"Our mission is to work to eradicate trafficking and slavery and we are grateful to our volunteers and supporters who join with us in this human rights work," - Professor Jennifer Burn, Director of Anti-Slavery Australia.
Anti-Slavery Australia is the only specialist legal and policy Centre in Australia focused on slavery, trafficking and extreme labour exploitation. Anti-Slavery is part of the Faculty of Law at the University of Technology, Sydney. Since 2003, Anti-Slavery Australia has been dedicated to eliminating all forms of trafficking and slavery through a range of direct service and advocacy programs. We provide comprehensive legal advice, representation and assistance to people who have experienced trafficking or slavery in Australia, including advice about immigration, citizenship, human rights, employment law, family law, criminal law, victims’ compensation and more. Our legal staff are qualified solicitors as well as registered migration agents. The values of client confidentiality, the provision of timely and accurate legal advice, professional ethics and best practice are of the utmost importance to us.
The Director of Anti-Slavery Australia is Professor Jennifer Burn, one of Australia’s leading experts on human trafficking. Professor Burn’s years of experience working with trafficked people informs Anti-Slavery’s research on human trafficking and slavery and our law reform proposals. Anti-Slavery also provides practical training on human trafficking and slavery to government agencies, NGOs, unions and health professionals. Anti-Slavery is committed to community outreach, education and strategic advocacy to improve community awareness of all forms of trafficking.
Please contact Robert Button at the University of Technology Sydney for any media inquiries at
. or phone +61-2-9514 1734.
Jennifer Burn, Director of Anti-Slavery Australia is available for media interviews. Please email her at
. or phone +61-2-9514 9662.
Anti-Slavery respects the important role of the media in promoting community awareness of all forms of trafficking. We work with journalists to promote accurate and responsible reporting of human trafficking. We encourage journalists to avoid common mistakes (for example, confusing sex trafficking with sex work) and to take appropriate steps to protect the identity of trafficked people. Journalists frequently ask Anti-Slavery Australia if they can talk to survivors of trafficking. It is important that journalists are aware of the risks involved in interviewing trafficked people, especially when trafficked people are giving evidence in court proceedings. The privacy, safety, well-being and wishes of trafficked people must always be respected.
Frequently Asked Questions
1) Does slavery exist in 21st century Australia?
Yes. Many people are unaware that slavery is happening everywhere around the world. Around the world, people are enslaved in a range of industries including agriculture, construction, hospitality, sex work, domestic work and factory work.
The Criminal Code Act 1995 (Cth) defines slavery as ‘the condition of a person over whom any or all of the powers attaching to the right of ownership are exercised, including where such a condition results from a debt or contract made by the person’.
In 2008 the High Court of Australia handed down its judgment in Australia’s first slavery case The Queen v Tang  HCA 39. The High Court decision explains how to interpret the definition of slavery and provides important legal guidance on how to tell the difference between harsh working conditions and slavery.
2) What is people trafficking?
Trafficking is the recruitment, transportation, transfer, harbouring or receipt of a person for the purpose of exploiting that person through slavery, forced labour, sexual servitude, debt bondage, organ removal or other forms of exploitation. People can be trafficked into any industry, even in private homes. People trafficking, slavery, sexual servitude and debt bondage are offences under the Criminal Code Act 1995 (Cth).
3) How is trafficking different from people smuggling?
Like trafficking, people smuggling involves the movement of people. Unlike trafficking, people smuggling does not involve moving people for the purpose of exploitation after arriving in the destination country.
The United Nations Office of Drugs and Crimes states one of the major differences between trafficking and people smuggling is that smuggled migrants consent to the smuggling, while trafficking victims ‘have either never consented or, if they initially consented, that consent has been rendered meaningless by the coercive, deceptive or abusive actions of the traffickers’.
People trafficking can occur when people are forced, deceived, coerced into exploitative situations. While most reported cases of trafficking in Australia involve the movement of people into Australia from South-East Asian region, trafficking can also occur within Australian borders.
4) Do you have to be physically abused to be a victim of human trafficking?
Traffickers can maintain control over their victims through psychological abuse, threats to their family, debt bondage, deception, and the retention of personal identity documents (for example, passports or residency documents).
So far most of the cases of trafficking identified in Australia do not resemble the stereotypical images of slavery and trafficking where people are forcibly restrained or terrorized into submission through the use of violence. 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:
- Victims may experience social, cultural and physical isolation, and may not speak the language of the country that they are in.
- Traffickers may threaten to report the trafficked person to authorities or hurt the person or their family if they try to escape.
- Traffickers often convince victims that their situation will only deteriorate if they contact the authorities, such as deportation.
- Victims usually have no money or nowhere to go, and their travel and personal identity documents have been confiscated.
- The coercive techniques traffickers use to maintain control their victims means that sometimes trafficked people do not seek help from authorities.
5) How do traffickers recruit people?
People can be recruited through advertisements, agencies, or a family friend. Traffickers may promise their people opportunities to work overseas, visit relatives or see another country. However many people end up being deceived about the conditions that they will be working under, the type of work that they will be doing, and who their boss is. After they have arrived in the destination country, trafficked people may discover their situation is very different to what they have been promised.
6) Who is most likely to become a victim of human trafficking?
Trafficking can happen to women and men of any age and can occur in any industry. In Australia there have been reported cases of trafficking and slavery in domestic work, sex work and hospitality. Usually traffickers will prefer to target people with vulnerabilities they can exploit. A person may become vulnerable in situations such as a divorce, or the death of a family member. However a trafficked person does not necessarily have to come from an impoverished background. Victims of trafficking can come from different backgrounds, genders, ages and social classes.
7) What is the Australian government doing about trafficking?
In 2003 the Australian Government launched its anti-trafficking strategy. The Commonwealth Government’s Anti-Trafficking Strategy contains a range of measures intended to reduce the incidence of human trafficking, punish offenders, and protect and support victims of trafficking. The Anti-Trafficking Strategy has four elements: prevention; detection and investigation; criminal prosecution and victim support; and rehabilitation.
8) Do trafficked people have legal rights in Australia?
Yes, people who have been trafficked to Australia may be able to seek legal remedies in criminal or civil proceedings. They may also have access to special visas for trafficked people.
9) Are there any victim supportive services available for trafficked people in Australia?
Yes, trafficked people are victims of serious human rights violations and need support to enable their physical, psychological and social recovery. There is a government funded Support Program for Victims of Trafficking that provides accommodation and financial assistance to trafficked people. The Australian Red Cross manages the Support Program with the Office of Women. There are also a range of anti-trafficking NGOs who provide support services to trafficked people. The Anti-Slavery Project works with the Australian Red Cross and other anti-trafficking NGOs to make sure trafficked people have access to legal assistance and advice.
10) Are all trafficked people “illegal migrants”?
No. Although some trafficked people may be in Australia without a valid visa or working in breach of their visa conditions, there are others who have a valid visa with work permission but find themselves working in exploitative conditions in Australia.
A trafficked person may be eligible for a visa under the People Trafficking Visa Framework or for another type of visa. It is also possible that a trafficked person may be an Australian citizen or permanent resident.
11) How can I identify someone who has been trafficked, enslaved or is in forced labour?
When we ask people about their experiences we find that the following questions can help us identify someone who has been trafficked or is enslaved or in forced labour:
- Are you being paid? Do you have a debt or contract?
- Can you leave your job if you want to?
- Can you come and go as you please? Have you or your family been threatened?
- What are your working and living conditions like?
- Where do you sleep and eat?
- Do you have to ask permission to eat/sleep/go to the bathroom?
- Are there locks on your doors/windows so you cannot get out?
- Has your identification or documentation been taken from you?
- Are you paying off a debt to your employer or a recruitment agency?
If someone is a migrant worker and you see them being treated badly by their boss, forced to work excessive hours or in harsh conditions, or it looks like they do not have the choice to leave their workplace, they may have been trafficked. Migrant workers are sometimes especially vulnerable to trafficking and slavery. However, not all people in slavery are migrant workers. Australian citizens or residents can also be enslaved or trafficked.
12) What should you do if you, or someone you know has been trafficked, enslaved or is in forced labour?
It is vital that suspected victims of trafficking get access to help and legal advice.
- To report a suspected cases of trafficking to the Australian Federal Police call 1800 813 784.
- To obtain confidential advice and assistance about a suspected case of human trafficking call Anti-Slavery Australia on 02 9514 9662
- To complain about exploitative working conditions call the Fair Work Ombudsman on 131394.
- If it is an emergency call 000.
Useful links for journalists
Australian Services supporting trafficked and other vulnerable people
Anti-Slavery Project, University of Technology Sydney, provides specialist legal service for trafficked people and promotes awareness of all forms of human trafficking.
Australian Catholic Religious Against Trafficking in Humans (ACRATH), represents 8000 women and men who belong to religious orders and who are passionate about eliminating trafficking and slavery in Australia.
Fairwear Campaign, a coalition of churches, community organisations and unions which addresses the gross exploitation of workers who make clothing at home in our Australian community.
Immigrant Women’s Speakout Association, a peak advocacy, information/referral and research body which represents the ideas and issues of immigrant and refugee women in NSW.
Project Respect, a non-profit community-based organisation that aims to empower and support women in the sex industry including women trafficked to Australia.
Scarlet Alliance, an Australian sex workers organisation that promotes sex worker rights (legal, health, industrial, civil).
Stop the Traffik, a global coalition to exposing people trafficking, leading governments to action and unlocking freedom.
Brigidine Sisters, a religious order of women who provide advocacy and support for trafficked people and other vulnerable people.
Red Cross, an international movement of organisations whose mission is to prevent or reduce human suffering, wherever it is found, providing support services for trafficked people in Australia:
Salvation Army, a social welfare provider providing support services and accommodation to vulnerable people including trafficked people.
Sisters of St Joseph, a faith community of women who help vulnerable people including trafficked people.
Australian Government Departments and Agencies
Attorney-General’s Department, coordinates the Australian Government’s anti-people trafficking strategy.
Australian Institute of Criminology, conducts research on human trafficking.
Australian Federal Police, investigates Commonwealth crimes including the offences of slavery, sexual servitude and trafficking.
Australian Human Rights Commission, an independent statutory body responsible for infringements under anti-discrimination legislation.
Australian Maritime Safety Authority (AMSA Seafarers Welfare Advisory Committee), coordinate and support the development of port welfare committees to provide seafarer support services including those who may be enslaved or trafficked:
Commonwealth Director of Public Prosecutions, prosecutes alleged offences against Commonwealth law including the offences of slavery, sexual servitude and trafficking:
Department of Education, Employment and Workplace Relations, a Commonwealth Department, providing education and workplace training.
Department of Immigration and Citizenship, administers the Witness Protection (Trafficking) Visa Program.
Fair Work Ombudsman, an independent statutory office to promote harmonious, productive and cooperative workplace relations and ensuring compliance with Commonwealth workplace laws
Australian Government Office for Women (Department of Families, Housing, Community Services and Indigenous Affairs (FaHCSIA)), administers the Support for Victims of People Trafficking Program and has contracted the Australian Red Cross to provide case management services.
United Nations Office of Drugs and Crime, the work that UNODC does to combat human trafficking is underpinned by the UN Trafficking Protocol.
The International Labour Organisation Special Action Program on Forced Labour, promotes networking and information exchange on the disturbing facts and features of modern forced labour and the action being taken to wipe it out.
United Nations Special Rapporteur on Trafficking in Persons, especially women and children, submits an annual report to the UN Human Rights Council on violations committed against trafficked persons and on situations in which there has been a failure to protect their human rights.
United States State Department Annual Trafficking in Persons Report, publishes an annual report assessing the anti-trafficking efforts of countries around the world and highlighting key trends in the international campaign against human trafficking.