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Modern Slavery

Published 28th February, 2019 in Business and Economy

Modern slavery is a hidden problem and a devastating reality for men, women and children around the world, and here in NSW. In 2018, NSW legislated against modern slavery to help stamp out these practices.

The NSW Anti-Slavery Commissioner’s role is to increase awareness of this global issue, improve services for victims and strengthen business and government responses to combatting modern slavery in NSW.

Combatting modern slavery

Modern slavery is a serious violation of an individual’s dignity and human rights. Exploitative practices including human trafficking, slavery, servitude, forced labour, debt bondage and forced marriage are all considered modern slavery and are serious crimes under Australian law.

The International Labour Organisation(external link) estimates there are more than 40 million people in modern slavery conditions worldwide.

Modern slavery may be a worker on a farm who is unable to leave or stop working because of threats from his employer. Modern slavery could be a teenager who is overseas on a family holiday and forced or coerced into marriage. Modern slavery may be a woman in a brothel who believes she has a large debt to repay and is forced to work to pay off the debt.

Modern slavery is not confined to far-off places. Sadly, it occurs in Australia, with up to 1900 people estimated to be living in conditions of modern slavery.1

1Australian Institute of Criminology

The NSW Modern Slavery Act 2018

The Modern Slavery Act 2018 (NSW) recognises modern slavery is prevalent around the world and in NSW, and sets out steps to ensure NSW is not contributing to these crimes. All organisations share the collective responsibility to guarantee their goods and services are not products of modern slavery.

The Modern Slavery Act 2018 signals a commitment to promoting a safe and fair society for everyone. It establishes appropriate state-based responses to drive genuine change to combat modern slavery.

The Act establishes mechanisms to fight modern slavery occurring in NSW and in the supply chains of NSW organisations – whether that conduct occurs within the  state, the country or internationally.

NSW was the first jurisdiction in Australia to legislate against modern slavery and the second jurisdiction in the world to provide for an Anti-Slavery Commissioner.

Some of the Act’s directions include:

  • establishing an Anti-Slavery Commissioner
  • developing a responsive approach to support victims
  • setting out guidelines for businesses and NSW Government agencies to acknowledge and address modern slavery risks.

The NSW Modern Slavery Act(external link) is separate to the Commonwealth Modern Slavery Act 2018(external link). The Commonwealth Act entered into force on 1 January 2019 and established a national Modern Slavery Reporting Requirement for certain large businesses and other entities in the Australian market.

Agencies are working closely with the Australian Government to ensure the NSW and Commonwealth responses to modern slavery are consistent and complementary.

Interim Anti-Slavery Commissioner

Professor Jennifer Burn

Professor Jennifer Burn is the Interim Anti-Slavery Commissioner for NSW with responsibility to drive the implementation of the NSW Modern Slavery Act in readiness for the commencement of the Act.

Jennifer is Professor of Law at the University of Technology Sydney (UTS) and former director of Anti-Slavery Australia at UTS. Anti-Slavery Australia is a university based law and research centre dedicated to advancing the rights of people who have experienced all forms of modern slavery including human trafficking, slavery, servitude, forced labour and forced marriage.

As a practicing lawyer, Jennifer has provided direct legal representation to hundreds of men, women and children in Australia. Jennifer has substantial experience as a human rights lawyer and academic with over 17 years researching and practicing in the area of human trafficking and slavery. She convenes a subject within the UTS Faculty of Law, ‘The Law of Human Trafficking and Slavery’.

Since 2008 Jennifer has been an inaugural member of the Australian Government National Roundtable on Human Trafficking and Slavery.

She has received multiple awards including the 2016 UTS Deputy Vice Chancellor’s Medal for Research Impact.

Victim support

The Interim Anti-Slavery Commissioner is working with frontline service providers, public officials and law enforcement to support initiatives that improve victim identification and successful offender prosecution.

People suffering at the hands of modern slavery may have difficulty coming forward. To assist those under threat, a modern slavery helpline will be established later this year for victims to seek advice and assistance.

If you or somebody you know is in imminent danger, phone triple zero (000).

Information for businesses

All businesses play a role in the journey to reduce the risk of modern slavery in their operations and supply chains. The Modern Slavery Act 2018 asks organisations to identify the risk of modern slavery occurring in their operations and supply chains and set out the steps they are taking to address the risk.

Few businesses would knowingly deal with suppliers that use such exploitative practices, and most Australian consumers would be dismayed to think there may be modern slavery in the supply chains of goods they purchase.

This is why the Act asks commercial organisations with employees in NSW and an annual turnover not less than $A50 million to submit a statement to the Anti-Slavery Commissioner outlining the steps they have taken to reduce the risk of modern slavery across their operations and supply chains.

Agencies are working with businesses to build awareness and understanding of their requirements outlined in the Modern Slavery Act 2018.

Government procurement

The Modern Slavery Act 2018 directs all NSW Government agencies to respond to the risk if modern slavery is in the products they buy and the services they provide.

Everyone is responsible for operating at the highest ethical standards and the Act is an opportunity for shared learning with the business community in the fight against modern slavery. Collaboration strengthens our stance against modern slavery.

As one of the largest procurers of goods and services in Australia, the NSW Government’s actions can make a difference around the world.

For further information, please contact the NSW Government Modern Slavery Team at [email protected].

Published 28th February, 2019 in Business and Economy
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