Modern slavery research

La Trobe University has several research projects focusing on various dimensions of modern day slavery and human trafficking in the Asia-Pacific region, including seafood slavery and precarious migrant work in the construction sector.

Modern day slavery and human trafficking are persistent issues across the Asia-Pacific, on land and at sea. They can have significant impacts on communities and individuals engaged in precarious, exploitative and sometimes dangerous work, including impoverishment, debt and harm.

The projects examine issues of access to justice, gaps in victim identification and protection, and tracing injuries and deaths for victims of labour exploitation. They are at the intersection of critical human geography, international relations, and the law, and are designed to find practical ways of addressing and mitigating modern day slavery in our region.

Valuing victim's voices

Valuing victim's voices

A participatory action research project with victims of seafood slavery.

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Human rights at sea

Human rights at sea

Bec Strating, Sunil Rao and Sallie Yea on the limits of inter-state cooperation in addressing forced labour on fishing vessels

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The Catch

The Catch

A podcast miniseries about modern slavery and forced labour in the offshore fishing industry in the Asia Pacific Region.

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The exploitation of men working as fishing crew in distant water fisheries is attracting increasing attention from the international community as an urgent contemporary human and labour rights problem. However, the voices of victims are often drawn on in a highly selective and limited manner. We propose an alternative approach and methodology to include victims as active participants in shaping ways that aim to help address these problems. The project has three aims:

  1. Provide a platform through which victims of labour exploitation in the distant water fisheries sector can articulate their experiences, concerns and problems according to their priorities and frames of reference.
  2. Build the capacity of (local) NGOs to undertake ethical and reflexive research to enhance the organisation’s work in supporting victims.
  3. Advance knowledge and understanding of labour exploitation and precarious work in the DW fisheries sector through a wider consideration of issues faced by victims.

Funding was provided by Winrock International and La Trobe University.


Valuing victim's voices report

The catch - A podcast miniseries about modern slavery and forced labour in the offshore fishing industry in the Asia Pacific Region. Hosted by Dr Bec Strating, produced by La Trobe Asia.

Migrants undertaking construction work in Asia and the Middle East are vulnerable to labour exploitation, human trafficking and disproportionately high incidence of serious workplace injury. Men in these situations often desert their workplaces in an effort to seek justice, medical treatment or simply return home. But these post-labour trajectories are often fraught, as men become 'stuck' in limbo in the migration destination, often for months and sometimes for years.

This project, funded by the Antipode Foundation, aims to engage out-of-work migrant construction workers in writing diaries about 'life in limbo' after existing their workplaces. A selection of these diaries have been published in three edited volumes.

In 2022, Associate Professor Sallie Yea and Dr Mst Kanij Fatima are undertaking further research with Bangladeshi migrant construction workers, examining experiences of return migration in the context of economic austerity and the recent pandemic. This project has so far received funding from the School of Humanities and Social Sciences at La Trobe University.