Media Release: NSW must not be a refuge for modern day slavery

The New South Wales Council for Civil Liberties (“CCL”) gave evidence today at NSW Parliament before the Modern Slavery Committee regarding its review of the Modern Slavery Act 2018 (“the NSW Modern Slavery Act”).

The review is concerned with whether the policy objectives of the NSW Modern Slavery Act remain valid.

The CCL strongly supports the policy objectives of the NSW Modern Slavery Act.

Australia has a largely unrecognized history of benefitting from modern slavery, including forced labour and exploitation of First Nations people and the “blackbirding” or enslavement of “Sugar Slaves”.

But Modern Slavery is not a shameful chapter from our past – it is very much in our present and largely remains unseen”. It is estimated forced labour contributing to at least $193 billion dollars (US) in private wealth globally.

In June 2023, the NSW Anti-Slavery Commissioner, Dr. James Cockayne, remarked that there is an estimated 41, 000 people enslaved in Australia. In 2022, authorities received 294 modern slavery reports in Australia, an increase of 31% from 2021. Whilst these figures are shocking, it should be remembered that only 1 in 5 victims of slavery are detected in Australia. 

Modern slavery is often hidden in our favourite restaurants, on farms that produce our food, on building sites and in homes within our own neighbourhoods.

Not all of us are “young and free” in our country. There are people and businesses that still treat people like slaves – exercising ownership over them and forcing them to undertake unpaid labour and bonding them in servitude, exposing them to sexual exploitation or forced marriages. 

People living in Australia with visa insecurity are particularly vulnerable to exploitation.

There is no place for modern slavery in Australia. Our own individual rights, liberties and freedoms cannot be built on the backs of those who are enslaved.

New South Wales is unique insofar as it was the first state or territory in Australia to introduce specific legislation regarding modern slavery.

We are mindful that the NSW Modern Slavery Act only commenced on 1 January 2022 and that the 20 member Advisory panel was only announced on 25 July 2023.

The CCL made several recommendations to the Modern Slavery Committee to ensure that modern slavery is detected and prevented in New South Wales.

The CCL will continue to promote, protect and defend the rights and liberties of persons in Australia and its Territories against any infringement by authorities or against the use or abuse of powers by governments, their agencies, or others in authority to the detriment of the liberties which inhabitants of this country should enjoy.