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Woman enslaved in relationship

Maria,   Philippines, 24

Name: Maria*
Age: 24
Country of Origin: Philippines
Visa type: Prospective Spouse visa

Why did Maria come to Australia?

In the Philippines, Maria worked in a factory earning $10 a week. She had split up with her husband and had to support her young son and her mother. Her mother spoke to a friend who said she would help Maria get work overseas. This friend had relatives in Australia and said that they would give her a job in their shop. They said they would enrol her in English classes in her spare time. In return, she was to marry an Australian man and she would have to give him some money for the visa and airfares.

What happened when Maria got to Australia?

Under Division 271 of the Commonwealth Criminal Code, it is an offence to traffic someone to Australia for the purposes of exploitation by the use of deceit, force or threats. These offences carry a maximum penalty of 12 years imprisonment.

Once Maria arrived, her Australian fiancé took her passport and didn’t enrol her in English classes as promised. She had to work in the family shop seven days a week and she was only given $20 every fortnight or so. She was never paid a wage. She was at the shop all day and in the evenings she wasn’t allowed to leave the house when her fiancé was at work or out with his friends. She had to cook dinner for her fiancé, clean the house and do the gardening.

Maria felt like she couldn’t leave and felt like she had to do whatever they told her to do. If she didn’t, they told her they would hit her. Sometimes, they made vague threats about hurting her family in the Philippines. She had no money, and they told her that if she contacted her family or tried to go back to the Philippines, they would find her and hurt her. She didn’t want her mother to worry. Maria didn’t speak much English and she didn’t know anyone else in Australia. She was trapped.

How does the Australian law see this?
Because of the high degree of control exercised over Maria, as well as the threats of violence and lack of payment for her work, Maria may have been trafficked and enslaved under sections 271 and 270 of the Commonwealth Criminal Code. To read more about how Australian law would respond to this situation, see Fact Sheets #1 - Slavery in Australia, #2 - Learn about Anti-Slavery Australia and #13 - What is the difference.

“I was hoping to start a new life in Australia, earn money to send back to my family and grow to love my fiancé. But everything promised to me about my life in Australia was a lie. I had no opportunities and no friends and no family to help me.”

*Note: "Maria" is not her real name


Contact Us

Anti-Slavery Australia, University of Technology Sydney
Phone: +61-2-9514 9660