This fact sheet examines Australia’s legal response to human trafficking and also looks at what we know about human trafficking in Australia.
What is Australia’s legal response to human trafficking?
Anti-trafficking laws were introduced in 2005 by the Criminal Code Amendment (Trafficking in Persons Offences) Act 2005 (Cth) to implement Australia’s obligations under the Trafficking Protocol.
The Criminal Code contains eight offences of trafficking in persons. These offences prohibit organising or facilitating the movement of a victim into, out of, or within Australia, where this movement occurs because of force, threats, or deception for the purpose of exploitation. It is also an offence to be reckless to the fact that a person who is trafficked to Australia may be exploited.
The maximum penalty for a trafficking offence is 12 years imprisonment. There are separate offences of trafficking in children and domestic trafficking within Australia.
What do we know about trafficking in Australia?
So far the cases of trafficking identified in Australia often do not resemble the stereotypical images of slavery and trafficking. In most cases it is the more subtle forms control such as ‘debt, fear of violence, psychological coercion and control’ that have been central to identifying the existence of slavery.
Instead trafficked people may be effectively controlled through more subtle methods such as:
- Confiscation of travel documents
- Threats of violence
- Fear of being reported to authorities
- Social, cultural and physical isolation.