Speech by Senator the Hon Concetta Fierravanti-Wells

Launch of the Australian Freedom Network

Location: Parliament House, Canberra


Thank-you very, very much and apologies for the vagrancies of voting during a sitting day.

Can I start by acknowledging my parliamentary colleagues: Richard Di Natale Leader of the Greens in the Senate; Deputy Leader of the Opposition Tanya Plibersek; our host Louise Markus and the many other Senators and Members who will be joining us through these proceedings today; to you Andrew Forrest and your daughter Grace; to the many, many distinguished faith leaders here today – thank-you so much for your presence here today.

Can I start by also adding my acknowledgement of country.

I am very pleased to be here today to represent the Prime Minister of Australia, the Hon
Malcolm Turnbull MP, as we mark the International Day for the Abolition of Slavery and the launch of the Australian Freedom Network.

Today is an important reminder that human trafficking and slavery impacts the lives of people around the globe.

It is also an opportunity to reflect on our collective efforts to address human trafficking and slavery, and reaffirm our ongoing commitment to addressing these practices.

By bringing together our major faith communities, the launch of the Australian Freedom Network will further strengthen Australia’s comprehensive response to human trafficking and slavery.

Faith groups have an important role to play in addressing human trafficking and slavery by affirming the dignity and equality of all people and taking practical action to address injustice.

The Australian Government is committed to working closely with the community, our faith groups, to combat human trafficking and slavery.

One year ago today, the Australian Government launched Australia’s National Action Plan to Combat Human Trafficking and Slavery 2015-2019.

The National Action Plan was developed in consultation with our non-government partners and sets out the strategic framework for our whole of community response to human trafficking, slavery and slavery-like practices, including forced marriage.

Over the past year, we have been working closely with the Australian community to implement the National Action Plan.

The government is pleased with our achievements thus far, but we know the importance of our ongoing commitment.

We have strengthened Australia’s forced marriage offences by expanding the definition of forced marriage and increasing the penalties.

Anti-Slavery Australia received government funding to develop My Blue Sky, a comprehensive online resource aimed at preventing and addressing forced marriage in Australia.

We launched a suite of awareness-raising materials on forced marriage for frontline responders, service providers, community organisations and vulnerable groups.

Reforms have been made to the Australian Government’s Human Trafficking Visa Framework to safeguard the privacy of trafficked people and facilitate better targeted government support.

We have enhanced access to education and training opportunities for trafficked people by extending eligibility for the Adult Migrant English Program and waiving the Newly Arrived Resident’s Waiting Period for certain income support payments.

The third edition of the Guidelines for NGOs: Working with trafficked people was launched to assist non-government organisations working with people who have experienced human trafficking, slavery or slavery-like practices.

A multi-stakeholder supply chains working group has examined strategies to address serious forms of exploitation in supply chains.

The effectiveness of Australia’s response to human trafficking, slavery and slavery-like practices is due to close co-operation between government and our community partners.

We all look forward to continuing to work with you to create a future where no one is subjected to these exploitative practices, and the human rights of all people are valued equally.

Thank you.