Government Launches Campaign to Stop Orphanage Tourism
2 March 2018 at 4:49 pm
The federal government has launched a new campaign to discourage Australians from engaging in misleading overseas volunteer programs, which are contributing to child exploitation through the practice of orphanage tourism.
Volunteering at orphanages overseas (also known as “voluntourism”), has been a popular practice amongst Australians for many years.
But there has been a concerted push to end the practice because of the “very strong links” between children in orphanages and modern slavery.
Now the Minister for Foreign Affairs Julie Bishop, and the Minister for Education and Training Simon Birmingham, have launched a campaign encouraging “smart volunteering”.
“The Smart Volunteering Campaign discourages Australians from any form of short-term, unskilled volunteering in overseas orphanages and provides guidelines on how to be a child-safe volunteer,” the ministers said in a joint statement.
“Australia has a long and proud history of volunteering. For decades, thousands of Australians from all backgrounds have given their time and skills selflessly to help communities overseas. The work of our volunteers builds skills and supports economic growth in developing countries.
“However, some Australian volunteers have unwittingly contributed to harmful practices by participating in the ‘voluntourism’ industry and engaging in orphanage tourism.”
This follows the creation of a parliamentary inquiry committee last year, into establishing a Modern Slavery Act in Australia.
Aid agency Save the Children’s submission to the inquiry said Australians needed to stop taking part in voluntourism immediately.
“Well-intentioned Australian tourists, including many students, were inadvertently contributing to the growth of the orphanage ‘industry’ and subsequent exploitation of children in developing countries,” the charity said.
Bishop and Birmingham said: “The Australian government will work with states and territories and universities to ensure school groups and students are not unwittingly visiting or volunteering in programs that exploit children.
“This work will help to ensure the good intentions of so many Australians are fulfilled through positive actions that protect them and vulnerable children overseas.”
The campaign encourages Australians to “avoid short-term, unskilled volunteering in orphanages”, avoid activities “where children are promoted as tourist attractions” and do their “homework” to ensure they are making a positive impact.
Major organisations have already taken heed of this message, with leading volunteer organisation Projects Abroad and school-based volunteer travel company World Challenge, both vowing to end their involvement in voluntourism last year.
In a statement provided to Pro Bono News last year, Volunteering Australia CEO Adrienne Picone said the organisation supported the push to end voluntourism.
“It is essential that Australian volunteers thoroughly research the organisations they will be partnered with, prior to considering international volunteering opportunities,” Picone said.
“Volunteering Australia urges all volunteers and Australian organisations that engage volunteers, to conduct volunteer programs in line with our National Standards for Volunteer Involvement, and not engage in harmful practices.
“Volunteering Australia will continue to work with the sector, the government and stakeholders to inform on best-practice volunteering.”
Labor MP Lisa Chesters told reporters on Thursday that Australians needed to do research to ensure their volunteering efforts were not exploitative.
“When you go to another country, particularly a country that may need extra support like Cambodia or Myanmar, you’ve got to be able to do your research,” Chester said.
“What we hear from a lot of the not for profits and organisations in this space, particularly Save The Children, is people need to know who they’re volunteering for and what kind of organisation.”