Advocating for Workers Rights

Advocating for Workers Rights

Liz Morris is fairly new to ACRATH, but already her contribution has been enormous. Most recently, she drafted ACRATH’s submission to the Senate’s Select Committee on Temporary Migration, which is looking into the impact temporary migration has on the Australian economy, wages and jobs, social cohesion and workplace rights and conditions.

The submission draws upon the many years of experience ACRATH has had with temporary migrant workers around Australia, but particularly in Victoria and Queensland. ACRATH member Fr Peter O’Neill, who worked with Liz on the submission, is a member of a Government Committee looking at the Seasonal Worker Program.

Following a successful career with the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade, Liz now provides consulting and advisory services to the private, government, and not for profit sectors. As a former diplomat she has significant experience advocating for Australia’s interests overseas including in human rights, humanitarian and civil-military affairs. Liz was more recently an advisor to the Global Freedom Network, an initiative of the Walk Free Foundation. She has played a major role in some of ACRATH’s advocacy efforts in 2020, including this year’s Canberra Advocacy meetings.

Liz is a supporter of the United Nations declared 16 days of activism against gender-based violence which begins on 25th November – International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women and ends on 10th December – Human Rights Day.

Human trafficking is one of the greatest examples of violence against women and girls. According to the ILO human trafficking is a $150 billion global industry — and growing. As well, 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. The Walk Free Foundation’s recently released publication ‘Stacked Odds’ highlighted the horrendous statistic that one in every 130 women and girls is living in modern slavery.

Liz stressed the importance of evidence-based advocacy. “It is easy to stand up and shout about something, but it is more effective to have an evidence base to your advocacy and be willing to hang in for as long as it takes. Advocacy is one of the key mechanisms for NGOs and other organisations to influence policy makers and deliver concrete changes”.

Liz said raising awareness in communities and gaining their support for advocacy work was important as well as challenging.

“We have to be aware of our audiences and tailor the way we convey our messages. We know it is difficult to capture people’s attention and clear and sharper ideas can be effective,” she said.

Liz cites ACRATH’s submission to the Senate’s Select Committee on Temporary Migration, as an example of advocacy based on evidence and years of work ‘in the field’.

ACRATH’s submission presents 10 recommendations including that the Government:

  • implement a national labour hire licensing scheme that covers all industries
  • introduce stringent penalties for wage theft
  • provide a mechanism for workers to report unlawful workplace practices
  • explore mechanisms and processes to ensure migrant workers’ claims, for example wage redress and superannuation recompense, are dealt with expeditiously and workers’ visas are amended to allow them to remain in Australia until their case/s are resolved.

The submission shines a spotlight on some of the issues requiring urgent attention to protect migrant workers and calls for practical changes that would see more structured and relevant information given to migrant workers (in their own language) before they arrive and once in Australia. Liz believes ACRATH is well-placed to support the delivery of some of these support services.

Liz said ACRATH has spent years advocating on behalf of migrant workers, particularly in the case of 22 men from Vanuatu who came to Australia under the Seasonal Worker Program in 2014 and are still waiting for payment. ACRATH recently secured the pro bono support of a major law firm to help pursue justice for these workers.

To read the submission to the Senate’s Select Committee on Temporary Migration click here and scroll to submission 108.

For more 16 Days Against Gender-based Violence Campaign information and resources click here.

 

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