Sisters of Charity Foundation Australia

Modern Slavery Housing Program

How We HelpModern Slavery Housing Program

Helping survivors build a new life

Survivors of modern slavery and human trafficking in Australia are in a vulnerable position, even after they have escaped their perpetrator(s). Australian citizens may have no family or support networks to rely on, no money, no education and nowhere to live. The situation is worse for foreign nationals, who must navigate unfamiliar customs and bureaucracy and may not speak English.

The Sisters of Charity Foundation has partnered with The Salvation Army to provide transitional housing assistance and support to survivors, helping them build a new life and become independent.

Escaping modern slavery, the journey to independence

How does the program work?

This unique model provides survivors with accommodation that is tailored to individual needs, and is designed to overcome 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 survivors to move again when they exit the program, unless they choose to.

Prior to entering the program, survivors may be living in The Salvation Army’s Safe House or similar community accommodation, recovering from their ordeal and taking steps toward independence. These may include receiving medical attention, dealing with the Australian Federal Police, applying for a visa, learning English, studying or job hunting.



  1. A survivor secures employment and a steady income, and is ready to leave the Safe House and live independently.
  2. The Salvation Army helps the survivor find suitable accommodation that is affordable as well as accessible for work and transport.
  3. The Sisters of Charity Foundation covers the survivor’s rental bond + a one-off payment for furniture + 75% of each rental payment for 6 months.
  4. The survivor is supported through ongoing case management from The Salvation Army, funded by the Sisters of Charity Foundation.
  5. When the survivor is ready they take over the lease – and now have a proven rental and employment history in Australia.

From the very beginning, people are setting up their own home and life with targeted support.

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, fruit-pickers isolated and underpaid on rural farms, women trapped in domestic servitude or ‘slave-like’ relationships, child brides forced to marry by their families, or child labour in its worst forms – but there is growing evidence that modern slavery is happening in Australia.

What is the difference between modern slavery and human trafficking?

Human trafficking is just one form of modern slavery, involving the forced movement of people for the purpose of exploitation. The UN defines human trafficking as the ‘recruitment, transportation, transfer, harbouring or receipt of persons, by means of the threat or use of force or other forms of coercion, of abduction, of fraud, of deception, of the abuse of power or of a position of vulnerability or of the giving or receiving of payments or benefits to achieve the consent of a person having control over another person, for the purpose of exploitation’.

Why is the Sisters of Charity Foundation helping victims of modern slavery?

Access to safe, quality housing is a basic human need and fundamental to helping traumatised people make a new start.

The Sisters of Charity have a long history of helping marginalised and socially isolated people in our communities, and their Foundation continues the Sisters’ social justice mission by partnering with aligned organisations also committed to dealing with emerging needs. 

Partnering with The Salvation Army to fight 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: its Trafficking and Slavery Safe House. Because they are a national organisation, they can help us meet the demand in every state and territory.

The Modern Slavery Housing Program pilot was launched in February 2020 and ran until October 2021. Upon a holistic review the pilot was deemed a success and the program is currently operational.

Safe, quality housing is fundamental to helping traumatised people make a new start.

Karim - anti-slavery housing program

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. 

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.

…his employer’s treatment of him was not normal, and illegal in Australia

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 Modern Slavery Housing Program, he and his wife were able to move out of a crowded share house and into their own affordable two-bedroom home. Karim reports that he’s feeling happy and enjoying his new place, saying the best thing about it is that he has more independence and privacy. He’s also pleased it’s in a convenient location, close to everything he needs.

You can help us support survivors of modern slavery and human trafficking in Australia

Together, we can provide critical housing assistance and support for survivors of modern slavery, and work toward generating awareness about this problem in Australia. 

Support the Modern Slavery Housing Program by making a donation using the form below. 100% of your donation will go toward the program of your choice.


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