ACRATH’s Dogged Advocacy Pays Off
Many years ago ACRATH, alongside other NGOs, began advocating for a Modern Slavery Act in Australia and an independent Anti-Slavery Commissioner to oversee that Act. The Act was passed in 2018 and the appointment of a Commissioner is now a step closer. ACRATH’s dogged advocacy is paying off.
On Budget night in October ACRATH was delighted to see in the Attorney General’s budget plan the setting up of a new unit within the Attorney-General’s Department to establish an Anti-Slavery Commissioner to work with business, civil society and state and territory governments to support compliance with Australia’s Modern Slavery Act 2018 and address modern slavery in supply chains.
Advocacy, including an annual calendar of meetings with Members of Parliament and civil society leaders, has become a central plank of ACRATH’s work. In fact, the appointment of an Anti-Slavery Commissioner was one of the key advocacy points discussed when ACRATH met with Attorney-General Mark Dreyfus before the Budget announcement.
ACRATH’s Cindy Bohan, who coordinates the training of the team of volunteer ‘advocates’, believes an Anti-Slavery Commissioner has the potential to change how companies comply with the Modern Slavery Act of 2018. She said there was recognition in the sector that the Act needed to become more rigorous in the area of compliance.
“The Act is a great first step, but there are lots of questions around it. Has it become a box ticking exercise, should there be penalties for non-compliance and how do we build the capacity of people to better respond to the Act in a meaningful way?” Cindy asked.
“ACRATH doesn’t want companies to simply tick boxes; we want the Act viewed as a piece of legislation that can really lead to changes in the way people, involved in supply chains, are treated.”
“We believe an Anti-Slavery Commissioner will have clout and can make these changes and ACRATH is keen to contribute to developing the Commissioner’s role. We called for the Anti-Slavery Commissioner in 2018 but it didn’t get through Parliament. We didn’t stop then and we will continue to advocate until we have a Commissioner in place, making the changes that are needed.”
ACRATH’s Executive Officer Christine Carolan said ACRATH wanted to see a timeline for the appointment of the Commissioner and a budget for the funding of the unit, set out in the Federal Government’s 2023 May Budget.
ACRATH continues to advocate on a range of other issues including, additional pathways onto the Support for Trafficked People Program, the implementation of a National Compensation Scheme for victim/ survivors and an increase to Overseas Development Assistance.
(Picture: Christine Carolan and Cindy Bohan with Mark Dreyfus.)