Organisations Unite to End Modern Slavery in Australia
1 November 2017 at 2:49 pm
A coalition of organisations have united to release a statement of support against modern slavery, setting out key principles for the introduction of a Modern Slavery Act in Australia.
The Australian government earlier this year set up a joint-standing committee to investigate legislation to combat modern slavery, with more than 40 million people estimated to be living in some form of modern slavery worldwide, including 4,300 people in Australia.
In August, the Coalition government proposed legislation that would make it a requirement for large businesses to report annually on modern slavery in their operations and supply chains.
Now a group of organisations, including the Australian Human Rights Commission, Anti-Slavery Australia UTS, Ausbil and the Australian Catholic Religious Against Trafficking in Humans, have thrown their support behind a Modern Slavery Act being introduced in Australia.
The statement outlines how they would like to see this reform process guided.
“Slavery is more prevalent today than at any time in human history. As leaders representing civil society, business, investors, academia and faith-based organisations, we support a unified approach in addressing modern slavery. We support the introduction of a Modern Slavery Act in Australia,” the statement said.
“This statement sets out some key principles to guide this reform process. Addressing modern slavery requires a collaborative effort between government, business, civil society and people affected by slavery.”
Among these key principles was a call to establish an Australian independent Anti-Slavery Commissioner and for the government itself to comply with these measures.
“Responsibility should be given to an independent organisation or individual to lead and coordinate efforts in tackling modern slavery, raising awareness and supporting organisations in effectively addressing modern slavery in their operations and supply chains,” the statement said.
“This could be achieved by the establishment of an Australian Independent Anti-Slavery Commissioner.
“The Australian government should [also] be required to comply with the proposed reporting requirement. The Australian government should work with state and territory governments and lead by example in reporting on actions taken in public procurement to address modern slavery.”
The statement of support also stated that a Modern Slavery Act should be aligned with the United Nations Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights.
The Human Rights Commissioner Edward Santow, said the statement was intended to provide guiding principles for this legislation, including transparency, accountability, victim support and leadership.
“This statement is significant because it brings together a diverse group of leaders from the Australian business community, civil society, the religious community and academia,” Santow said.
“As leaders, we support a unified approach in addressing modern slavery. This is the only way that real change can take place.”
The director of Anti-Slavery Australia UTS, Jennifer Burn, echoed the statement’s call for the Australian government to comply with the proposed reporting requirement.
“The Australian government spent close to $60 billion in government procurement in the 2016 financial year. The Australian government should exercise leadership and respond to the risk of modern slavery in its own supply chains,” Burn said.
Jenny Stanger, the national manager of the Freedom Partnership to End Modern Slavery, added that modern slavery was more prevalent now than it had been at any other stage of human history.
“I hope that a wide cross-section of the Australian community will endorse this statement. Only by joining together can we tackle this important human rights issue,” Stanger said.
The statement of support, and the full list of signatory organisations, can be viewed here.