Combat Human Trafficking


Arni rescued from human trafficking by St Vincent’s staff

Following an accident, Arni went to a St Vincent’s Emergency Department with an injured leg. Luckily the nurse who cared for Arni’s injury was especially well trained. She had recently done the ACRATH Advocates for Change training and recognised that Arni was trafficked. The nurse talked her through possible pathways of care. She knew how to help Arni and how to ensure her safety. Arni just wanted to go home, so the St Vincent’s nurse ‘performed a minor miracle’ in hospital care, and through airline and passport negotiations, and Arni is now safely repatriated to her home country. She is free.

Sadly, Arni is not the only victim of human trafficking detected by SVHA staff.      Fortunately, there are staff like Arni’s nurse who have done the Advocates for Change training and can help their colleagues identify and support vulnerable people who have been trafficked, forced into labour or into a marriage.

Advocate inspired by personal experience

One of the Advocates for Change, Sally Harris, knows first hand the tragic reality of human trafficking. It’s why she volunteered to be part of the program, creating awareness of the issues in her Melbourne workplace.

Sally became an Advocate for Change after her stepdaughter was trafficked from Nepal. “I was living in Nepal at the time with my husband when my step-daughter, who was 16 years old at the time, was groomed on line by a trafficker. Our family set up a sting and lured the trafficker back to Nepal, from India, where he was arrested and sent to jail for 11 years. We found our daughter 5 months later in Oman having been sold as a bonded worker to a family. We were able to work with a Nepali agency and get her back safely.”

Sally said the experience haunts her and while it happened in Nepal, bonded workers do end up in Australia and people need to know that human trafficking is not something in the past or that only happens in countries far away.

“To be able to ‘see’ a trafficked person and walk them to freedom with love and care is not only a gift to them but also to their families who are despairing of their whereabouts,” Sally said.

ACRATH and SVHA go back a long way. In 2007, the late Sr Joan McKenna, a Sister of Charity who also worked in ACRATH’s national office, brokered free health care at St Vincent’s in Melbourne for trafficked women who were not eligible for Medicare.  Back then few people knew that human trafficking happened in Australia.

As well as the Advocates for Change, SVHA’s procurement team joined a global push to bring about fairer conditions for people working in rubber glove factories in Malaysia. This has led to another ‘win’. In October 2020 these companies committed to the repayment of US$40 million of illegal recruitment fees to migrant rubber glove workers from Myanmar, Bangladesh and Nepal.

SVHA and ACRATH will continue working together to combat human trafficking, modern slavery, forced labour and forced marriage.

Please donate today, or if you are a SVHA staff member, join the new Give 4 Good workplace-giving program so life saving programs like Advocates for Change can continue and grow.

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