The Australian Government estimates that there are at least 1500 modern slavery victims in Australia. The United Nations estimates that at least 40 million people around the globe are forced into modern-day slavery. Those most at risk include women and children who may have little or no capacity to protect themselves. Australia has agreed with the United Nations to attempt to abolish modern slavery by 2030.

The term modern slavery is used to describe situations where coercion, threats or deception are used to exploit victims and undermine or deprive them of their freedom.

Serious exploitation

There are eight types of serious exploitation which combined make up the term modern slavery:

  1. Trafficking in persons – the recruitment, harbouring and movement of a person for exploitation through modern slavery
  2. Slavery - situations where the offender exercises powers of ownership over the victim including the power to make a person an object of purchase and use their labour in an unrestricted way
  3. Servitude – situations where the victim’s personal freedom is significantly restricted, and they are not free to stop working of leave their place of work
  4. Forced marriage – situations where coercion, threats or deception are used to make a victim marry or where the victim does not understand or is incapable of understanding the nature and effect of the marriage ceremony
  5. Forced labour - situations where the victim is either not free to stop work or not free to leave their place of work
  6. Debt bondage – situations where the victim’s services are pledged as a security for a debt and the debt is manifestly excessive of the victim’s services, are not applied to liquidate the debt and/or the length and nature of the services are not limited and defined.
  7. Deceptive recruiting for labour or services - situations where the victim is deceived about whether they will be exploited through a type of modern service
  8. Serious exploitation of children and child labour – situations including enslavement, sexual exploitation, used to produce or traffic drugs, and exposure to dangerous work. Freedom from slavery is a fundamental human right. Under the Australian Government endorsed United Nations Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights (UN Guiding Principles) entities have a responsibility to respect human rights in their operations and supply chains. This responsibility includes taking action to prevent, mitigate and, where possible, remedy modern slavery in your entity’s operations and supply chains.

Other illegal and harmful practices may be present within the supply chain but are not considered modern slavery. Practices like substandard working conditions or underpayment of workers may be indicators of more serious exploitation, corruption and practices which impact on human rights.