Joining forces to fight human trafficking

Members of the ACRATH-SVHA anti-trafficking working party

Australian Catholic Religious Against Trafficking in Humans and St Vincent’s Health Australia have joined forces to change the way hospitals treat trafficked people and to ‘slavery proof’ the goods and services they use, the two groups have announced.

ACRATH and SVHA have launched the Human Trafficking Project, thought to be a first in Australia’s health care sector.

The project will look at how trafficked people – who may present at any of SVHA’s hospitals Australia-wide – can be identified and receive necessary treatment, support, referrals and access to services. This includes women who have been sexually exploited, people facing forced marriage and people who have experienced forced labour.

The project will also look at how to make sure the goods and services procured by St Vincent’s are slavery-free. This means investigating supply chains to make sure a diverse range of goods – everything from medical equipment through to cotton sheets and gowns, and chocolates sold for hospital fundraising – have been produced without the use of enslaved or forced labour.

ACRATH’s executive officer Christine Carolan said work around the long-term project had already begun by developing new supply chain policies for SVHA’s procurement department.

“Slavery proofing supply chains also extends to the employment of people providing services. One example would be ensuring all staff working for third-party cleaning contractors engaged by St Vincent’s are employed under Australian labour regulations,” Ms Carolan said.

SVHA’s Group Mission Leader Lisa McDonald said, “The project is an example of our deep commitment to working with people who are vulnerable.

“We know that most people who find themselves trapped in modern day slavery attend a hospital at some point. In health care we have a unique window of opportunity to not only address their health care needs, but to invite an organisational response in a way that might bring wider hope and transformation.”

“This sort of change will take time, but within a year we hope to have taken some bold steps to address human trafficking that will provide a blueprint for the entire health system,” said Ms McDonald.


ACRATH-StVincents Groundbreaking anti slavery project a first for Austrlaia's health care sector (ACRATH/StVincents Media Release)

Renewed pressure to force companies to keep slavery out of supply chain (ABC)

Federal Labor pushes anti-slavery laws (The Australian)

Labor vows to stamp out slavery in Australia’s supply chains (The Guardian)

Slavery law to protect supply chains backed by big companies (Australian Financial Review)

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