ACRATH celebrates milestone advocacy success


We have had a win. With your help, a 17-year advocacy battle has resulted in the Federal Government’s Budget decision to offer victims and survivors of human trafficking the opportunity to access support without involvement with law enforcement.

This is a momentous achievement. Before the Budget night announcement, a trafficking victim’s ability to access the Victim Support Program was contingent on their capacity to assist police in a criminal investigation or prosecution. ACRATH began advocating for this to change in 2006, along with Professor Jennifer Burn, now Director of Anti-Slavery Australia, in a submission to the UN that said:

“Currently a trafficking victim’s ability to access the Victim Support Program is contingent on their capacity to assist police in a criminal investigation or prosecution. Trafficking victims, who are not involved in the law enforcement and criminal justice process, have been left to find care and support from members of community and religious organizations. We believe that the Program should be extended to all victims of trafficking. Victims of trafficking have many and complex needs. We recommend that the Government consider widening the Victim Support Program to guarantee that all victims of trafficking receive access to comprehensive health care services, residential and vocational support, and legal and migration advice”.

ACRATH executive officer Christine Carolan said the Budget announcement was one of the most important decisions ever made by the Federal Government in support of victim/survivors of human trafficking.

“This long-term advocacy is only possible with support from so many people. Support comes in many ways – volunteering to join advocacy trips to Canberra, prayers by so many in communities and donations that keep ACRATH operating from year to year,” Christine said.

“For almost two decades we have tenaciously raised this issue with ministers and public servants. And about 5 years ago we joined an NGO network to work intensively to achieve this. This change will make such a difference to so many people, especially those who have been trafficked but who don’t want to speak about their circumstances with the police.”

Christine said advocacy over the years has been informed by the victims and survivors in ACRATH’s Companionship program who told ACRATH that they needed to access support without involving police – they were frightened of the police; they were anxious for their own or their family’s safety and they were worried about their immigration status.

ACRATH also raised these concerns in awareness raising programs and workshops with healthcare workers who affirmed the need for an additional pathway to support.

“The program, announced in the Budget means a victim/survivor will be able to ask for support with accommodation, healthcare, counselling, legal matters and other issues because they have been trafficked and need a hand. We don’t believe that someone who has experienced trafficking should be able to access this support only if they will help with a prosecution. And last night we have achieved this,” Christine said.

Another long held advocacy target was also achieved in the Budget when the Government delivered on an election promise to establish an Anti-Slavery Commissioner. The budget provides $8 million over four years from 2023-24, with $2 million per year ongoing, to set up this important role. The Commissioner will work across Government, industry and civil society to support compliance with the Modern Slavery Act; improve transparency supply chains; and help fight the scourge of modern slavery in Australia and globally.

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