Eliminating Modern Slavery

Talitha Kum

A delegation of women involved in anti-trafficking in Oceania, including ACRATH members in Australia, joined about 200 others at the recent Talitha Kum 2nd General Assembly in Rome to forge a five-year plan to combat modern slavery.

Participants acknowledged ‘the world has changed dramatically in the past five years’. They discussed the impact of war and climate change as a push factor on people leaving their home countries, including those seeking seasonal work in Australia.

Annette Arnold rsj, Talitha Kum Oceania Regional Representative and ACRATH board member, said one of the Assembly’s three Final Declaration priorities for the next five years was to ensure organisations are “intentionally survivor-centred, survivor-informed, and trauma-sensitive – listening to their stories, consulting them in decision-making processes and putting them at the heart of our networks”.

The General Assembly, attended by 200 delegates from 90 countries, committed to three priorities for 2025-2030, which were discerned using the synodal method of Conversation in the Spirit. They are:

Priority 1. Systemic change in the face of new vulnerabilities
Priority 2. Holistic, survivor-centred approach
Priority 3. Broadening collaboration and partnerships
A detailed outline of each priority can be found here.

Several ACRATH members, from Oceania, spoke at the General Assembly focussing on ACRATH’s Companionship Program, seasonal workers and supply chains.

Ms Marguerite Buckley, a member of ACRATH in Victoria, spoke about the 40 victim/survivors and their 45 children supported through ACRATH’s Companionship Program. She said the Companionship Program was part of ACRATH’s focus of maintaining “a deep respect for the dignity and uniqueness of each person” and to assist survivors as they continue to lead their own healing and take charge of their lives. Marguerite said many survivors faced years of challenges in many facets of their lives including employment, health, education, finance, housing, visas and relationships.

Ms Isabel Salter, a member of ACRATH in SA and Oceania Talitha Kum Youth Delegate currently in New York undertaking a 10-month internship with Mercy Global Action, presented on supply chains and was also a member of the youth panel.

“The importance of youth in the fight against human trafficking cannot be overstated. Throughout the General Assembly, I heard from youth advocates from around the world who are doing incredible work to raise awareness of modern slavery and protect vulnerable people in their communities. This was a great reminder to me that young people are powerful and creative advocates, and as we grow into leadership positions, we will have real opportunities to disrupt the patterns of inequality that enable modern slavery to prevail,” Isabel said.

Annette said AI technology was another emerging issue and anti-trafficking organisations around the world, are concerned about the potential impact AI could have on those vulnerable to human trafficking.

Maureen Delaney, Regional ACRATH Coordinator for WA, who was also part of the 10-strong Oceania delegation, said forced migration was another great threat, with an estimated 110 million people displaced in 2023.

“Climate change is forcing people to migrate or become displaced in their own country. Half of the world’s refugees are children who are so vulnerable to exploitation,” Maureen said.

Throughout the Assembly the stories from survivors of human trafficking were shared, giving delegates an intimate glimpse of the impact on a person’s life. Maureen said a highlight of the delegation was “engaging at the grassroots with people all over the world who share the concerns of the heinous crime of human trafficking”.

During the Assembly, at a Sisters’ Anti-Trafficking Awards event, Annette also met Sr Jane from the Conrad N. Hilton Foundation; the Foundation has begun to fund some of ACRATH’s core work where sisters and their lay partners support victims and survivors, raise awareness, and advocate for change.

Leave a Comment