The Sisters of Charity Foundation has a long history of supporting the socially isolated and marginalised in our community. We are now partnering with The Salvation Army to provide housing assistance for victims of slavery and human trafficking in Australia.
What is modern slavery?
The Global Slavery Index 2018 estimates that on any given day in 2016, around 15,000 people were living in slavery-like conditions in Australia. Precise figures for victims are difficult to obtain because of the secretive nature of the problem.
It might be migrant workers being paid minimal wages and working long hours, a child bride being forced to marry by her father, fruit-pickers isolated and underpaid on rural farms, or child labour in its worst forms – but there is growing evidence that modern slavery is alive and well in Australia.
What is the difference between modern slavery and human trafficking in Australia?
It is important not to get slavery confused with human trafficking. There are many people in Australia who live or work in slavery-like conditions, whereas human trafficking is only one form of slavery, involving the transportation or recruitment of people for the sole purpose of exploitation.
Why is the Sisters of Charity Foundation helping victims of modern slavery?
The Sisters have a long history of helping the marginalised and socially isolated in our communities, and their Foundation continues the Sisters’ social justice mission by partnering with aligned organisations also committed to dealing with emerging needs.
How are we helping end modern slavery in Australia?
The Anti-Slavery Housing Program is a practical approach with an important difference – survivors are involved in choosing where they get to live. They are supported by caseworkers until they get to a point of independence where they are able to take over the leases themselves and create a permanent home.
The Sisters of Charity Foundation is providing seed funding for the program, as well as brokerage to help clients set up a home. Salvos Housing will work with clients to find suitable accommodation that is affordable as well as accessible for work and transport, and The Salvation Army will provide case management and support to ensure the clients are managing their tenancy, eventually transitioning the lease to the client so they can live independently.
The model has the advantage of providing accommodation that is tailored to the individual’s needs and overcomes the barrier of entering the rental market experienced by people who have no previous rental or employment history. This approach also eliminates the need for the client to move again when they exit the program. Instead, from the very beginning of their entry to the program, clients are setting up their own home and life with targeted support.
Partnering with The Salvation Army to end modern slavery
The Salvation Army has valuable experience in this sector, having operated the only refuge in Australia for survivors of modern slavery since 2008. Because they are a national organisation, they can help us meet the demand in every state and territory.
Karim’s story: modern-day slavery in Australia
Karim came to Australia following an exciting job opportunity – he had been offered a well-paid role in Canberra as the private driver for a diplomat from his home country. Taking the job for 12 months meant time apart from his family and new fiancée, but seemed like a great chance to send money home to prepare for the wedding and a new life with his soon-to-be wife.
The job was not the opportunity he hoped for
When Karim arrived in Canberra, he was surprised to learn that he was not to work as a driver, but as the household help for the diplomat and his family. In fact, Karim was not allowed in the car, or even to go outside the grounds of the diplomatic compound, unless he was accompanied by the diplomat’s wife to complete shopping tasks. Karim was given a storage room as his bedroom, and forced to work long days as a cleaner, kitchen hand and general assistant.
Karim did not receive his pay directly, but instead a small amount of money, far below the minimum wage, was transferred into an account overseas. Karim’s passport and travel papers were taken, and he was not allowed to spend time on the phone with his family or fiancée.
…his employer’s treatment of him was not normal, and illegal in Australia
After a year, Karim asked his employer when he would be able to return home, but these questions were dismissed, and Karim was threatened. After 18 months, and suffering a workplace injury, Karim was allowed to attend the hospital for treatment, where he met a worker who spoke his language. Karim learned that his employer’s treatment of him was not normal, and illegal in Australia. Karim was helped to contact a legal service, who referred him to The Salvation Army’s Trafficking and Slavery Safe House for support. Karim was assisted to leave Canberra and relocate to Sydney, where he reported his conditions of servitude to the Australian Federal Police.
Without his passport and fearful of repercussions from the diplomat in his home country, Karim remained in Australia, unable to return home. He was eventually offered a permanent visa to remain in Australia in acknowledgment of his work with law enforcement and the danger he faced if he returned. With a low level of literacy, Karim struggled to complete his educational qualifications but he learnt English and gained work as a kitchen hand and delivery driver. He eventually saved enough money to assist his fiancée to come to Australia, where they were finally married after several years apart.
Karim bought his own car and is finally working as a driver as he had planned. Thanks to the Anti-Slavery Housing Program, he and his wife were able to move out of a crowded share house and into their own affordable two-bedroom property and build a new life together.
You can help us support victims of human trafficking and slavery in Australia
Together, we can provide critical housing assistance and support for victims of slavery, and work towards generating awareness about this problem in Australia.
Support the Anti-Slavery Housing Program by making a donation to the Sisters of Charity Foundation now.
100% of your donation will go toward the program of your choice, and you’ll be helping provide practical and meaningful support for those who need it most.
Want to learn more about our work? Visit the How we help page to find out more about the programs run by the Sisters of Charity Foundation.