Human Trafficking in Australia

Subject: Sociology
Pages: 10
Words: 2741
Reading time:
10 min
Study level: Master


Human traffickings, like practices resembling slavery or slavery itself, revolves around human rights issues that deal with complicated crimes, forced marriages and labor, and servitude. Throughout the world, human trafficking takes place as children, women, and even men are exploited for several reasons, among them organ harvesting, forced marriages, debt bondage, forced labor, slavery, and servitude (AFP, n.d.). Human trafficking, a $150 billion industry with humans being the commodity, exists in more than 170 countries globally and every state in the U.S. (Hightower-labosco, 2021). Slavery, on the other hand, was thought to have ended with the proclamation of emancipation in the U.S., continues to thrive, and more than 40 million people are victims of it, with an ever-growing number being children (Hightower-labosco, 2021). Moreover, no community is immune from this form of injustice, and children fall under the highest risk category in the entire population.

Australian Law has criminalized both slavery and human trafficking to combat the anti-human rights acts. In the 1995 Commonwealth Criminal Code Act Division 270, the Australian Law criminalizes every act related to slavery, while Division 271 constitutes every act resulting in a human trafficking offense (Australian Government, 2021). If found guilty, the penalties for slavery and human trafficking range from 4-year liability servitude imprisonment to 25 years of bondage and child trafficking imprisonment (Australian Government, 2021). Moreover, the Australian Government also safeguards vulnerable witnesses participating in Commonwealth criminal processes, providing similar protective measures to slavery and trafficking victims.

How Human Trafficking is Portrayed in Australia

While believing that human trafficking and slavery might be complex, it happens in Australia. No longer is slavery a historical artifact, but it is a tragic reality for more than 40 million people across the globe (Altman, 2017). With Australia not an exception, the recent term, modern slavery, is used to contrast slavery in its contemporary form from its historical image, like those seen in the transatlantic slave trade (The Conversation, 2019). While slavery is timeless, its central concept revolves around the commodification of people and entails forced labor, servitude, and involuntary marriages.

Through the federal police, the Australian Government warns that human trafficking and modern slavery are taking place in the background of society. According to the Northern Command AFP Subordinate Representative Lesa Gale, “Human trafficking, servitude, debt bondage, and every other form of slavery and exploitation are not a thing that can be seen only in TV; the exploitation occurs right here in our backyard, often in plain sight” (9News, 2021). Gale further shows that, “victims of slavery and human trafficking suffer most heinous acts such as psychological, physical, and sexual assaults, basic human freedom and rights breaches, and food deprivation” (9News, 2021). Further, Altman (2017) shows that under the Community Development Program (CDP), more jobless people in remote Australia are subjected to two times work compared to their jobless counterparts in non-remote areas. The program is discriminatory since indigenous people are its primary target of 84 percent of 35,000 participants (Altman, 2017). As a modern slavery actor, the program serves best to penalize participants than provide them with meaningful work.

Most Relevant Human Rights Instrument

Australia appears to be at the forefront of combating modern slavery and human trafficking. Based on Altman (2017), the efforts of the Australian Government have been influenced by the Walk Free Foundation advocacy. There has been a flurry of activity by the government through the foundation since 2017. The government has further committed to actively engaging locally, regionally, and internationally towards combating the issue. From an international perspective, the Australian Government has ratified the United National Convention against Transnational Organized Crime (UNTOC) (Australian Government, 2021). UNTOC, a supplementary protocol under the Trafficking Protocol, safeguards, suppresses and punishes trafficking in individuals, particularly children and women. With the involvement in the protocol and convention, the government is enthusiastically engaged in fighting people trafficking alongside other nations in the area and beyond.

Further, the government is involved in international forums like the United Nations Human Rights Council’s Universal Periodic Review and the United Nations Commission on Crime Prevention and Criminal Justice. Other such forums where Australia participates comprise the UNTOC Conference of Parties and the United Nations Committee on Discrimination Elimination against women towards preventing and addressing the issue (Australian Government, 2021). Regionally, the Australian Government has partnered with other states to fight the issue. Australia’s support package caters to several aid projects throughout Asia, constituting the Australia-Asia program that helps fight the trafficking of people (Australian Government, 2021). An example of the Australia-Asia program is the Bali Process on People Smuggling, Trafficking in Persons, and Related Transnational Crime co-led by Indonesia and Australia.

Locally, the government under the National Action Plan to fight slavery and people trafficking of 2015-2019 offers a strategic framework through which the government responds to slavery and human trafficking. Through a partnership between non-government and government actors, the plan was launched on 2 December 2014 by the then Justice Minister, Hon MP Michael Keenan (Australian Government, 2021). Further, between 2020 and 2025, the government developed the existing framework to combat human trafficking and associated forms of modern slavery. The action plan is dedicated to every person who has encountered and survived any egregious exploitation form associated with modern slavery in five years. Moreover, the plan is a dedicated platform for the organizations and individuals that work tirelessly to prevent modern slavery from happening (AG, 2020). Additionally, the plan supports modern slavery survivors and victims by reconstructing their lives.

The other strategy taken by the Australian Government in 2008-2009, is the Australian National Audit Office (ANAO), through which a management audit of the government action plan was undertaken to eradicate human trafficking. Based on the report, the Interdepartmental Committee on Slavery and Human Trafficking (IDC) was recommended to enhance how the government’s effort on the issue was being measured happening (Australian Government, 2021). The outcome was the establishment of the whole-of-government framework on performance by the Australian Government that created reasonable estimates on the slavery and human trafficking scale.

Why Human Trafficking is an Issue to the Australian Government

Human trafficking is hidden in plain sight and continues to tear the social fabric of every country’s economic structure. People trafficking is modern slavery and, in its illegal form, revolves around selling or trading people through controls, recruitment, and body use for labor (Hightower-labosco, 2021). In Australia, the Law defines slavery as “an individual’s situation where any or every power attached to ownership rights are exercised, including conditions resulting from the contract made or debt by the person” (The Conversation, 2019). Modern slavery and human trafficking in Australia also include offenses where people already in the country are subjected to exploitative acts such as forced marriages and labor, servitude, and slavery.

Due to the clandestine nature associated with modern slavery and human trafficking, the available reliable data is little; however, the existing picture associated with people trafficking shows the number of victims is growing. According to Altman (2017), modern slavery in Australia is an issue of concern since it speaks of the profound levels of inequalities and discrimination coupled with shocking exploitation tolerances. Moreover, Altman (2017) says that a society where more than 40 million people are subjected to forced labor, marriages, servitude, and slavery on any given day is a shameful act for the global community. With a growth in the number of individuals losing their freedom and rights control in the country, the Australian Government has mandated itself to change the narrative. The change intends to influence the reality associated with the issue by first creating awareness of its existence, followed by implementing policies to fight the problem.

Every Australian and the government, in general, has a significant role to play in spotting modern slavery and human trafficking indications. Based on 9News (2021), AFP showed that in the 2020-2021 financial year, 224 modern slavery reports constituted 79 forced marriage cases and 42 sexual exploitation and servitude reports. Moreover, there were 35 and 28 reported instances where people had been forced to work and were trafficked (9News, 2021). The levels of domestic servitude were reported to be 15, while cases of trafficked children were 12 (9News, 2021). Six reports showed that slavery had taken place during the same time, while four and two reported instances of debt bondage and deceptive recruiting, respectively (9News, 2021). Coupled with the understanding associated with CDP or the work-for-the-dole, the Australian Government has developed plans to ensure a new remote jobs program will be rolled out in 2023 (Allam, 2021). Based on the new program, indigenous workers will work in work-like activities voluntarily instead of on mandatory terms.

Actions Taken during the Current Session

During the current session, I have taken free online courses educating myself on the issue of human rights. I have always believed that education plays a significant role in how one is informed about the issues going on locally, regionally, and internationally. Based on this profound belief, I now understand human rights and the extent to which it ranges both locally and internationally. Moreover, from learning about how the United Nations defines human rights and the frameworks established in protecting the freedom and rights of people, I have gained knowledge essential to interpreting boundaries between exploitation and freedom. Additionally, through the subsequent free e-learning courses, developing accessibility and inclusion culture, national principles for child safety organization, and upholding older workers’ rights, I have supporting information to make actual tangible changes.

With the gathered information, it became easy to seek organizations associated with anti-slavery in the country to help combat the vise within the community. By joining as a volunteer, I was and still am helping in fighting the human trafficking effects in the region, which resonates with the government’s intention to end the vise in the country. To date, the information gathered has been central in creating awareness about human trafficking and modern slavery, which has significantly improved my fight against the issue.

With the shift in how slavery is perceived, the scourge is an intergenerational problem. Therefore, as a parent, I made it my responsibility to educate my children on human rights, constitutionally given rights, and what distinguishes freedom from exploitation. From the teachings, I believe my children understand what it means to oppose human rights violations, a concept that is continuously improved by changes in thought and my participation against the issue. The media has also been a great contributor to their comprehension of injustice. The ripple effect of the learning is evident in my children’s friends since they, too, have realized the need to create awareness of human trafficking and modern slavery.

Moreover, I have proposed to my fellow parents the significance of forming a group to educate ourselves on injustice. As I have shared with them, I believe that through informed minds, our children will understand the issue, which is not taught in schools. The effectiveness of the group has the potential to extend into programs in other communities throughout the country, a concept that can be driven with the use of technology.

Evaluation of Own Action Measured against Social Work Human Rights-based Practice

The role of social workers in the fight against human trafficking and modern slavery is very critical since they are at the forefront of identifying victims of injustice. However, a sense of complication associated with the misconception in films makes many people live with the notion that traffickers are strangers that snatch their victims and force them into slavery-related acts (Piotrowicz et al., 2019). That has created a knowledge gap between the truth and the misconception making many people unaware of the impact that human trafficking and modern slavery have (Wehrmann, & McClain, 2018). Therefore, the first level of social worker engagement in the fight against injustices is to work towards minimizing the existing knowledge gap about the issue.

The major challenge faced by agencies of change trying to combat human trafficking and modern slavery is the insufficient or secretive nature of the illegal business. However, despite this challenge, social workers must create awareness among vulnerable populations in the fight against people trafficking (Dalla, & Sabella, 2020). Through awareness campaigns, the ability of traffickers might be restricted when the community is drawn into an understanding of the effects associated with modern slavery and human trafficking. Working in partnerships with faith-based communities, social workers can utilize outreach and educational programs that increase awareness within society (Piotrowicz et al., 2016). The campaigns will include sensitive community members in understanding the tricks employed by traffickers in luring their victims into potential exploitation of trafficking. Reflecting on own actions, the action plan was responsible for creating awareness about the injustice. Moreover, through teaching my children and sensitizing other children, more people in my community are now aware of what human trafficking is and the impacts the injustice has to the victims.

Another social worker is human rights-based practice identification of victims and engaging survivors. Despite the differences in each case associated with human trafficking and modern slavery, certain warning signs exist that every victim portrays. Among the indicators and risk factors associated with the injustices are difficult relationships with caregivers, victims appearing malnourished, absence of official identification documents, and avoiding social interaction, eye contact, and authority figures (Wehrmann, & McClain, 2016). The mandate of social workers is to become attuned to the signs that indicate an individual has been subjected to injustice.

Through stages of change and motivational interviewing, social workers can become effective in establishing trust with the victims such that if any victim considers abandoning the coerced lifestyle, they can facilitate leaving it. Further, social workers must never be judgmental, nor should they assume dealing with victims of injustices is like dealing with other forms of abuse (Kempadoo et al., 2017). Due to the differences in the two abuse types, social workers must always ensure to incorporate the help of specialized programs and services. However, reflecting on the practice and my own action, I have not been involved in engaging with survivors or identifying victims.

Training and getting involved is the other area of practice associated with social workers in human trafficking. Based on human trafficking’s hidden nature, social workers must train to be able to identify victims of injustice. Training is also essential since they prepare the workers to recognize the familiar challenges faced by the victims, such as depression, headaches, and sexually transmitted infections, among others (Dalla, & Sabella, 2020). Further, training also facilitates in the workers an understanding of how to get involved with the responsible authorities on what available information about the injustice can be offered. The main goal of getting involved and creating awareness is to ensure a majority if not all, of people get on the same page about the issue. When social workers get involved and get others to become involved in the same efforts to combat human trafficking, it is possible to help the government in achieving its objective of combating the problem (Kempadoo et al., 2017). Own action, I have been engaged in training through the free online courses and have also been involved in an anti-slavery organization.


Human trafficking has been closely related to modern slavery and among the acts associated with it are organ harvesting, forced marriages, debt bondage, forced labor, slavery, and servitude. Forming the six types of abuse associated with injustice, it has been shown that more than 40 million people are victims of human trafficking, which takes place in more than 170 countries. Under divisions 270 and 271, the Australian government has criminalized every act with a minimum of 4 years and a maximum of 25 years imprisonment if found guilty. With the injustice taking place in Australia’s background, the government has been in the fore front of fighting human trafficking and modern slavery.

As a social worker, training, getting involved, and identifying and engaging survivors is very critical in helping the government to fight human trafficking and modern slavery. Locally, the government has established programs that ensure new programs replace the CDP or work-for-the-dole with a new program where indigenous workers will work in work-like activities on a voluntary basis instead of mandatory terms. Every Australian must take part in fighting the injustices since it is the only way modern slavery and human trafficking can be spotted and eradicated. That is the case since the main goal on getting involved and creating awareness is to ensure a majority, if not all people, get on the same page about the issue.


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