We might not want to believe it, but human trafficking and slavery happens in Australia. Slavery is not an historical artefact, but a tragic reality for millions of people around the world, including in Australia.
Recently, the term “modern slavery” has been used to contrast contemporary forms of slavery from historical slavery such as that seen during the transatlantic slave trade.
In practice, modern slavery is an umbrella term that is often used to describe human trafficking, slavery and slavery-like practices such as servitude, forced labour and forced marriage.
But slavery is timeless. It has always been about the commodification of the body of a man, woman or child, the theft of liberty and sometimes life.
Anti-Slavery Australia, at the University of Technology Sydney, started researching and assisting trafficked and enslaved people in Australia back in 2002. For over 17 years, Anti-Slavery Australia has provided access to legal advice and assistance to hundreds of people who have experienced modern slavery.
In 2018 alone, Anti-Slavery Australia helped over 123 people who had been trafficked to or from Australia, or had faced slavery-like conditions while in Australia, including forced marriage, servitude and forced labour.
But this is just the tip of the iceberg. A recent report by the Australian Institute of Criminology estimates that only one in five victims are detected. This means that the cases we see are likely to be a small proportion of the scale of trafficking and slavery in Australia.
Vulnerable people of any background or status can be cruelly exploited. Some groups, such as migrant workers or young people, are more vulnerable than others.
So what does modern slavery look like in Australia?
Here are four real world examples, with names of individuals and businesses changed, to explain the different kinds of exploitation seen at Anti-Slavery Australia and considered in Australian courts.