Research applauds Companionship Program

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Judy Lamb started researching the work of ACRATH Companions almost two years ago. The resulting 10-page publication, ACRATH Companionship Project Research Paper, has been published and is now available here on the ACRATH website.

Walk Free’s Global Slavery Index estimates that up to 41,000 people now live in modern slavery in Australia. ACRATH’s Companionship Program supports a small number of these people, but this program also has an impact on ACRATH’s broader advocacy and awareness-raising work. The Companionship Program arose in 2008 when the Australian Federal Police asked ACRATH if someone could offer personal support for a woman residing in Melbourne who had been trafficked; the AFP were concerned for her wellbeing. In the past 15 years, the Companionship Program has proven to be a vital aspect of ACRATH’s broader work.

Today, ACRATH’s 13 trained and supervised volunteer Companions offer support and friendship to 35 trafficked women and their 45 children as they face the long journey of healing. ACRATH also reaches out to seasonal workers from Timor Leste and the Pacific.

Judy, a member of ACRATH, interviewed many of the Companions and those closely involved with the program. She focussed on the following questions/talking points:

  • What has been your experience of companioning?  What were the surprises? Challenges? Rewards for you personally? 
  • How has your experience impacted on the advocacy work of ACRATH? 
  • How has your experience been used in ACRATH’ s efforts to prevent human trafficking, modern slavery and forced marriage?
  • What impact has your experience had on ACRATH’s awareness-raising activities?

Judy’s research paper found that the Companionship program does impact on ACRATH – it informs policy, gives evidence to the advocacy work, and deepens our awareness raising and training. The lived experience of Companions’ lives led ACRATH to advocate for and help achieve policy and legislative change, including:

  • The achievement of an Act of Grace payment for exploited seasonal workers.
  • The change to the Criminal Justice Stay Visa.
  • Expansion of the Support for Trafficked People Program.

These three issues are explored in detail in Judy’s report here.

“It was a great privilege for me to be asked to do this research and a very rewarding project to be involved in. It brought together many aspects of the work of ACRATH but the key focus was on the work of the Companions.  This was seen by all the participants as a foundational and essential underpinning of ACRATH’s advocacy and awareness-raising,”.

Judy said

Judy paid tribute to the Companions and others involved in the program who shared their time, experiences and reflections.   

“I thank them most sincerely for their generosity, and I trust that this project shines a light on the companions’ amazing commitment to their partners and to ACRATH,” she said.