Leave No One Behind

2023 UN Day

The 2023 theme for the World Day Against Trafficking in Persons that was observed on July 30 was Reach every Victim and Leave No One Behind. ACRATH member Sr Caroline Price, a Good Shepherd Sister, wrote an article for the Global Sisters Report:

One would think that in a modern, affluent country like Australia, the trafficking of people would not be happening. Sadly, it is not so. Australia and Aotearoa New Zealand are modern economies, but trafficking continues to happen. Recent research commissioned by human rights group Walk Free reports there are an estimated 41,000 people living in modern slavery conditions in Australia, an increase from 15,000 from a 2018 report. 

People have come to Australia and Aotearoa or New Zealand [Aotearoa is its Māori name] from the Pacific on work visas and found themselves enslaved. The latest Global Slavery Index notes that worldwide there are approximately 50 million people now living in modern slavery — 10 million more than five years earlier. Around 22 million are trapped in forced marriages, and almost 1 in 4 in forced prostitution — 80% of those are women. These are horrifying statistics.

One of the Good Shepherd Sisters International Position Papers focuses on trafficking and Good Shepherd Sisters are involved with people who are trafficked in Asia, Africa and Latin America. Cross-border trafficking is challenging. It is an area of ministry for our sisters and partners in mission across the globe. Our nongovernmental organization, or NGO, at the United Nations focuses on trafficking and advocates for women and children.

Kids dance during a fun activity at Casa Eudes in Tijuana, Mexico. (Courtesy of Caroline Price)

In 2021, Good Shepherd responded to cross-border migration in Tijuana, Mexico, setting up Casa Eudes, a community center that supports women and children and helps families rebuild their lives.

Open borders between India and Nepal mean illegal trafficking is rampant. In Nepal, the Good Shepherd Sisters work in trafficking prevention. Through Opportunity Village, they provide opportunities and training in health and education for disadvantaged young girls, women, and the sick in the Pokhara area. Prevention of poverty and trafficking is the aim.

Good Shepherd Sisters also run support programs for trafficked people in Taiwan and Macau. Parts of the congregation are involved in the network with Talitha Kum, an international network of religious congregations. 

In Australia, Good Shepherd Sisters don’t work directly with people who are trafficked; we are members of Australian Catholic Religious Against Trafficking in Humans, or ACRATH, which assists in education, advocacy and support and works with other NGOs and state and federal governments to address the issue. Recently, advocacy over 17 years bore fruit for a group of workers from Vanuatu who received wages that had been kept from them. In May 2023, the Australian government allocated funds so victims and survivors of human trafficking can access support without involving law enforcement. A momentous achievement! This gives families safety and protects their immigration status. Their stories have informed advocacy over the years.

Advocacy is dynamic and painstaking work, and it does, over time, bring about change! 

ACRATH’s work gives me hope that through advocacy and support, things can change. It is never easy but consistent and persistent advocacy for the rights of trafficked people is the call for Gospel justice.