The inquiry, conducted by the Community Relations Commission of New South Wales (CRC), found exploitation continues to involve women in the sex industry, but that forced marriages and labour exploitation also occur.
Releasing the report today, the Chair of the CRC, Stepan Kerkyasharian, said the findings break down some of the myths regarding human trafficking and slavery. For example, the myth that the problem only affects women when in fact men and children are also victims.
Mr Kerkyasharian, who headed the Inquiry, highlighted some of the disturbing issues that had been brought to the attention of the Inquiry: Women brought to Australia through marriage and held in slave-like conditions; students employed to work as nannies and denied their liberty and wages; men brought out on 457 visas required to perform unskilled labour for long hours with below award pay and; men migrating to work as sporting boxers enslaved and made to participate in illegal and unsafe fights.
“This is a sad catalogue of human behaviour which crosses many communities and individuals in NSW,” Mr Kerkyasharian said.
“I was disturbed that some victims were too afraid to appear and speak directly to the Inquiry, for fear of the consequences.
“This kind of exploitation, which by its nature is underreported, is demeaning and a brutal violation of human dignity. It has many different faces and more must be done to help victims.”
A key finding relates to the service response in NSW, which the Inquiry found needed to be expanded so that victims can receive coordinated support. Currently, there is a low level of awareness among agencies and the community about the problem and how to deal with it when people come into contact with someone who has been trafficked.
As a first step, the Inquiry recommends that NSW create its own policy – including a ministerial level Human Trafficking Advisory Council – to enable a more coordinated response to human trafficking in all its forms.
The Inquiry, which was held earlier this year and involved a committee of experts, acknowledged that key initiatives to deal with trafficking fall within federal responsibility. At the same time, the state government response is critical because services, including in the areas of health and housing, are the ‘front line’ for victims.
Other recommendations include:
- Introducing a national scheme for victims compensation so that payments are consistent.
- Providing teachers and other education professionals with resources to detect and prevent forced or underage marriages. This could include a phone app like the Aurora domestic violence app and religious leaders taking the lead to uphold the Australian Values Statement.