Making a Difference to the Lives of Trafficked People

Aurora invited Australian Catholic Religious Against Trafficking in Humans (ACRATH) to share something of its work in an area which is the source of so much suffering.

ACRATH’s vision is to work towards the elimination of human trafficking in Australia, the Asia Pacific region and globally. In our current strategic plan we have four objectives including raising awareness of human trafficking, its causes and the scope for action. ACRATH has developed educational resources for schools and for Culturally and Linguistically Diverse communities in Australia. We have a strong website with at least fortnightly uploads, and a social media presence. We encourage all to take action locally and more widely.

ACRATH also works to ensure that the rights and complex needs of people trafficked into Australia are met. These needs may include retraining, employment assistance, access to financial compensation, accompaniment, repatriation assistance, if desired, and meeting medical, dental, psychological and other health needs. We do this by working with client service NGOs to provide pastoral support to people who have been trafficked. We also campaign to ensure people trafficked into Australia can access their rights.

ACRATH also collaborates with like-minded organisations in Australia, in the Asia Pacific region, and globally to advocate for measures to address human trafficking. We do this by working in networks to ensure slavery-free supply chains of goods such as chocolate, cotton, clothing and seafood. We use the language of addressing the demand for cheap goods produced by trafficked labour, forced labour and child labour. We work in networks to advocate for systemic change to eliminate human trafficking.

Over the last six years, ACRATH has been advocating for an improvement in services for women and men trafficked into Australia. ACRATH’s advocacy aimed to target the issues surrounding visas that were not tailored to the rights and needs of a trafficked person. Therefore ACRATH has been advocating for a human rights-based, victim-centred approach. Over a six-year period, ACRATH has constantly asked the government to:

1. Rename/change the names of visas for trafficked people.

  • The Criminal Justice Stay Visa: Victims can be on this visa for extensive periods of time and the naming of the visa implies that they are part of a criminal process. Such a title does not represent or acknowledge the person’s status as a victim and it therefore may have a negative impact on the person’s recovery and rehabilitation.
  • The Witness Protection Trafficking Visa does not adequately protect the victim. The name of each visa, relevant to the visa framework for people trafficked into Australia, needs to be sympathetic to the needs and rights of the person who has been trafficked.

2. Allow access to English classes for people trafficked into Australia.

3. Allow better access to social security payments. So many people in ACRATH have advocated for the above changes to be implemented. Many members of ACRATH have met with or written to Ministers, arranged numerous meetings with Members of Parliament, governmental staff and departments, and worked with other like-minded NGOs, including Anti-Slavery Australia and The Salvation Army Freedom Partnership, which have also been advocating for a new visa framework for people trafficked into Australia.

On 27 May 2015, Minister for Social Services, Scott Morrison and Minister Assisting the Prime Minister for Women, Senator Michaelia Cash, announced visa changes for people trafficked into Australia. These reforms addressed the three concerns mentioned above. As a result, the Criminal Justice Stay Visa has been removed from the human trafficking framework. Also, the Witness Protection Trafficking Visa will be renamed. The ministers also announced that victims of human trafficking will have access to the Adult Migrant English Program and will no longer have to wait two years to access social security payments.

ACRATH members and supporters were delighted to receive the announcement. We note that it is a particularly positive step forward by the government which has recognised that victims of human trafficking have complex needs which must be met with greater support services and access to support systems. These changes will benefit victims of trafficking, as they will have greater choice and certainty about the support and safety available to them.

ACRATH and our partners will continue to advocate for the rights of victims of human trafficking. These changes are just the start of ensuring that a human rights-based, victim-centred approach and system is implemented in Australia.

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Noelene Simmons rsj Image
Noelene Simmons rsj

Marist Sister Noelene Simmons is ACRATH Project Worker NSW.

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