Fighting modern slavery

The global fight against modern slavery has a new weapon in its arsenal, developed by researchers at La Trobe University.

The Modern Slavery Initiative, a world-first online platform developed by special counsel and law lecturer Sunil Rao of La Trobe Law School, will assist businesses to meet their obligations under international law to tackle modern slavery.

Mr Rao said an estimated 16 million people worldwide are being exploited in the private economy. Industries that are particularly troubled include construction, manufacturing, agriculture, fishing and domestic work.

“Profits from modern slavery are estimated at more than US$50 billion, and the problem overwhelmingly impacts developing countries, particularly in the Asia-Pacific region,” Mr Rao said.

“Although responsible governments are starting to make businesses accountable for eliminating modern slavery from their operations and supply chains, there is still a long way to go,” Mr Rao said.

“Australian consumers expect their goods and services to be slavery-free, but we know many products available here are produced by slave labour. Some large businesses do not even realise their supply chains are tarnished by exploitation”.

The Modern Slavery Act 2018 requires Australian businesses with a consolidated revenue of more than $100 million to annually submit a statement to the Australian Government describing their policy, due diligence and remedial actions to address modern slavery.

Most businesses will submit their first statement at the end of 2020, and Mr Rao said many businesses were still grappling with understanding how to comply with the requirements.

“The Modern Slavery Initiative has designed a Modern Slavery Policy, Remedy and Statement Compliance Check, to enable businesses to assess their level of alignment with international human rights standards and current best practice for addressing and reporting on modern slavery”.

“The technology identifies gaps and provides recommendations to ensure international best practice and human rights standards are implemented,” Mr Rao said.

Mr Rao said similar anti-slavery laws have been passed in the United Kingdom and California, with seven other countries currently considering legislation.

“The tool is applicable across the world. It will work for any business working to eliminate exploitation,” Mr Rao said.

Media contact: Dan Salmon – 0499 949 627 – d.salmon@latrobe.edu.au

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