Religious leaders call to make Australia ‘slavery-proof’

29 June 2017

The Diocese of Parramatta’s Social Justice Office joined members of Australian Catholic Religious against Trafficking in Humans (ACRATH) at NSW Parliament House on Wednesday 31 May.

Inter-faith representatives called on businesses and the Australian government to slavery-proof their supply-chains at a NSW parliamentary inquiry on Wednesday.

The Australian Freedom Network (AFN), which represents 18 faith groups including Catholic, Anglican, Coptic Orthodox, Muslim, Hindu, Buddhist and Uniting in Australia, emphasised the need for Australia to adopt a Modern Slavery Act.

Sr Noelene Simmons SM, President of ACRATH and Blacktown local, along with Sr Louise McKeogh FMA of the Diocesan Social Justice Office, attended as special guest.

UK Independent Anti-Slavery Commissioner, Kevin Hyland and Australian Human Right’s Commissioner Gillian Triggs shared their reflections.

Mr Hyland spearheaded the UK’s landmark Modern Slavery Act (2015), which has prompted the Australian government to launch an inquiry into whether it should adopt a similar legislation.

Related content: Bishop Vincent Long to launch paper on human trafficking

Related content: Sr Noelene Simmons SM elected President of ACRATH

The AFN has collectively called for action to rescue an estimated 4,300 modern day slaves living in Australia and 45.8 million modern slaves worldwide. (Global Slavery Index, 2016)

Mr Hyland and the President of the Australian Human Rights Commission, Professor Gillian Triggs, spoke about the importance of faith groups to lead action against modern day slavery, and acknowledged the work of women religious in this area and the leadership of Pope Francis.

“It’s a strange mix, having bishops, police chiefs and religious sisters all together saying they are going to address serious and organised crime but let me tell you it works,” Mr Hyland said. He also acknowledged significant progress against modern slavery in the UK since the slavery act’s introduction.

Participants gathered at NSW Parliament House on 31 May to make Australia ‘slavery-proof’. Image: supplied.

Sr Noelene was pleased to hear that parishes had responded with meaningful discussions and calls to action since the recent Parramatta launch of Human Trafficking and Slavery: A response from Australian Catholics.

The inquiry heard that the Catholic Archdiocese of Sydney is the first NSW faith-based organisation to announce a commitment to ensure supply chains are slavery proof.  This move challenges other faith communities to continue to lead the way to slavery-proof supply.

Mr Hyland argued that the fight against slavery is not just a concern for businesses and organisations but also with individuals.

“We sometimes say this is a hidden crime but actually, once we start looking, it’s not so hidden. Sometimes it’s in our high streets, sometimes it’s in our pockets, on the phone that was manufactured as a result of a child in a mine in India or the Congo,” said Mr Hyland.

The act ensures individuals are conscious of the businesses they support and knowing whether their money could potentially aid modern slavery.

The Honourable Paul Green, a Christian Democrat member of NSW Legislative Council gave the final address, stating that if Australia didn’t adopt a Modern Slavery Act, he would draft a recommendation that it is at least adopted in NSW.

Mr Green closed proceedings by reciting Luke 12:48.

“From everyone who has been given much, much will be demanded; and from the one who has been entrusted with much, much more will be asked.”

With thanks to Insights eMagazine.

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