Anti-Slavery Commissioner a Reality

anti slavery commissioner

The Federal Government has established Australia’s first federal Anti-Slavery Commissioner after the Modern Slavery Amendment (Australian Anti-Slavery Commissioner) Bill 2023 was passed on May 28 2024. 

The Commissioner’s role will include engaging with and supporting victims and survivors of modern slavery and supporting businesses to address risks of modern slavery practices in their operations and supply chains. 

ACRATH has called for an Anti-Slavery Commissioner for many years. In 2016 ACRATH’s Noelene Simmons sm and Christine Carolan wrote a publication, Human Trafficking and Slavery – a response from Australian Catholics, in which they made a case for establishing an independent Anti-Trafficking Commissioner, key elements being that the office is independent from government and accountable to Parliament. ACRATH then made this a point of advocacy during annual visits to Canberra to visit Members of Parliament.

As well as being a regular feature of Canberra advocacy visits, Sr Noelene said, “It has been a feature of National Roundtable on Human Trafficking and Slavery discussions and awareness raising presentations and publications.” She congratulated the Australian Parliament in taking this important step and said it will significantly contribute to the fight against modern slavery in Australia. 

The Attorney-General Mark Dreyfus KC MP said in a statement that the Anti-Slavery Commissioner will play a key role in helping to shape the implementation of future modern slavery reforms, including those arising from the statutory review of the Modern Slavery Act 2018.

The Government committed $8 million over four years in the 2023-24 Budget to support the Commissioner’s establishment and operation. The Government will soon begin the search for the inaugural Australian Anti-Slavery Commissioner.

Christine said the Commissioner’s establishment is a victory that ACRATH celebrates alongside a strong civil society network.

“Together we have continued to advocate on this issue and now we have a Commissioner’s role responsible for promoting business reporting, raising community awareness and supporting victim/survivors of modern slavery. How this new role will impact the lives of victim/survivors will be the subject of further advocacy by us and by the network,” Christine said.   

“Our ongoing civil society concern now is that the Commissioner needs stronger powers to act, and a larger budget to underpin her/his work.” 

“But let’s stop and acknowledge this major victory, and our role in it, before we refocus on how we want to advocate into the future!” 

The Attorney-General’s media release on the passing of the Modern Slavery Amendment (Australian Anti-Slavery Commissioner) Bill 2023 can be found here.

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