Activism in Health
St Vincent’s Health Australia (SVHA) and ACRATH have worked together for several years to ensure human trafficking and modern day slavery can be identified and addressed within the health organisation’s 32 sites. This work began long before the Modern Slavery Act was passed in 2018.
“The work we do to combat human trafficking is about more than complying with the Modern Slavery Act, it’s about ensuring the dignity and flourishing of every human being, especially where a person is vulnerable. I cannot imagine any organisation whose purpose is healing being committed to anything less,” said Dr Lisa McDonald, Group Mission Leader with SVHA
SVHA’s work is being acknowledged during ACRATH’s 16 Days of Activism. The United Nations 16 days of activism against gender-based violence began on 25th November – International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women and ends on 10th December – Human Rights Day. Human trafficking, a $150 billion global industry, is one of the greatest examples of violence against women and girls. Millions of women and girls are forced to marry, or to work in slave like conditions for little, or no, pay and no chance of an education.
SVHA has taken significant steps in recent years to identify and address human trafficking, including:
- Advocates for Change which program enables key staff to raise awareness of modern slavery. The advocates help their colleagues to identify and support vulnerable people who have been trafficked who present to their facilities.
- People rescued from slavery. At both emergency departments of Melbourne and Sydney Public Hospitals, staff have safely identified women who have been trafficked and/or enslaved. The staff called upon specialist services to facilitate the safe removal of these women from slavery and they are now receiving support.
- Supply Chains. Involvement in a global push to bring about fairer work conditions for people working in rubber glove factories in Malaysia.
- Staffrooms. Working towards making staffrooms slavery-free by purchasing certified slavery-free tea, coffee and chocolate.
- Raising Awareness of and educating staff about human trafficking, particularly forced marriage and forced labour, as well as supply chains.
Several people have been identified and referred to support services as a result of the work of the Advocates for Change. Eight volunteer advocates have been recruited from SVHA sites in NSW, Victoria and Queensland. The advocates volunteered to take on the human trafficking work as part of their existing roles because they identified it as a major social justice issue.
One advocate Mali Newman-Plant, a Social Worker at St Vincent’s Sydney’s Sacred Heart Rehabilitation Service, is exploring opportunities to create greater awareness among her colleagues around how people who have been trafficked might present at St Vincent’s facilities.
“I don’t think human trafficking is on our radar as much as it should be and this project is going to change that, it’s wonderful,” Mali said. “It has the potential to make a real difference if we can equip clinicians with the necessary information and skills and I’m excited to be a part of it. Health workers regularly assess and screen clients for family violence. People who are trafficked endure similar problems such as coercion, threats and fear of reprisals if they disclose their situation.”
SVHA’s Samantha Corrie – who has coordinated the training across the organisation – said justice, and working to eradicate human trafficking, was a core value for the organisation.
“The advocates are very proud that our organisation is working to eradicate human trafficking, particularly in the area of procurement of goods and services. But this is an opportunity for them to work at a more clinical level to influence change,” Sam said. “It’s so encouraging to be working with these people who are passionate about eradicating human trafficking and who have support from the organisation and the encouragement of their colleagues.”
For more 16 Days Campaign information and resources click here.