By Sascha Ryner
Australia’s very first centre for female victims of slavery and human trafficking was this week launched in Sydney.
Opened by The Salvation Army and UTS’ Anti-Slavery Project, the Samaritan Accommodation program will offer those in need a place to stay, as well as education, life skill programs, and comprehensive case management assistance including referrals for legal and medical matters.
Project supervisor, Jenny Stanger, stressed the need for such a service in Sydney to help the increasing number of trafficked and enslaved women.
‘This project will serve only a fraction of the thousands of victims out there, but you have to start somewhere, and this is the only service of its kind in the country,’ Ms Stanger said.
Thousands of people every year arrive in Australia with the promise of a good job, but in some cases end up working in slave-like conditions in a range of industries ‘ from sex work to agriculture.
There have been reports that the passports of some migrants are taken away and placed into debt contracts and subjected to violence if they don’t comply.
Ms Stanger, who has been involved in this area around the globe, including the United States, believes that Australia is among the world’s worst.
‘The erosion of workers rights in Australia has created an environment where slavery can flourish and migrants are most vulnerable,’ she said.
Having co-founded the first refuge for trafficked and enslaved women in the United State, Ms Stanger has developed a similar model for Australia.
Although primarily designed to serve affected women, the Salvation Army have expressed their concern that there are also many men being subjected to slavery and are in need of help. The Salvation Army intends to develop a similar project for men in light of the success of this initiative.
‘When migrants are abused, we need to mobilize a proactive, human rights response that is centred around their needs and experiences, and community organisations are key players in this response,’ she said.
Federal Minister for Housing and the Status of Women, Tanya Plibersek, said that the project ‘will compliment the Government’s actions to eradicate trafficking in persons, slavery and slavery-like practices within Australia, and provide the appropriate support to victims of people trafficking.’
The Anti-Slavery Project of UTS and the Salvation Army will be aiming to work collaboratively with the government in the future to protect victims and punish abusers.
It is the hope of Ms Stanger to ‘end slavery in Australia for good’ by urging those in need to apply from anywhere in Australia.