Human trafficking, slavery, and slavery-like practices such as forced labour and forced marriage are complex crimes and a violation of human rights. The Australian Government is committed to combating these crimes and providing trafficked people with appropriate and humanitarian support.
While there is little reliable data about the nature and extent of human trafficking, there is a general consensus that trafficking in humans affects almost every country in the world. The nature of human trafficking varies from region to region. Its most visible form involves trafficking in women and children for sexual exploitation. But around the world men, women and children are trafficked for a wide range of other purposes, including forced labour in industries such as hospitality, construction, forestry, mining or agriculture, domestic and sweatshop labour, forced marriage, illicit adoption, street begging, forced recruitment into militia or the armed forces, and the harvesting of body organs.
The Australian Government Response
The Australian Government remains committed to working with other governments domestically and internationally, and with international and non-government organisations, to prevent human trafficking in all its forms, prosecute the perpetrators, and protect and support victims.
Australia’s response to human trafficking reflects Australia’s obligations as a party to the United Nations Convention against Transnational Organized Crime (UNTOC) since 2004 and its supplementary Protocol to Prevent, Suppress and Punish Trafficking in Persons, Especially Women and Children (the Trafficking Protocol) since 2005.
Australia has taken a comprehensive, whole-of-government approach to combating human trafficking since instituting its strategy to eradicate human trafficking in late 2003. Since then, the Australian Government has committed more than $150 million to support a range of domestic, regional and international anti-trafficking initiatives, including:
- specialist teams within the Australian Federal Police (AFP) to investigate human trafficking and slavery-related matters and an Australian Policing Strategy to Combat Trafficking in Persons
- legislation to criminalise human trafficking, slavery and slavery-like practices, including forced labour and forced marriage
- a victim support program that provides individual case-managed assistance to eligible trafficked people, including access to accommodation, financial assistance, legal and migration advice, training and social support
- visa arrangements to enable suspected victims and witnesses of human trafficking and slavery to remain in Australia to support the investigation and prosecution of offences
- specialist immigration officers posted in Thailand, China and the Philippines who focus on human trafficking issues and aim to prevent trafficking in source countries
- support for the Commonwealth Director of Public Prosecutions to prosecute human trafficking and slavery-related matters, including funding and training
- regional activities to deter human trafficking and slavery, train law enforcement officials and assist the victims under Australia’s overseas aid program; and
- research into national and regional trafficking activities by the Australian Institute of Criminology.
These initiatives reflect the four central pillars of the Australian Government’s Strategy to Combat Human Trafficking and Slavery: prevention; detection and investigation; criminal prosecution; and victim support and rehabilitation. Together these measures address the full cycle of trafficking from recruitment to repatriation and give equal weight to the critical areas of prevention, prosecution and victim support.
Australia’s anti-human trafficking strategy is overseen by an Interdepartmental Committee (IDC), chaired by the Attorney-General’s Department (AGD), with membership from the following agencies:
- Australian Crime Commission
- Australian Federal Police (AFP)
- Australian Institute of Criminology
- Commonwealth Director of Public Prosecutions (CDPP)
- Department of Education, Employment and Workplace Relations
- Department of Families, Housing, Community Services and Indigenous Affairs (FaHCSIA)
- Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade
- Department of Immigration and Citizenship (DIAC)
- Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet
- Fair Work Building and Construction, and
- Fair Work Ombudsman.
The IDC is responsible for monitoring the implementation of the strategy, reporting to the Australian Government on its effectiveness, and ensuring that emerging issues are addressed on a whole-of-government basis. Relevant agencies remain responsible for administering individual components of the strategy.
More information on the IDC, including the IDC’s annual report is available at the Attorney-General's Department website.
Support for Trafficked People and the Human Trafficking Visa Framework
The Support for Trafficked People Program (the Support Program) and the Human Trafficking Visa Framework (the Visa Framework) provide trafficked people in Australia with access to a flexible support framework for themselves and their families.
Most trafficked people identified in Australia have been women working in the sex industry (in both legal and illegal brothels). Generally, these women have been recruited from low socio-economic countries and are attracted by the perception of improved economic opportunities in Australia. Increasingly, Australian authorities are identifying trafficked people in other industries including agriculture and hospitality.
Support for Trafficked People Program
Australia provides a comprehensive range of support services for suspected trafficked people through its Support for Trafficked People Program (the Support Program).
Possible trafficked people may be identified through a number of avenues, including immigration officials, law enforcement agencies, NGOs, hospitals, medical practitioners, consulates and government departments. The AFP determines a person’s eligibility for the Support Program.
The Support Program is delivered nationally by the Australian Red Cross. Case managers are responsible for ensuring the appropriate delivery of support services to meet clients’ individual needs, which may include:
- suitable accommodation that meets the AFP’s security requirements
- income support
- medical treatment (through Medicare and the Pharmaceuticals Benefits Scheme, or as approved)
- legal and migration advice
- skills development training, including English-language classes and vocational guidance, and
- social support.
Clients who have dependent children living with them may receive assistance with arranging child care, schooling, counselling and medical support, if required. They can also be assisted to access parenting support or education, as needed.
The Support Program is divided into the following streams:
- Assessment Stream – intensive support for up to 45 days to all trafficked people determined by the AFP to be eligible for the Support Program, irrespective of whether they are willing or able to assist police. If the person does not have a valid visa, they may be granted a Bridging F visa for 45 days. This provides a recovery and reflection period and time for clients to assess their options. Clients have access to the following support as needed: secure accommodation; a living allowance; an amount for the purchase of essentials such as clothing and toiletries; access to health care, including counselling; access to interpreters; and access to legal services.
- Extended Assessment Stream – this provides access to a further 45 days support for clients who are willing, but not able, to assist with an investigation and prosecution of a people trafficking offence. This extended period of support is provided on a case-by-case basis and is designed to provide additional assistance to clients suffering from medical conditions and trauma. If the client does not hold a valid visa, a second Bridging F visa for up to 45 days may be granted.
- Justice Support Stream – support until the investigation and prosecution of a people trafficking matter is finalised. Clients have access to the following support as needed and if eligible: Special Benefit, Rent Assistance and a Health Care Card; assistance with securing longer-term accommodation; assistance to purchase essential furniture and household items; access to Medicare and the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme; access to legal services and interpreters; assistance to obtain employment and training (including English-language training) if desired; and links to social support.
- Temporary Trial Support Stream – intensive support (similar to that provided under the Assessment Stream) for trafficked people who return to Australia to give evidence pertaining to a human trafficking prosecution. Recipients are entitled to short-term accommodation and a weekly living and food allowance.
There is also a 20-day transition period for clients leaving the Support Program.
Human Trafficking Visa Framework
The Australian Government’s comprehensive Human Trafficking Visa Framework enables foreign nationals who are suspected of being trafficked to remain lawfully in Australia if they do not already hold a valid visa. Holders of a valid visa are able to access support while remaining on that visa.
The visa framework for trafficked people has three visas: the Bridging F visa, the Criminal Justice Stay visa and the Witness Protection (Trafficking) (Permanent) visa.
More information on the Human Trafficking Visa Framework can be found in the annual reports of the Interdepartmental Committee on Human Trafficking and Slavery at the Attorney-General's Department website.
Guidelines for NGOs Working with Trafficked People
Non-government organisations (NGOs) are integral to supporting Australia’s fight against trafficking and play an especially important role in assisting trafficked people.
The Guidelines for NGOs Working with Trafficked People are a collaborative product of the National Roundtable on Human Trafficking and Slavery. The Guidelines were updated in 2010 to reflect significant changes to the Support Program and the Human Trafficking Visa Framework that came into effect in 2009.
The Guidelines promote the best interests of trafficked people including the importance of informed consent, privacy protection and culturally appropriate services. They provide practice advice to NGOs dealing with trafficked people who have suffered all forms of trafficking, including sexual servitude and labour exploitation.
The Guidelines are available at Attorney-General's Department website