Australian Foreign Minister Marise Payne announced the country's initiative in collaboration with ASEAN. © LILLIAN SUWANRUMPHA/Getty Images
Australian Foreign Minister Marise Payne announced the country's initiative in collaboration with ASEAN. © LILLIAN SUWANRUMPHA/Getty Images

Australia launches 10 year anti-slavery programme

The Australian government and the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) have announced a ten year counter-trafficking initiative to help the private and public sector crack down on slavery in supply chains.

“The ASEAN-Australia Counter-Trafficking Initiative is a 10-year, $80 million program that will work to strengthen criminal justice responses and protect victim rights,” according to Marise Payne, foreign minister and minister for women.

In a statement issued earlier this month, she said the new partnership will “fight human trafficking, modern slavery and forced labour throughout the region.”

Some of the investment will go on “providing police training in financial investigations, professional development for judges, and promoting child-friendly courtrooms,” she added.

“The initiative will also support joint international investigations to help rescue victims and ensure traffickers are charged,” Payne stated.

In addition, it will “respond to private sector concerns in cases of human trafficking identified in supply chains.”

Commenting on the new programme, Bryce Hutchesson, ambassador for people smuggling & human trafficking at Australia’s Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade, told Thomson Reuters Foundation: "It will find new ways to engage with the private sector and help relevant ASEAN governments engage with their private sectors to... address the supply chain aspects of the battle against slavery.”

There are some 15,000 victims of modern slavery in Australia, with forced labour found in sectors such as agriculature, construction, domestic work, cleaning, hospitality, and food services,  according to the Global Slavery Index.

The International Labour Organization (ILO) estimates that the Asia Pacific region produces the highest profits from forced labour with revenue amounting to US$51.8bn per year.

Australia passed the Modern Slavery Act in January 2019 which requires Australian businesses and foreign firms operating in the country with annual revenues of $100m to provide reports on how modern slavery is being addressed in supply chains.

The latest move by Australia to tackle slavery comes after it recently signed up to a major UN anti-slavery campaign.

In a statement issued to mark the UN’s World Day Against Trafficking in Persons, on 30 July, Payne said: “Joining the United Nations’ Blue Heart Campaign underlines Australia’s commitment to efforts to eradicate human trafficking and modern slavery, as enshrined in the Sustainable Development Goals.”

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