It may surprise some readers to know that slavery is not a thing of the past, but rather is alive and present in the 21st Century; sadly, even in the cities and suburbs of Australia.
The Hon. Paul Green, Christian Democratic Party member of the Legislative Council in NSW, last week introduced the Modern Slavery Bill 2018. Given the particular impact of sex slavery on women, it was fitting that it took place on International Women’s Day (March 8).
As the Australian Christian Lobby NSW director, I was present in the gallery.
It was wonderful to see the introduction of the Modern Slavery Bill 2018 which addresses the findings and recommendations of a parliamentary inquiry into human trafficking, of which the Hon. Paul Green was the chair.
The ACL made a submission to that inquiry which can be viewed here.
Modern slavery is an umbrella term that covers inhumane practices including human trafficking, debt bondage, forced labour, forced marriage, forced sex work, organ trafficking and domestic servitude.
According to the 2016 Global Slavery Index there are approximately 45.8 million people worldwide that fall into this category. Disturbingly, in Australia there are an estimated 4,000 individuals classed as modern slaves.
When introducing the bill, Mr Green noted that the true number of victims in Australia may actually be higher.
“Unfortunately, the data does not reflect the true levels of modern slavery due to its clandestine activity that hides in the shadow of our community on a daily basis,” he said.
The majority of victims caught up as modern slaves include the most vulnerable in society. According to the United Nations Global Report on Human Trafficking, in 2016, 79 per cent of all victims were women and children.
The most abhorrent practice - child cybersex trafficking - is alive in the NSW community and needs to be eradicated.
The bill seeks to raise community awareness of the practice of modern slavery, set up harsher penalties while monitoring any misconduct linked to modern slavery particularly through the establishment of an Anti-Slavery Commissioner appointed by the Governor.
The move towards an anti-slavery bill in the NSW Parliament is supported by many community organisations in NSW and Federal MPs have been paying close attention. There is momentum to introduce a National bill which also seeks to address the scourge of slavery.
A paper petition supporting the NSW bill can be found here. ACL encourages readers to print a copy of the petition and gather signatures. We have only until May 1, 2018 to do so,
The petition to the NSW Parliament