18 March 2016

Catholic Communications, Sydney Archdiocese

Auxiliary Bishop of Sydney, Most Rev. Terry Brady has told a Senate inquiry [into human trafficking] that human trafficking and slavery is a terrible consequence of economic and social exclusion.

In a submission to the inquiry made on behalf of the Australian Catholic Bishops' Conference, Bishop Brady, Chair of the Bishops' Commission for Pastoral Life, said that exclusion was the result of a number of factors.

"It is the result of not recognising the human dignity of each person, so people are treated as an object or a means to an end," he said. "It happens because people are in poverty and don't have access to adequate education or employment. It is caused by putting money and not people at the centre of the economy."

The Commission made the submission to the Parliamentary Joint Committee on Law Enforcement last month.

"One approach that should be investigated as part of a community awareness strategy is the United Kingdom's Modern Slavery Act, which uses information to shine a light on the exploitation of workers. Under the UK legislation, businesses that reach a minimum turnover must issue an annual report on what they are doing to ensure their business and supply chain is not involved in human trafficking and the exploitation of workers.

"Forced marriages are another aspect of trafficking, difficult to investigate because victims and witnesses are often afraid of reprisals or of bringing shame on their families. It is much better to try to prevent forced marriages than try to convict people after the fact. One important piece of preventative work is a school education resource developed by Australian Catholic Religious Against Trafficking in Humans (ACRATH).

"In 2015 ACRATH worked to ensure the problem of forced marriage could be more easily seen by school students and that those students who may be at risk of forced marriage would know where to go for help. ACRATH ran a 2015 pilot scheme to raise awareness in schools about forced marriages and to help children be aware of the protections offered by the law.

"It is important for schools to have the opportunity to use this program. The ACBC urges the Attorney General's Department to extend the funding available to ACRATH.

"Australia also has an important role to play internationally as an affluent nation. Overseas aid is an important way in which Australia can contribute to reducing economic and social exclusion and, therefore, some of the factors that put people at risk of being trafficked. The Coalition Government has cut Australia's overseas aid by more than $11 billion since it was elected in 2013. These funds would have been a significant boost to aid and humanitarian programs. Australia and Australians have a moral obligation to share their good fortune with people less fortunate," Bishop Brady said.

The requests made in the submission on behalf of the Bishops' Conference included:

  •  More work on documenting the trafficking problem, so there is a detailed statistical estimate of the extent of human trafficking in Australia;

  •  Promotion of slavery-free supply chains, through improved industry accountability and consumer awareness;

  •  Continuation of the ACRATH program to provide curriculum materials to schools informing students about forced marriage, their legal rights and where they can go for help if needed; and

  •  More funds for Australia's aid program, so we can assist people in third world nations out of poverty and away from the risk of human trafficking.

    A copy of the submission can be found here.

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