Report shows Church leads way in commitment to end slavery

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Archbishop Anthony Fisher OP at the 13 launch of the anti-slavery taskforce report.

Australia’s Catholic organisations are showing leadership in their joint commitment to end modern forms of slavery according to a new report by the Archdiocese of Sydney’s anti-slavery taskforce.

Archbishop Anthony Fisher OP launched the report on 13 September at a Catholic business network function at the Hyatt Regency Hotel attended by more than 200 heads of agencies including the Catholic Development Fund, Catholic Cemeteries, Catholic Schools NSW and Sydney Catholic Schools.

Titled ‘Catholic Action in Australia to eradicate modern slavery from supply chains’, it comes after a national conference in July which brought together 40 dioceses and organisations across the country’s health, aged care, education and welfare sectors to discuss governance and reporting requirements under the Modern Slavery Act passed last December.

It recommends the setting up of an online hub or portal, which would enable the sharing of resources including tools to assess the risk of slavery in supply chains, ethical contract clauses and employee education and awareness materials. It also calls for the establishment of an implementation group which would liaise with Australia’s Department of Home Affairs.

Slavery survivor Vannak Anan Prum in Sydney last month with his graphic memoir ‘The Dead Eye and The Deep Blue Sea’. PHOTO: P Rosengren

“I encourage you to take this report to your staff, colleagues, boards of directors and CEOs so that you are complying, but more importantly, that you are fighting the good fight for liberation of modern slaves,” said Archbishop Fisher.

“The Archdiocese of Sydney wants to work with you in whatever way we can on that project, and I express my gratitude to the anti-slavery taskforce and the tremendous support of many for our project here in the archdiocese as well as our colleagues across the board in many different agencies around the country.”

Chair of the taskforce John McCarthy QC said he was grateful for the archbishop’s commitment to reviewing and revising all of the archdiocese’s relevant contractual and business practices as part of efforts to eradicate human trafficking.

“We would now like to encourage other dioceses and agencies to follow this example and provide them with the support to do so,” he said.

Leading sustainability expert, Ms Sonja Duncan said that while most Catholic entities are at the ‘starting line’ in terms of managing modern slavery risks, the commitment across the Church is high.

“Translating this commitment into action on the ground requires a collaborative approach to training, supplier engagement and prioritising risk,” she said.

“With appropriate resourcing of modern slavery initiatives, the Catholic Church will be well placed to lead the way to end modern slavery in our generation.”

Mr McCarthy said he was convinced Australia can be at the forefront of eradicating human slavery and forced labour within a generation and that the Church will play a big part in achieving that goal.

The full report can be found online at www.sydneycatholic.org/solidarity-andjustice

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