United in slavery fight

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

Anti-slavery document’s publication a landmark in the campaign to eradicate a global blight

The Australian Catholic Anti-Slavery Network (ACAN) has released a landmark report, showcasing the way its member organisations are responding to the challenge posed by modern slavery in the country through collaborative efforts to ensure all supply chains are slavery-free.

ACAN’s Compendium of Modern Slavery Statements highlights the work of over 40 Catholic entities including dioceses, health, education and welfare bodies, accounting for total annual revenue of $22.3 billion and $6.38 billion in annual procurement spending.

“The Archdiocese of Sydney’s Anti-Slavery Taskforce set up ACAN in 2019 and has led a number of its key initiatives since that time.”

The report forms part of the reporting requirements, introduced by the Australian government in 2019, whereby any organisation with an annual revenue of over $100 million must submit an Annual Modern Slavery Statement, documenting its efforts towards ensuring its supply chains are slavery-free.

The Archdiocese of Sydney’s Anti-Slavery Taskforce set up ACAN in 2019 and has led a number of its key initiatives since that time, including the establishment of Domus 8.7, a confidential advice service, allowing the victims of modern slavery to readily access legal and welfare support.

Taskforce chairman, Mr John McCarthy QC said ACAN has drawn significantly upon Catholic social teaching and the leadership of Archbishop Anthony Fisher OP and Pope Francis in its concerted fight against modern slavery.

John McCarthy QC.
John McCarthy QC, chair of the Sydney Archdiocesan Anti-Slavery Taskforce. PHOTO: Peter Rosengren

“Together we are striving to use our resources wisely to ensure the eradication of modern slavery nationally and globally in our generation”, he said. “The Holy Father never misses an opportunity to talk about the scourge of modern slavery in our world today and his commitment to this cause is unceasing”.

In 2017, well before the Commonwealth legislation came into force, Archbishop Fisher committed the Church in Sydney to work towards the eradication of modern slavery from its operations and supply chains and set up the Sydney Archdiocesan Anti-Slavery Taskforce.

The Taskforce has launched an initiative called Shop for Good, which encourages everyone to purchase ethically sourced goods with no slavery involved in their production. An online catalogue on the Archdiocese of Sydney website provides clear guidance on ethical goods including tea and coffee, chocolate, clothing and sporting goods.

“The United Nations estimates there are approximately 15,000 victims in Australia.”

More than 40 million people globally are estimated to live in modern slavery, with children thought to make up around a quarter of victims.

Australia is far from immune, with the United Nations estimating there are approximately 15,000 victims in Australia.

Australia and 190 other nations have pledged to end modern slavery by 2030, by adopting the Pope Francis-inspired United Nations Sustainable Development Goal 8.7.

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