Inquiry into Human Trafficking in NSW: Update

Tuesday 8 August 2017 @ 12.04 p.m. | Crime | Legal Research

In November 2016, the Legislative Council Select Committee on Human Trafficking in New South Wales formed an Inquiry into Human Trafficking in NSW ('the NSW Inquiry') and it is currently (as of August 2017) undergoing public hearings in NSW.

Background to the NSW Inquiry

A 2013 report by the NSW Community Relations Commission warned that human trafficking levels in NSW were underestimated and under-reported, and there was a need for more focus on exploitation occurring in private homes and small businesses. Between 2004 and 2016, only 17 people were convicted of offences relating to human trafficking and slavery-related crimes, although the Australian Federal Police received almost 700 referrals

The Crimes Legislation Amendment (Slavery, Slavery-like Conditions and People Trafficking) Act 2013 (Cth), which amended the Criminal Code (Cth), criminalised forced labour and marriage in order to boost the Australian legislative response to human trafficking. This  was passed after the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime highlighted that human trafficking convictions are on the rise in a quarter of countries around the world.

In addition, the Crimes Legislation Amendment (Law Enforcement Integrity, Vulnerable Witness Protection and other Measures) Act 2013 (Cth) was intended to provide protection to vulnerable witnesses, particularly victims of human trafficking and slavery.

The Joint Standing Committee on Foreign Affairs, Defence and Trade has also started an inquiry into establishing a Modern Slavery Act in Australia on 15 February 2017. This Commonwealth Inquiry is currently looking into the UK Modern Slavery Act as a model for Australian legislation.

Role of the NSW Inquiry

In a media release from 24 March 2017, the Committee Chair, Hon Paul Green MLC said: 

"Human trafficking is a horrendous crime that exploits women, children and men for numerous purposes, including slavery, forced labour and sex. The inquiry was established to investigate the prevalence of human trafficking in NSW as well as the role and effectiveness of NSW law enforcement agencies, legislation and policies in responding to this issue. The committee will also consider practical measures and policies to address human trafficking, including security measures to protect identity documentation."

Terms of Reference

The terms of reference for the NSW inquiry are:

  • To investigate the role and effectiveness of New South Wales law enforcement agencies in responding to human trafficking including slavery, slavery-like practices such as servitude, forced labour and people trafficking;
  • The prevalence of human trafficking in New South Wales;
  • The effectiveness of relevant legislation and policies; and
  • The practical measures and policies including security measures to protect New South Wales identity documents that would address human trafficking in New South Wales and other related issues.

Hearings and Key Recommendations

The hearings so far have identified the following groups as vulnerable:

  • migrant retail and farm workers;
  • student workers;
  • sex workers;
  • children in out-of-home care; and
  • victims of forced marriages.

The hearings held on 29 May 2017, and the most recent hearing on the 15 June 2017, focused on a lack of community integration and awareness, particularly regarding sexual exploitation of children in out-of-home care, and forced marriages.

Important Future Dates

The next hearing is scheduled for 11 August 2017, and will feature submissions from the International Justice Mission Australia, Zoic Environmental Pty Ltd and Walk Free Foundation.

The NSW Inquiry Committee Report is due to be published by September 2017.

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Legislative Council Select Committee on Human Trafficking in New South Wales: Inquiry into Human Trafficking NSW, and related documents.

Fiona McGaughey, Dave Webb, Peta-Jane Hogg, ‘Should Australia have a Modern Slavery Act?’ The Conversation, 13 June 2017.

Walk Free Foundation, Submission to the Select Committee on Human Trafficking Inquiry into Human Trafficking (NSW), 17 February 2017.

Philippa McDonald, ‘Inquiry reveals hidden problem of human trafficking and slavery in NSW,’ ABC News, 11 December 2013.

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