Working together against modern slavery

The President of the Uniting Church in Australia Stuart McMillan has welcomed the combined advocacy efforts of ecumenical, interfaith and community partners in support of a Modern Slavery Act for Australia.

A coalition of organisations including the Synod of Victoria and Tasmania’s Justice and International Mission (JIM) Unit lodged a submission on Friday with a Parliamentary Inquiry into a Modern Slavery Act.

The submission, co-authored by JIM Unit director Dr Mark Zirnsak, makes a strong case for greater transparency about slavery-like conditions in Australian supply chains, an area that the UK Government has legislated since 2015.

“As Christians we believe that human beings are made in the image of God. To enslave another human is an outrageous attack on human dignity,” Mr McMillan said.

“I am delighted that we as a church are making the most of our partnerships across civil society to advocate for the common good.”

Dr Zirnsak says it’s important that Australia not be left behind as global efforts to eradicate slavery gather pace.

“Large corporations in the UK are now required to declare publicly the steps they have taken to ensure their supply chains are slavery-free,” Dr Zirnsak said.

“The same expectation on Australian companies would raise consumer awareness, model good corporate behaviour and hopefully lead to reduction in exploitation, both here in Australia and in our region.”

According to the estimates of the Global Slavery Index around 4300 individuals are held in modern slavery in Australia. Recent examples of migrant worker exploitation including debt bondage and deprivation of liberty that fall within the definition of modern slavery suggest the actual figure could well be higher.

“Ultimately the best measures to end modern slavery and human trafficking will empower the people working to be able to defend their own rights,” Dr Zirnsak said.

The UCA JIM Unit’s partners in the joint submission included the Salvation Army’s Freedom Partnership to End Modern Slavery, Australian Catholic Religious Against Trafficking in Humans and the Federation of Ethnic Community Councils in Australia.

Mr McMillan is also one of a number of Australian faith leaders who has supported a submission by the Australian Freedom Network.

The submissions will be made available on the Inquiry website once they’ve been approved for publication by members of Parliament’s Human Rights and Aid Sub-Committee.

Image: marc falardeau/Flickr

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