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Australia's response to human trafficking

Human trafficking, slavery and slavery-like practices are a global problem. While the global scale of the issue is difficult to measure, the International Organization for Migration has stated that as many as 800,000 people may be trafficked across international borders annually.

An estimated 2.5 million people are in forced labour (including sexual exploitation) at any given time as a result of human trafficking. A large number of countries are reported to be affected by human trafficking by being a source, transit or destination country.

Australia is committed to combating this issue domestically, regionally and internationally.

Internationally

Australia has ratified the United Nations Convention against Transnational Organized Crime (UNTOC) and its supplementary Protocol to Prevent, Suppress and Punish Trafficking in Persons, Especially Women and Children (Trafficking Protocol). Australia is actively engaged in the fight against human trafficking with other countries in our region and beyond.

We participate in international forums such as the United Nations Commission on Crime Prevention and Criminal Justice, the United Nations Human Rights Council's Universal Periodic Review process, the United Nations Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women and the UNTOC Conference of Parties, to better address and prevent trafficking.

Regionally

Australia works collaboratively with other countries to combat human trafficking. For example, Australia and Indonesia co-chair the Bali Process on People Smuggling, Trafficking in Persons and Related Transnational Crime. Australia's aid program also supports a number of aid projects in the Asia region, including the Australia-Asia Program to Combat Trafficking in Persons. More information can be found on the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade website.

Domestically

Australia's National Action Plan to Combat Human Trafficking and Slavery 2015–19

Australia's National Action Plan to Combat Human Trafficking and Slavery 2015–19 provides the strategic framework for Australia's response to human trafficking and slavery. The plan was developed with government and non-government partners, and was launched by the Minister for Justice, the Hon Michael Keenan MP, on 2 December 2014.

Interdepartmental Committee on Human Trafficking and Slavery

The Department of Home Affairs is committed to building strong partnerships within government, and chairs the Interdepartmental Committee on Human Trafficking and Slavery (IDC). The IDC comprises eleven agencies that provide oversight of Australia's response to human trafficking:

  1. Attorney-General's Department
  2. Australian Criminal Intelligence Commission
  3. Australian Federal Police
  4. Australian Institute of Criminology
  5. Commonwealth Director of Public Prosecutions
  6. Department of Jobs and Small Business
  7. Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade
  8. Department of Home Affairs
  9. Department of Social Services
  10. Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet
  11. Fair Work Ombudsman.

The IDC tables an annual report in the Australian Parliament which details its activities. The following reports contain the Australian Government response for the specified period:

Supply Chains Working Group

In 2014, the Minister for Justice, the Hon Michael Keenan MP, announced the formation of the Supply Chains Working Group to examine ways to address serious forms of labour exploitation in the supply chains of goods and services. The working group comprised experts from government, business, industry, civil society, unions and academia. The working group finalised its work programme in December 2015 and reported to the Government in early 2016. Following the working group’s report, the Government announced that it would strengthen its response to human trafficking and slavery, including by:

  • creating a suite of awareness-raising materials for business
  • further considering the feasibility of a model for large businesses in Australia to publicly report on their actions to address supply chain exploitation
  • examining options for an awards program for businesses that take action to address supply chain exploitation, and
  • exploring the feasibility of a non-regulatory, voluntary code of conduct for high risk industries.

Australia's Strategy to Combat Human Trafficking and Slavery—Whole-of-Government Performance Management Reporting

In 2008–09, the Australian National Audit Office (ANAO) undertook an audit of the management of the Australian Government's Action Plan to Eradicate Trafficking in Persons. The ANAO report recommended that the IDC improve the way that progress was reviewed and how the results of Australia’s efforts were measured. As a result, the Australian Government developed a whole-of-government performance framework, which created a way to make reasonable estimates of the scale of human trafficking, slavery and slavery-like practices in Australia.

The first data report on Australia's Strategy to Combat Human Trafficking and Slavery covers the period from the implementation of the strategy in January 2004 until 30 June 2010. Subsequent reports are issued on a six-monthly basis: