The Case for an Australian Modern Slavery Act

By Shaeron Yapp

In 2017 the Australian Government will be considering whether we need to introduce a “Modern Slavery Act”. The recently announced Federal Inquiry provides an invaluable opportunity for consultation between the Government, businesses and civil society to determine what reform is needed here in Australia.

Yet still too many do not yet understand the basics – including the relevance of modern slavery to every day business and life in Australia – let alone what laws are needed to address these issues.

We have prepared a new publication, “The Case for an Australian Modern Slavery Act”, addressing these key questions: “what” is modern slavery, “who” is affected, “how” are you connected to modern slavery via global supply chains, “where” are the gaps in our legal framework and “why” it matters here in Australia.

There are a vast array of issues underpinning the complexity of modern slavery. The Government and other organisations undertake vital work ranging from victim support, rehabilitation, prosecuting offenders and much more. There are many important areas for reform.

Walk Free Foundation has focused on the issue of modern slavery in supply chains when campaigning for legal reform. In collaboration with other NGOs and faith groups, we have highlighted top three priorities for reform, being:

  1. The appointment of an Anti-Slavery Commissioner to provide independent oversight, with powers to monitor laws and hold business and the Government accountable.
  2. The requirement for large organisations doing business in Australia to annually report in a “modern slavery statement” steps taken to eradicate modern slavery within their organisation and supply chains.
  3. The creation and maintenance of a publicly accessible repository of all modern slavery statements filed each year.

This publication is designed to be a “101 Guide” to help Australians understand the very real issues of modern day slavery, why it matters and what are the gaps in the law. It also touches on where Australia is falling behind recent reforms in the UK, US and EU and laws introduced in these regions.

Introducing an Australian Modern Slavery Act would be a powerful message to all Australians, companies that do business in Australia and to our neighbouring regions that we shall not stand by and ignore the millions subjected to modern slavery.