Modern slavery has no friends in Australian society. Yet what for many may seem surprising, slavery continues, and we are not immune from the responsibility to help end it.
Arguably the buying habits of many consumers in Australia can contribute to global slavery. This could be done each time we purchase shampoo, shoes, IT equipment and even building materials from companies that treat their staff poorly, or deprive them of liberty. In this way, we inadvertently participate in perpetuating human misery.
The deprivation of someone's liberty is one of the most serious injustices that exist. Conservative estimates reveal 40 million human beings are trapped in an exploitative supply chain in the world today. This is a heinous crime. And much of it is hidden in plain sight. Many Australian businesses involved in foreign trade support slavery somewhere in their supply chain. These may be small businesses that are already drowning in red tape and legislation so 'naming and shaming' by Government or concerned Australians is not necessarily the best way to address the problem or to change behaviour.
Yesterday (Wed Feb 15), I was privileged to participate in a Parliament House seminar in Canberra on The Case For an Australian Modern Slavery Act.
As I sat and listened to Western Australian philanthropist Andrew 'Twiggy' Forrest, major and minor party parliamentarians, along with abolitionists who have worked in this space for a decade, I was filled with a sense of hope.
In Australia we may be poised to set an example to the rest of the world of how to move forward in combating modern slavery, not only in our own country also throughout our region where 70 per cent of the world's slaves are said to reside.
If the passion and commitment and will of those in the room was any indication, then 2018 is set to be a landmark year in the fight against one of history’s most persistent injustices.
But what can an individual do?
How can we each get involved with the groundswell against modern slavery in a way that will make a tangible difference?
There is a moral imperative to respond once we know. But it's hard to know where to start. Let's face it - very smart people all around the globe are working on this issue and it's complex!
The complicated nature of the problem however, does not give immunity to us, the consumer. If we believe that freedom is a human right for every person, then we, as consumers, need to be educated to recognise the problem and to respond with changes to our shopping habits. Each one of us can be a shining light into the darkness of modern slavery.
One easy step is to use the ethical purchasing guide provided by Baptist World Aid - https://baptistworldaid.org.au/resources/2017-ethical-fashion-guide/
Also, let’s pray that our government will be wise in considering any legislation and regulation.
Let us know if you want to be updated on this particular issue as it progresses this year.