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Church leads modern slavery fight

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Activists take part in a ‘Walk for Freedom’ in 2018 to protest against human trafficking in Berlin. The Frederick Douglass Trafficking Victims Prevention and Protection Reauthorization Act of 2018 recently passed by Congress and signed on 8 January by President Donald Trump allocates $430 million through 2022 to prevent and respond to human trafficking in the U.S. and abroad. PHOTO: CNS/Fabrizio Bensch, Reuters

Companies and large faith-based organisations need to understand their compliance obligations as mandatory reporting under the Modern Slavery Act begins in 18 months’ time warns John McCarthy QC, Chair of the Sydney Archdiocesan Anti-Slavery Taskforce.

The taskforce with Archbishop of Sydney Anthony Fisher OP will host a seminar and expo on anti-slavery on 8 February, the International Day of Prayer and Awareness Against Trafficking in Persons and the feast day of St Josephine Bakhita, the patron saint of victims of slavery and of Sudan.

The Archbishop will also launch an ethical purchasing guide for parishes which has been approved by the archdiocese’s council of priests.

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Anti-slavery protestor
A protester in Pretoria, South Africa, chains himself as part of a protest highlighting the slave trade in Libya 12 December 2017. Photo: CNS/Kim Ludbrook, EPA.

The St Bakhita’s Day Ethical Sourcing and Seminar expo “will be a forum on how to respond to and comply with the modern slavery legislation,” says Mr McCarthy.

The event beginning at 9.30am in the Cathedral College Hall at St Mary’s Cathedral will bring together guest speakers including Business Council of Australia chief executive Jennifer Westacott, vice chancellor of Australian Catholic University Professor Greg Craven and Mr McCarthy along with representatives from Sydney Catholic Schools, St Vincent’s Health Australia and the Federal Government.

It will conclude with a 1.10pm Mass in the cathedral.

Mr McCarthy praised a recent commitment by US President Donald Trump to expand the US anti-human trafficking law with a US$430 million (AUS$600 million) boost to target forced human labour trafficking.

Dr Dan White and John McCarthy QC
Executive Director of Sydney Catholic Schools, Dr Dan White, and John McCarthy QC, at the October 2018 announcement of plans to slavery-proof the Sydney Archdiocese’s practices and relationships. Photo: Giovanni Portelli

“The activities and the commitment of the United States is an inspiration and an example of what to do in slavery-proofing supply and procurement chains,” he said.

Australia has much work to do but with the Church and government taking slave-proofing seriously, Mr McCarthy believes Australia will go a long way in helping to eradicate modern slavery and human trafficking before the UN Millennium Development Goals target of 2030.

Anti-Slavery Taskforce Executive Manager Jenny Stanger said that America’s ongoing commitment of funds directed at comprehensive anti-slavery initiatives “highlights how Australia falls very short of delivering meaningful outcomes in relation to its own national action plan to combat human trafficking and slavery that has no funding allocated towards its implementation”.

See related story: Sydney’s goal: Insulation from slavery’s evil.

“Australia’s response to slavery looks good on paper and sounds impressive when shared at international conferences but the truth is less than 500 of the estimated 15,000 (according to the Global Slavery Index 2018) victims in Australia have been identified over the past decade,” she said.

“There is no helpline for anyone to call and therefore a lack of targeted intelligence gathering on slavery-like practices and perpetrators.

“Police resources continue to focus on brothel raids when many of the same conditions and circumstances are being perpetrated on a much greater number of farm and hospitality workers.

Pope Francis
Pope Francis meets Nadia Murad Basee Taha, who escaped from Islamic State slavery in Iraq, during his general audience in St. Peter’s Square at the Vatican 3 May 2018. She is now a human rights activist and is a UN goodwill ambassador for its office that fights human trafficking. Photo: CNS/L’Osservatore Romano

“Lack of awareness, training and community organising means that the full scale and scope of slavery in Australia is not well-understood and people are not empowered to seek for help, [while] survivor engagement by government is non-existent.

“For both Australia and the United States, the challenge remains to recognise the inter-sectionality of migration, trade, economic and other policies and to ensure they do not completely undermine the ending slavery agenda.”

In NSW Mr McCarthy said the Catholic Church has a responsibility and an opportunity to take a lead on anti-slavery efforts as the state’s largest private employer and its fourth-largest procurer of goods and services.

For details and how to register for the seminar contact Alison Rahill at [email protected] or 0439 482 290.

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