The visit to Australia of Kevin Hyland the UK Independent Modern Slavery Commissioner in late May will be a powerful support to the case for Australia to introduce its own modern slavery legislation.
Commissioner Hyland will be meeting with government Ministers, police, legal, church and victim support groups as well as speaking at several public events designed to foster the debate in Australia. Walk Free Foundation and our partners are sponsoring a number of these.
The Joint Parliamentary Committee Inquiry will convene to hear from the Commissioner as their first witness.
Walk Free Foundation and our partners have been active in encouraging business and other organisations to make submissions to the Inquiry and we are delighted by the very strong response.
Since the UK Modern Slavery Act was passed in 2015, there has been a substantial increase in the public awareness of the issues and action taken by police, prosecutors and companies.
While the Act is in its early days and a few inadequacies have become evident, the legislation and the UK Commissioner are having real impact.
The UK Commissioner has had a strong focus on identification and support of victims and police procedures as well of those of prosecutor authorities. Like in Australia, reporting and prosecution numbers in the UK grossly under represent the scale of the problem and victim support is inadequate.
The business supply chain transparency and reporting measures in the UK Act have resulted in business increasingly engaging on how to ensure their supply chains are free from modern slavery.
While some businesses are responding in a tokenistic manner, many others are instituting best practise, training staff and making sure that they do all in their power to make a positive impact.
The current Australian Inquiry has brought to the attention of the Parliament the need to consider how Australia can respond to end modern slavery in the goods purchased, consumed and used by Australian businesses.
The support of a wide cross section of businesses like Adidas, Wesfarmers, JLL, Fortescue Metals Group, South 32 and the support of the Business Council of Australia confirms that legislation has broad business support.
Already all major faiths organisations have called on the Government to legislate, as have many victim support groups, NGO’s, academics and community groups.
Parliamentarians from all sides have expressed their commitment to do whatever they can.
The Government in calling the inquiry has signalled that it is taking the prospect of new legislation seriously.
Kevin Hyland’s visit to Australia and his appearance before the Parliamentary Inquiry on May 30th will help focus our Parliamentarians and the broader community to see that Australia can do so much more to combat the enslavement of millions of our fellow human beings.