When we hear the word slavery, it might seem like something that happened in the darkest times of our past. The term human trafficking may also seem to be an issue you'd think is happening in the 'third world'.
But both modern slavery and human trafficking are happening here in Australia.
In our communities.
Hidden in plain sight.
Australian organisation A-21 is working to change the perception of the issue and give us the tools to spot exploitation that could be happening under our noses.
Statistics from A-21 show human trafficking is the fastest-growing criminal enterprise in the world, generating more than 202 Billion Australian dollars every year.
Over 47 per cent of traffickers lure their victims in with fake job ads...maybe offering the chance to work in a great country like ours, to make a new life, to provide for their families.
Others are sold by family, abducted, trafficked by friend, or victims of false immigration.
Some are targeted using the so-called 'loverboy' technique, where a romantic partner seduces them into the situation.
When they reach our shores, their passports are often taken away by their employer. They're placed in forced labour, working for little or no money, or bonded labour, where they're told they'll have to pay back the cost of the airfare they were promised was already covered.
Or they could be put to work in the same place they live (again for long hours) for little or no cash in return. Worse still, others are sexually exploited.
A-21 Australia's Paige Edwards estimates there are around 4,000 victims of modern slavery and human trafficking in Australia, right now. And as their detection capabilities increase, that figure is expected to skyrocket.
That's where we come in. Ms Edwards says trafficking has infiltrated many workplaces, and goes far deeper than we might realise.
"The thing with human trafficking is that it is very much a hidden-in-plain-sight industry, it's very lucrative in that way," she said.
"Often we will walk past a trafficking situation without even realising that it's even happening.
"In cities, it could look like the hospitality industry. It could look like nail salons, like massage parlours, the beauty industry, factory work.
"In regional areas, this may look like construction, mining, fruit picking, working on orchards.
"There's a lot of different areas that are infiltrated with this injustice."
But there are ways we can help, and things to look out for that might be suss, such as:
- Whether or not the person is exhibiting any outward signs of fear or distress
- Whether their movements are being restricted or controlled by another person within that business, where they're not able to move freely by themselves
- Whether they're not free to speak for themselves, or someone always speaks on their behalf
- If there are a few things that don't seem right, and if the person is unable to understand the language, it could mean things don't add up
The next step is to report what you have noticed, by calling the AFP on 131 AFP (131 237) or clicking here to visit the A-21 website.
Ms Edwards said we shouldn't be afraid to speak out.
"If nothing is wrong then everyone moves on and it's all good, but better that than shying away for the fear 'oh I might be overstepping', and then potentially missing and flagging something that could be someone in an exploitative position."