by Grace Wye
While slavery may seem a problem of the past, it continues in Australia today, hidden away from the public view, according to Anti-Slavery Australia. The organisation has just released a new online training course aimed at increasing the awareness of slavery in Australia. The course is the first of its type in Australia.
Anti-Slavery Australia, which operates out of the Law Faculty at the University of Technology, Sydney, provides much needed assistance to people who have been victims of various crimes such as human trafficking, forced labour and forced marriage. Although primarily a legal service, Anti-Slavery Australia dedicates a lot of time to researching these issues and creating various channels of education to the general public.
The free course is structured in modules, each covering a different issue, and uses a range of different mediums such as text, videos, quizzes and graphics. It will be updated on a regular basis as laws change and new cases come to light.
“The great thing about the course is that you don’t need to do it all in one go,” says Beau Neilson, fundraising and external relations manager at Anti-Slavery Australia. “Participants may want to focus on forced labour or on forced marriage and they can look through that module without having to go through the full course.”
Student Charlotte McArthur has completed the course and says that it is a valuable tool. She says that because the issue is so unknown, the course will help people identify warning signs.
A 2012 report, entitled Trafficking in Persons Monitoring Report: January 2009-June 2011, by the Australian Institute of Criminology shows there is a need for the public to be more informed on the issues surrounding human trafficking, forced labour and forced marriage.
The report outlines the lack of information about human trafficking in Australia. Of 1,617 respondents, only nine per cent could properly identify the definition of trafficking as set out by the United Nations.
The report found that popular media has created many misconceptions about trafficking in Australia, and the majority of participants couldn’t identify the difference between human trafficking and people smuggling. While both terms refer to the movement of people from one place to another, when someone is trafficked they are moved from one place to another for the purpose of exploitation after their arrival.
Colin Campbell, of the Australian Institute of Criminology, says education is crucial in combating the issue of human trafficking and forced labour in Australia. A 2014 report conducted by the Australian Institute of Criminology, entitled Help-seeking strategies of victim/survivors of human trafficking involving partner migration, studied eight women who were victims of servile marriage. “Many ended up in domestic violence shelters and didn’t realise they were being exploited and in a slavery context,” says Colin.
One of the challenges Australia faces regarding human trafficking, forced labour and forced marriage is that it is a hidden issue.
“At this stage, the statistics aren’t very reliable because there haven’t been many issues that have come to the forefront publically,” says Beau Neilson.
“First of all, one case is one case too many. It’s important to remember that even though we can’t get statistics, we do have evidence of severe cases of exploitation, trafficking and slavery in this country.”
One of the focus areas of the course is that of forced marriage, which was only criminalised in Australia last year. “This new law, which is a huge development, will give us a better idea of what numbers we’re dealing with,” says Beau. Unlike other slavery or trafficking crimes, which mostly involve people from overseas, forced marriage is a growing issue among Australians.
For many who are enslaved, there are many barriers that come between them and seeking help. Often they have their passports taken from them, or are threatened by their captor with deportation.
Anti-Slavery Australia’s course is primarily aimed at front line workers such as social workers, healthcare workers and police, who have a higher chance of being confronted by these issues.
“The ultimate outcome is a better informed public and higher numbers of referrals,” says Beau Neilson, “Awareness and recognition are key components to move forward.”
For more information on Anti-Slavery Australia and to access the course visit www.antislavery.org.au