Save the Children welcomes the passage of the Modern Slavery Bill through the Australian Parliament which enables the world-first recognition of orphanage trafficking as a form of modern slavery.
Australia’s young people, schools and businesses have been unknowingly contributing to the rising problem of orphanage tourism and trafficking in developing countries.
Save the Children has been advocating for this important change since 2016 and is a foundational member of the ReThink Orphanages Network which aims to prevent the unnecessary institutionalisation of children.
Save the Children Australia’s child protection advocate Karen Flanagan AM said an unfortunate consequence of the booming travel industry was an increased demand for orphanage tourism.
“Most Australians involved with orphanage tourism are well meaning, but we need to make sure their best intentions are directed toward activities which do no harm to children,” Ms Flanagan said.
“We know children around the world are being exploited and removed from their families to feed the rising demand for orphanage tourism, even though the majority of these children have parents or family."
Research has shown that children who grow up in orphanages experience attachment disorders, developmental delays and have difficultly forming relationships in adulthood.
Save the Children Australia Chief Executive Paul Ronalds congratulated Rethink Orphanages for the significant achievement in driving forward this legislation.
“Australia is the first country in the world to recognise orphanage trafficking as a form of modern slavery,” Mr Ronalds said.
“Everyone involved in the Rethink Orphanages campaign is to be congratulated for their leadership and their tireless advocacy on this important issue.
“These laws, and changing the way we think about travel, will have a real impact on the lives of hundreds of the most vulnerable children around the world.”
Save the Children thanks Senator Linda Reynolds for her unwavering support in the fight against orphanage tourism and trafficking. Senator Reynolds travelled with Save the Children to Cambodia in 2016 to see firsthand the impact of orphanage tourism. She has been instrumental in pushing this legislation through Parliament and ensuring a Smart Volunteering page on DFAT’s website to help Australians travel more ethically.
In 2016, 14 per cent of Australian schools had an association with an orphanage overseas, and more than 50 per cent of all Australian universities advertised orphanage placements as part of their international volunteering opportunities, driving the demand for the exploitation of children in fake orphanages.
More than 8 million children live in orphanages globally, however, evidence shows that about 80 per cent of these children have family who could care for them if they had the right support.
Earlier this month ReThink Orphanages won the silver award at the World Responsible Travel Awards in London in the category for the "Best for Communicating Responsible Tourism".
ReThink Orphanages also recently partnered with school adventure travel provider World Challenge, Save the Children, Monash University, Alto Consulting and Forget Me Not for an Australian conference roadshow to help schools, universities, and the general community, understand the complexities of this emerging issue
World Challenge, Save the Children and Alto also created and launched an education module on orphanage tourism and volunteering, along with a self-assessment tool, that is being used by the Victorian Education Department as part of its curriculum, along with other states and territories.
For details contact Alex Sampson on 0429 943 027