Slavery is a global issue and there is a huge number of people who are likely to be the victims of these crimes. Join us at TFH and let us all work together to end Modern Slavery locally and globally.

Thank you for reading my blog,

Brinda

* a note about internships from The Freedom Hub: 

‘Interning’ can often be another form of exploitation many organisations engage in, to get free labour. At the Freedom Hub we have developed an “Intern Policy” so we can be held accountable for the work interns do. In a nutshell, we partner with three well-respected Universities and take placements from them, for projects they agree to, rather that taking on individuals who approach us. This way the university is responsible for selecting the project work, running the supervision and program for the student to advance in training toward their degree. The internship is monitored closely by the university with regular meetings, and we work together to ensure the student achieves the goals required for the practical application of their studies.

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