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Save the Children urges government to strengthen Modern Slavery Act to better protect children

Save the Children welcomes the findings of the review of Australia’s Modern Slavery Act and encourages the Federal Government to adopt all recommendations to better support at risk children. 
26 May 2023

Adopted in 2018, Australia’s Modern Slavery Act was the first in the world to recognise orphanage trafficking as a form of modern slavery. 

In the recent review, Save the Children highlighted how the Act could be improved, including expanding the forms of domestic exploitation, introducing penalties for non-compliance and establishing a national compensation scheme for victims of modern slavery, including the ability for children to seek compensation.

The review has reflected the above by recommending the broadening of scope of entities required to report on their operations and supply chains, by halving the revenue required from $100 million to $50 million, and also introducing penalties for non-compliance.

Save the Children’s Principal Advisor on Child Protection, Karen Flanagan AM, welcomed the review’s incorporation of these recommendations, but urged future reviews to include a compensation scheme for victims of modern slavery, including children. 

“Children are disproportionately affected by the scourge of modern slavery – both in Australia and overseas, where international orphanage tourism is a particular concern,” she said.

“Many Australian individuals and businesses involved with orphanage tourism do so with the best intentions, but unfortunately to meet the demand for this trend vulnerable children around the world are being exploited and removed from their families – even though the majority of these children have kin to care for them.”

Research has shown that children who grow up in orphanages experience attachment disorders, can suffer developmental delays, are at higher risk of experiencing abuse, neglect, exploitation and harsh discipline, and have a higher risk of experiencing homelessness, trafficking, mental health challenges and suicide when they leave care.

“However, this is not just a problem overseas. Sadly, children on Australian soil are also affected by forms of modern slavery, including domestic servitude and forced marriage – robbing them of their childhoods and affecting their future livelihoods. 

“Being held against one’s will has an enormous detrimental lifelong impact, so it is only appropriate that compensation be provided to victims of modern slavery in Australia,” Ms Flanagan said.

Save the Children strongly advocated for the passage of the Modern Slavery Bill through the Australian Parliament and is a foundational member of the ReThink Orphanages Network which aims to prevent the unnecessary institutionalisation of children.



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