The Australian Border Force (ABF) and Australian Federal Police (AFP) have marked World Day Against Trafficking in Persons last week (30 July) by setting out the extent of their partnership leading the whole-of-Government response to modern-day slavery.
Group Manager of Customs for the ABF, Vanessa Holben said the voices of victims and survivors were at the centre of the Agencies’ response to modern slavery and the ABF’s work under the National Action Plan to Combat Modern Slavery 2020–25 was guided by this principle.
“Government provides a dedicated Support for Trafficked People Program and a visa framework that enables suspected victims and survivors of modern slavery to remain lawfully in Australia to receive support and assist with criminal investigations,” Ms Holben said.
“We look forward to developing a Victim and Survivor Engagement and Empowerment Strategy to further embed victims’ and survivors’ voices,” she said.
Ms Holben said other key aspects of Australia’s response to modern slavery included a new multi-year grant program to fund projects and research, and the implementation of the Modern Slavery Act 2018 to drive positive change by holding businesses publicly accountable for their actions to address modern slavery in their global supply chains.
Assistant Commissioner Northern Command for the AFP, Lesa Gale said human trafficking was still happening in Australia.
“Human trafficking, debt bondage, servitude and other forms of exploitation and slavery are not a thing of the past that only happen on the TV, it happens right here in our own backyard, often in plain sight,” Assistant Commissioner Gale said.
“People subjected to human trafficking and slavery-like offences suffer the most heinous treatment including physical, psychological and sexual assaults, deprivation of food, money and breaches of basic human rights and freedoms,” she said.
“Due to the actions of the AFP and our partners, 30 people have been convicted of human trafficking offences in Australia since the criminalisation of human trafficking and slavery-like practices in 2014.”
Assistant Commissioner Gale said research estimated that for every victim and survivor detected in Australia, four remained undetected.
She said the general public had an important role to play in combating modern slavery and people should report any suspected modern slavery crimes to the AFP via its confidential online form.