Modern Slavery Update

Domestic Servitude Research

Earlier this year the Mercy Foundation and the Salvation Army commissioned research on domestic servitude in Australia. Service or Servitude: A Study of Trafficking for Domestic Work in Australia by Heather Moore is the first report to analyse more than thirty cases of domestic servitude in Australia. The report compiles new and existing information from a range of sources and personal accounts by individuals who have experienced domestic servitude Australia. The research findings are concerning. A number of women were deceptively recruited to work in Australia for what they thought were genuine jobs in domestic work. Some women thought they were marrying and moving to an exciting new country, only to find themselves trapped in domestic servitude. Typically, domestic workers were forced to work excessive hours and were often subject to abuse. Escaping domestic servitude was hindered by their lack of English, fear of the police, confiscation of identity documents and violence or threats of violence.

Our next steps are to work with key stakeholders to plan how we as a community can prevent and respond to domestic servitude in Australia.

Australia’s first forced labour convictions under the Criminal Code

In April 2019, two people were convicted of forced labour offences in Australia for bringing a woman to work in their home as a ‘live in domestic servant’. The couple were each convicted and sentenced to 5 and 6 years imprisonment.

In December this year, a couple appeared in Downing Centre Local Court following allegations of forced labour. The allegations included forcing a woman to be a cleaner and carer for their child . They were charged with causing a person to enter into or remain in forced labour and a number of other offences. Read more here.

Modern Slavery Acts Update

The Commonwealth Modern Slavery Act came into operation on 1 July 2019. Organisations with a turnover in excess of $100 million are now required to report on how they are ensuring that their supply chains are not tainted by slavery. We can be proud of the fact that Australia is one of the only countries in the world to have a Modern Slavery Act. Read more about the requirements of the Act here.

Unfortunately, implementation of the 2018 NSW Modern Slavery Act has been delayed pending an inquiry by the Legislative Council’s Standing Committee on Social Issues. The terms of reference include Act’s operability, its effect on business and a number of other matters.