The National Conference of Australian Catholic Religious Against Trafficking in Humans (ACRATH) was held from 27 February to 1 March 2018 in Sydney, Australia.
Religious and lay mission partners from many Congregations came together with a focus this year on Forced Marriage. Good Shepherd was represented by Sr Caroline Price. Ms Annie Pettitt, from Good Shepherd Australia New Zealand (GSANZ) attended on the 28 February.
The conference began with the presentation of the Annual Report and a “snapshot” of the work of ACRATH across Australia. One area of advocacy for ACRATH is the proposed Modern Slavery Act for Australia. ACRATH members and other NGOs have been actively lobbying Members of the Federal Parliament about this proposed legislation.
The presentation on Forced Marriage was given by Ms Liz Payne, who works with ACRATH and has developed a learning package for secondary schools. Liz presented on “Understanding the Practice of Forced Marriage in Australia”. Liz and ACRATH members in the state of Victoria are involved in running this program in schools.
Fr Peter O’Neill, a Columban priest with years of experience in Taiwan, presented on work he was involved in on behalf of migrant workers. The Columbans set up the Hope Workers’ Centre (HWC) in 1986 to assist migrants, many of whom work as carers for the aged in Taiwan, and as domestic workers. Many migrants, including women, are “Fisher folk” working on Taiwanese fishing vessels. Working with the Government was an important part of building the strategy for change, and in 2009 Taiwan passed a Human Trafficking Prevention and Control Act.
Sr Adrienne Gallie, rsj, represented ANZRATH in New Zealand. While the network is small in NZ, it has three active groups in the country and they are currently advocating for a New Zealand Anti-Slavery Law. NZ now has a law on international “fisher folk” (see note above re Taiwan). If fishing vessels have fisher folk on board in NZ waters these people come under NZ Law.
In Queensland, ACRATH members are involved in support programs for backpackers and migrant workers in the agriculture industry in rural Australia. A phone app called BE AWARE is being developed to assist them. A group in Bundaberg called Fairfields is one response to the seasonal workers issue in that area.
Ms Jenny Stanger, from the Freedom Partnership, Salvation Army talked about the work with those escaping slavery. They are involved in safe houses which are not linked to law enforcement.
Participants learned about the work of Laura McManus of Konica Minolta. Her thought provoking presentation highlighted the work her company does to address the issues of modern slavery in the supply chains. Laura noted that between 2000 and 3000 companies could be impacted by the Modern Slavery Act. Her role involves developing ways to converse with suppliers and assist them to report accurately and effectively as they develop policies. She noted that up to 50% of suppliers don't have a policy on child or forced labour.
The special partnership between ACRATH and St Vincent’s Health Australia (SVHA) was discussed by the Mission Leader of SVHA, Lisa McDonald. Education programs for hospital staff are being developed with ACRATH to address human trafficking in health care. There is a deep commitment of staff at SVHA to the most poor and vulnerable people, and to trafficked people.
SVHA is also addressing issues in medical and health related supply chains.
The conference highlighted the need for more dialogue and reflection on how to sustain the work of ACRATH into the future, and how to engage young people. This will be the challenge in the next few years. Once again the conference offered much food for thought and was an opportunity for networking among the participants from all parts of Australia.
Submitted by Caroline Price rgs
Australian Catholic Religious Against Trafficking in Humans - www.acrath.org.au
New Zealand Religious Against Trafficking in Humans - www.anzrath.com
Baptist World Aid - https://baptistworldaid.org.au/resource-category/advocacy-resources/
Behind the Barcode - www.behindthebarcode.org.au