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Parliamentary Joint Committee on Foreign Affairs, Defence and Trade
Slavery, slavery-like conditions and people trafficking
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Parliamentary Joint Committee on Foreign Affairs, Defence and Trade
CHAIR (Mr Laurie Ferguson)
Stephens, Sen Ursula
Parry, Sen Stephen
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Parliamentary Joint Committee on Foreign Affairs, Defence and Trade
(Joint-Thursday, 9 May 2013)
CHAIR (Mr Laurie Ferguson)
Ms Samira Hassan
Ms Siga Hassan
- Mrs Kennedy
Content WindowParliamentary Joint Committee on Foreign Affairs, Defence and Trade - 09/05/2013 - Slavery, slavery-like conditions and people trafficking
HORSELY, Ms Tessa, Business Support Officer, Hagar Australia
KENNEDY, Mrs Kate, Chief Executive Officer, Hagar Australia
Subcommittee met at 09:03
CHAIR ( Mr Laurie Ferguson ): I declare open this hearing for the inquiry into slavery, slavery-like conditions and people trafficking, which is being conducted by the Human Rights Subcommittee of the Joint Standing Committee on Foreign Affairs, Defence and Trade. To date the subcommittee has received 58 submissions to this inquiry and conducted seven public hearings. Based on the evidence received, it is clear that this serious crime has also affected Australia. These public hearings will enable the committee to gain a further understanding of the extent of modern-day slavery and look at how the victims are protected, the services that are provided as part of victim support, and how to effectively prosecute and appropriately punish the offenders. The subcommittee will also focus on Australia's efforts to address all forms of slavery, slavery-like conditions and people-trafficking; look at ways to encourage effective international action; and investigate international best practice. Today we will hear from Hagar Australia; Slavery Links Australia; the Uniting Church Synods of Victoria, Tasmania and South Australia; the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade; Shakti Migrant and Women’s Support Group; and Fair Work Building and Construction.
I now welcome representatives from Hagar Australia to today's hearing. I would remind you that although the subcommittee does not require you to give evidence under oath the hearing is a legal proceeding of parliament and therefore has the same standing as proceedings of the chambers themselves. Giving false or misleading evidence is a serious matter and may be regarded as contempt of parliament. The evidence given today will be recorded by Hansard and will attract parliamentary privilege. Do you wish to make an opening statement to the committee?
Mrs Kennedy : Yes. Thank you to the chair and the committee for inviting Hagar Australia to make this submission to the Human Rights Subcommittee. As you have heard throughout the inquiry, slavery and slavery-like conditions is a significant global problem, and we commend Australia for the recent financial commitment to the area of trafficking and for the leadership in examining the problem more closely through this committee.
I would like to profile Hagar and our work. Hagar is a specialist human rights organisation that works with women and children who have survived modern slavery and severe human rights abuse. It is built on Christian principles, and we work in Afghanistan, Cambodia and Vietnam. We are less interested in the movement of our clients than we are in the exploitation of our clients. This means we do not just work with trafficking survivors but with people who survive severe human rights abuses, such as rape, paedophilia and acid burns. Having said that, the majority of our clients could be considered as emerging from environments defined as slavery and slavery-like conditions. Through police, Customs and other NGO referrals, Hagar supports, rehabilitates and reintegrates those who have been assessed as being most vulnerable. We work with the individual rather than in community development. This means our programs resemble the work of child protection agencies in Australia more than the work of overseas aid agencies doing community development—except, of course, with the absence of significant state, economic and social support that we see in Australia.
As are programs are individualised, the first thing that happens for an arriving client in our programs is that they are assigned a caseworker, who walks the whole journey with them through our programs. These programs include medical and legal programs, trauma counselling, critical catch-up schooling, and career training and placement. Hagar has over 300 workers, and we currently work with 1,200 survivors in community based care models. We have program officers in Cambodia, Afghanistan and Vietnam, as I said, and support officers now in six countries. In our 19-year history we have worked with over 15,000 individual cases directly and with tens of thousands of survivors of slavery indirectly. Hagar operates commercial and not-for-profit entities in pursuit of its mission. We have over 45 social enterprises that we either own or are in partnership with, including partnerships with the Sofitel hotel and the US embassy in Cambodia. Hagar's mission is to do whatever it takes, for as long as it takes, to restore a broken life.
We are funded by governments, including the US justice department and AusAID, and NGO partners such as World Vision and Red Cross, as well as a network of dedicated private donors. We also receive income through our social enterprises. We often partner with other agencies and universities to seek excellence. Our trauma counselling model, for example, was developed and has been reviewed in partnership with Johns Hopkins University in the United States. And UNICEF partnered with Hagar to research the experiences of child victims and child witnesses in the Cambodian justice system, and this has led to some really impressive recommendations and changes for the court system in Cambodia. Hagar does not collect broader statistical data but closely follows the key agencies that supply information, such as the ILO, the US justice department and the United Nations. We do, however, keep a body of significant casework that is often referred to by governments and academics to pick up trends and individual examples of slavery and slavery-like conditions and people trafficking.
Hagar thinks it is vital that the Australian government remains interested in the area of slavery and slavery-like conditions for some of the following reasons. Australia is a key opinion leader in the region; therefore, getting involved and leading ethical, social and legal reform is important for our longstanding influence with our regional neighbours. The regional governments and communities with whom we trade look to us for help in reforming and refining their own civil institutions. With our growing engagement in the region at all levels, including government, business, tourism and other trade and cultural connections, major human rights problems such as slavery affect us whether we like it or not. Further, the extensive organised crime networks that are behind much of this abuse and are estimated by the US Department of Justice to be a $32 billion slave trade are not constrained by national borders and will ultimately have an impact here in Australia.
The US Department of State reported in 2011 that trafficking represents lost opportunities domestically, including an irretrievable loss of human resources and future productivity. They also report that the cost of coercion and exploitation cannot be measured; it is clear that the worst forms of child labour represent a loss in productive capacity of a generation of individuals who would have otherwise gained from increased education and improved health. Hagar strongly concurs with this reporting.
I speak regularly on behalf of Hagar at forums and schools and business functions. Australian citizens want us to speak out on regional crimes like this and provide practical restorative solutions to overcome them. We are often asked: how can government affect this issue?
We would like to take the opportunity to highlight three of our priority recommendations outlined in our submission to the subcommittee in September last year. They are: (1) the Australian government needs to increase the resourcing of after-care programs in South-East Asia, where slave damage is greatest (2) the Australian government needs to reinforce its trade imports policy and oversight, and (3) the Australian government needs to understand that Burma is potentially the next slave trade supply nation. Of these recommendations, the most significant request Hagar has of the Australian government is to strengthen the fourth pillar of the Australian government approach to trafficking. Specifically, our recommendation was that the Australian government provides enhanced policy, financial and other in-country programs for survivors of trafficking in target countries.
As you know, the current four central pillars of the Australian government's strategy to combat human trafficking and slavery are: prevention, detection and investigation, criminal prosecution, and survivor support and rehabilitation. Currently, attention and funds are skewed towards the first three pillars—prevention, detection and prosecution. There are very few opportunities to seek funding or support from the Australian government for after-care programs. We can best demonstrate this with the story of Fala, a Hagar client whose case was presented to the committee on Hagar's submission. Fala's grandmother made an arrangement for her young nine-year-old granddaughter to live with a wealthy couple in Phnom Penh. They promised her an education and shelter. They gave the grandmother a gift of $400, and this is not an uncommon arrangement for Cambodia.
The reality, however, was that Fala was severely abused over several years. She was attacked with pliers, bones were fractured and she had been forced to live in a cage. She was made to do heavy domestic labour and had over 200 scars on her body when rescued. The police intervened and Hagar became Fala's legal guardian. Fala's tormentors were prosecuted to the full extent of the law. However, in the lead-up to the court date, Fala was harassed by the couple's family to withdraw her testimony. This story is common with legal cases in Cambodia as it is a complainant legal system. Often this pressure is the cause of withdrawal of complaints by people who have survived trafficking. Having legal and protection advocates in addition to lawyers is often the reason victims stay in court proceedings. We call this after care.
There are two points to be made in relation to after-care in the context of Fala's case. After-care allows survivors to build confidence and trust with law enforcement and encourages them to participate in criminal proceedings and provide evidence that is often vital to prosecution. Secondly, justice for the survivor is not achieved purely from a court hearing. Justice should be centred on the rights of the individual for remedial justice. In the case of Fala, it is the right to trauma counselling, medical care, education and community based accommodation. It is the rebuilding of social capital in the individual that occurs through after-care.
The current focus of the aid budget would support the detection and prosecution of Fala's case but not her remedial justice. The Australian government support would currently stop at the courthouse—if she made it there. Justice for the individual includes rebuilding social capital through after-care, trauma counselling, education, community based shelter and legal representation. This is the kind of remedial justice that we are asking you to consider today.
The second recommendation we would like to emphasise from our submission has been raised by several other witnesses: that the Australian government supports measures to combat slavery and human trafficking of goods imported to Australia. Hagar, like many other Australian NGOs, commends the Prime Minister’s announcement on International Women's Day to ensure the government’s own purchasing is not tainted by human trafficking or slavery. Our hope is that that is strengthened. We believe Australia should follow the lead of the US administration and place the requirement on suppliers to provide guarantees they have taken reasonable steps to ensure the products they are supplying are free of human trafficking. It should not be left to government purchasing officers alone to have to try and carry out investigations. The government should commit to public research to identify those types of goods at risk of having slavery, human trafficking and forced slavery in their production. The government should also commit to introduce legislation based on the California Transparency Act, and I also understand the UK is considering a similar act right now to require retailers and importers operating in Australia to have to publicly disclose what voluntary efforts they are making to curb the risk of slavery, forced labour and human trafficking and their supply chains.
Finally, the third recommendation we would like to highlight relates to Burma, or Myanmar, depending on your preference. It is entering a critical time and is very vulnerable. Our recommendation was that the Australian government recognises Burma as an emerging critical area affected by trafficking and where trafficking is set to escalate rapidly in the very near future. Hagar recently sent a delegation to Myanmar to review the environment and emerging social problems on the ground. This delegation met extensively with government agencies, NGOs and multilaterals. Some of the things that were highlighted that we put as an attachment in our submission in September were 400,000 internally displaced people; issues with reintegration of many returning Burmese, most of them without skills; major conflicts within ethnic groups; a youth bulge, which is often consistent with slavery; a major trauma backdrop; vulnerable legal systems; and probably four out of the five borders that border Burma are also vulnerable. Hagar has a very strong understanding of the region. This, combined with the review, has led Hagar to make the strategic decision to set up office in Myanmar within the next 12 months. Programs will include after-care programs such as trauma counselling and job training and placement.
As evidence of how vulnerable the Burmese are, we believe the recent rearrest of alleged paedophile, Karl Kraus, a 93-year-old man from South Australia, is good evidence. He was arrested by Thai police after allegations he had raped four Thai girls and then escaped to the Burma border. The concern is that many will seek to exploit Myanmar’s weak borders and legal system in such a way, and this is just one example.
I will close at this point to allow time for questions. I have come prepared with a few more of our case studies that we reported recently in Washington. These case studies are representative of trends in slavery, such as labour trafficking, domestic servitude and sexual exploitation of boys in Afghanistan—which is definitely an emerging problem. We would like to submit these case studies and an invitation to come to Cambodia to view first hand case management and the legal system on a two-day study tour that we are conducting later this year. Alternatively, arrangements can be made for similar study tours of Afghanistan or Vietnam to view the problems first hand. We will hand over the invitation now.
As we look broadly at the issue of slavery and slavery-like conditions, sometimes the statistics and the huge numbers can seem overwhelming or isolating. I often reflect on the leadership it took those in the 1800s to move this issue and wonder how they were able to approach the endemic slave trade of the day. They did and they took moral responsibility for the heinous act of human trafficking and in doing so saved many lives. At Hagar we currently turn away 75 per cent of eligible clients due to lack of funds and capacity. These are people who have not just experienced slavery, but have been severely traumatised by it through violent sexual exploitation and rape.
Today our hope is that we have represented the case for remedial justice well enough for you to recommend greater support our after-care services and that the Australian government continues to grow its commitment to curbing this issue and uses its great influence in the region to reduce slavery. Thank you very much for allowing Hagar Australia to present to this sub-committee.
CHAIR: Could I have a resolution that these two pieces be included as evidence?
Senator STEPHENS: I so move.
CHAIR: We will consider this invitation at the next meeting, but I do not think many people will be going in the week of the election. We note your offer.
Mrs Kennedy : We can make an alternative arrangement. We have had several MPs come over. We did not appreciate that when we set the date. Sorry.
CHAIR: We want to try to finalise this report in this parliament. You have mentioned a partnership with the US State Department and you have advocated that Australia should reorient part of its foreign aid effort towards after care. Do any other nations currently involve themselves directly in that kind of work?
Mrs Kennedy : Yes. The US has just recognised the need for after care and has just shifted some of its existing budget away from detection to re-emphasise that. There has been a shift in the way US Justice approaches that. Last year we received a significant grant from the US Justice Department for working in Afghanistan with boys. We are currently going through the research period for that, and that will be focused on after care for boys who are sexually exploited.
CHAIR: Any of the European nations at all?
Mrs Kennedy : Not that I know of.
CHAIR: You said that you do 'whatever it takes'. Can I get an overview of your intervention? Does it occur through police approaches? We had criticism yesterday from another organisation about people being too pro-active in other countries, going into premises, etcetera. Can you give us an overview of how you get involved?
Mrs Kennedy : We get involved post-rescue. We do not question rescue and we will take referrals from almost any agency. For us it is the client in front of us. We have very strong relationships with government and Customs. Hagar would be one of the first calls that Customs make. We have a lot of returning Cambodian girls from Malaysia, for example. Last year there was one time when 27 girls were sent back; they arrived at Customs; half of them were pregnant; they were 13 or 14 years old. One of them had broken legs. We get a call and we go down and pick them up. That is literally how it works. Most of our referrals come from other NGOs and from police, but we do take referrals from most of the rescue agencies. I do appreciate that there is a lot of concern about how some of the tracking and rescue happens. There are some very credible agencies doing that type of casework. We work very closely with Apple, a French agency, and IJM.
CHAIR: Are you aware of the document Australia-Asia Program to Combat Trafficking in Persons, produced by AusAID recently?
Mrs Kennedy : Yes.
CHAIR: Do you have an overview or comment on that?
Mrs Kennedy : Can I take that question on notice?
CHAIR: Yes. How do you think public awareness of these issues can be raised in this country? Do you have any suggestions? You have said that people in Australia abhor this et cetera, but how mainstream is that view and do you think anything can be done on public awareness?
Mrs Kennedy : I have spent the last 20 years in and around community development with overseas aid. I am quite shocked at the level of awareness—or lack of it—around the issue of slavery. Almost every time we give a talk at a school or business there is shock. People cannot believe it when you say that there are an estimated 21 million slaves and that the median price to buy a human life is between $90 and $138. These sorts of things and ideas shock people. I think that you could almost begin anywhere with a communications campaign. We get constant demands to speak at schools. You could build that sort of thing into curricula. Also, there are church and business groups across the board. I was the strategic director of World Vision for many years. You would go out and talk about poverty and people had a basic understanding about it and the countries where it occurred. That is not the case with slavery and slavery like conditions.
CHAIR: Are you part of the AusAID consultation processes? Are you attached to that?
Mrs Kennedy : We are going through the process of OAGDS at the moment. We are quite hopeful that will be finalised fairly quickly. Also, we are beginning our accreditation application with AusAID. We do a lot of consultation in-country and we have very close relationships with the post in Cambodia, particularly. A series of meetings will be happening in the next couple of weeks between Hagar and AusAID, in Afghanistan.
CHAIR: Are there any international efforts on slavery that you think Australia should join in more fully?
Mrs Kennedy : I think the trend about supply chains is really significant. It is interesting that the UK is picking that up. It is being discussed at the moment in parliament. I think that is a really great way for Australia to get active and put pressure back on people who are tendering for government work certification processes. A similar thing happened with the state government in Victoria around legal agencies going for pro bono work. It had such great results for the not-for-profit sector. Legal agencies had to demonstrate that they did 15 per cent pro bono billing for NGOs, before they applied for any government tender. There was no real onus and no real review of the pro bono work that was done, but it just meant that this great opportunity was there to improve the governance and other work of not-for-profits in Victoria.
Senator STEPHENS: There are some quite stunning statistics there. Going back to your point about the fourth pillar of the document and your suggestion that Australia is not doing enough and could do much more around remedial justice and what you call 'after care'. Can you explain to the committee how you get that discussion on the agenda with AusAID?
Mrs Kennedy : We have regular discussions with the post, and the post direct us back to the fact that there are four pillars and this is how the funding is allocated. So, we are putting this forward in any submission we can, as we used to with Washington. But when grant opportunities come out they are focused on the first three and there is no opportunity or very small opportunities for the fourth.
Senator STEPHENS: Is Hagar Australia or Hagar International part of the NGO round table for the Attorney-General's considerations with foreign affairs, defence and trade?
Mrs Kennedy : No, we are not, and we would love to be.
Senator STEPHENS: We have had several submitters suggest that Australia actually needs a national action plan around this. Would you consider that a national action plan might go some way to addressing both public awareness and some kind of deliberative strategies of intervention?
Mrs Kennedy : I think anything that encourages Australia to be a regional leader on this issue is wonderful. So, that would be an incredible focal point to capture that leadership. We regularly hear people ask: Australia is such a leader in the region, so can they take leadership? I think that would be a really great outcome.
Senator STEPHENS: Another suggestion was that for the upcoming CHOGM meeting in Australia the government should try to organise an NGO forum around some of these key and emerging issues. Do you think that would be a helpful mechanism?
Mrs Kennedy : Could I take that question on notice?
Senator STEPHENS: Sure. Regarding your recommendation about protecting the protectors—recommendation 3—I guess one of the challenges about the notion of intervening in a country like Cambodia that does not have a child protection system and does not have provisions for custody and guardianship is: how do we as a country intervene in the sovereignty of that nation in terms of its own legal systems?
Mrs Kennedy : I will first declare that I am not a lawyer. I will answer it to the best of my ability and take the rest on notice. One of the situations that happens is that our staff get charged with trafficking. So there is a misuse of the law there. We are guardians of children, and we have had a situation where a foreign paedophile has influenced the parents of a child to claim that we are holding the child against their will. Thus they use the trafficking laws against our staff. So, to protect the protectors is about that. Quite regularly—I think it has happened four times in the last 18 months—our Cambodian director, who is a mother of three, has sat there overnight waiting to see whether she is going to go to jail. It is awful that somebody working in child protection should have to live through that, even though in one particular case it was alleged that money changed hands between the foreign paedophile and the parents. So I think there has to be an active interest—
CHAIR: Perhaps I could just say that you have to be a bit careful about allegations such as that in this context.
Senator STEPHENS: No, you were just talking about raising awareness, or how Australia can actually take measures to protect the protectors. You were trying to help us understand that.
CHAIR: Yes, I am just saying that you need to be a bit careful about throwing around allegations about a court case that is going on—I gather it is?
Mrs Kennedy : No, it is not.
CHAIR: Okay, but you were making allegations about motivations behind the police force in the country et cetera, so I think we should just be a bit careful.
Senator PARRY: You do have in your submission 'pending charges'. It is probably best to steer clear of pending charges.
Mrs Kennedy : I thank you for the counsel.
Senator STEPHENS: Just going back to your submission, to help us a little bit: on one hand you are saying that in Cambodia there is no child protection system, that there are no provisions for custody and guardianship. How, then, do Hagar staff become the guardian of someone who has been—
Mrs Kennedy : Again, I would prefer to take it on notice than answer it halfway. I would prefer to take it on notice and then formally report back.
Senator STEPHENS: Okay, that would be helpful. It may just be that there is some kind of protector status or something in Cambodia that is used in that context.
Mrs Kennedy : One point I will make is that the exchange of intellectual capital between Australian legal professionals and the Australian government with the Cambodian government really strengthens some of those things. Alastair Nicholson is really active over there, and that is really changing things. But the guardian laws definitely need to be reviewed, and I will report back on that.
Senator STEPHENS: Just to totally shift our focus: I am quite interested in what you had to say about the emerging problem in Afghanistan, given where the Australian government is in withdrawing troops and support to Afghanistan in the hope that things will proceed well. You are suggesting that there is a very vulnerable group of young men in Afghanistan. Perhaps you could elaborate a little for us.
Mrs Kennedy : We have just handed over a case study which is probably a good one to refer to here. We have just reported on one of the trends in Washington. We were invited to Washington in April and sent a delegation over. This story is about a dancing boy. Are you familiar with the dancing boys?
Senator STEPHENS: Yes.
Mrs Kennedy : The US Department of Justice funded Hagar last year to do a research project around a number of vulnerable areas, but the trends that we are seeing as we move through that are that Afghanistan is becoming a source country for boys to be traded for labour.
For example, that may be boys being coerced into go into Pakistan to work in a brick factory in the same way as a domestic service arrangement works in Cambodia. That is happening. The emergence and prevalence of this dancing-boy phenomena continues to grow and be concerning. So we will release a report which we are happy to provide to you but this is one of the cases that has come out of that. But it is a real problem.
Senator STEPHENS: It would be helpful, Chair, if we had that report, given that we are trying to finalise our report, if that is possible.
Mrs Kennedy : Yes. It is not concluded, but what are concluded are a lot of the interviews. So we could provide tens of dozens of interviews with Afghan boys and their experiences but this particular one is probably a good one, and it is very recent.
Senator STEPHENS: You do not operate in African countries.
Mrs Kennedy : No, we do not.
CHAIR: When you say that you do not operate do you mean Australia does not or Hagar does not.
Mrs Kennedy : Hagar does not.
Senator PARRY: Thank you for your submission. Case examples are always handy for us. They help us become more informed. I was going to follow where Senator Stephens went, in relation to recommendation 3. What is the arrangement in the country? How are you entitled to do what you do in Cambodia? You have quoted the country director of Hagar. Without going into those details how do you do what you do? Is it just by the good will of the government? Is it the police that support you or sponsor you? How does that work?
Mrs Kennedy : Again, because we have entered a legal territory I would prefer to provide my answer in writing. In whatever way it appears over there, they come to us as wards. There are guardianship issues if parents are around but I would like to provide that in writing. I could do that pretty quickly but I would like to do that with our legal and protection unit in Cambodia, because we have solicitors on staff.
Senator PARRY: That is no problem at all. In practice, though, you work at the direction, supervision or licence of the police.
Mrs Kennedy : Yes.
Senator PARRY: In your opening remarks, in relation to victims—I do not think this was country specific—you spoke of rape, paedophilia and acid burns. I was just curious as to why acid burns were singled out. There was nothing in your submission about acid burns. Why haven't you spoken about other forms of violence? Why acid burns? Is that highly prevalent?
Mrs Kennedy : It was a kind of phenomenon. Human rights abuse—like dancing boys—does trend. Acid burns was a phenomenon and Hagar worked with a lot of women, particularly in Cambodia, who had experienced acid burns. They are long-term cases. We have one particular case that springs to mind, of a woman called Yem. She had three children. She was nursing a six-day-old baby. Her husband, during the period of her pregnancy, had had an affair. A woman came in and threw acid on her and the baby because he had broken off the relationship. So the three children came into our custody. Yem and the six-day-old baby were flown back and forward to Singapore for medical care. They are long-term cases and some of those we are still interacting with. Thank goodness the cases of acid burns have trended down.
CHAIR: On that, are you aware of a group in the Bangladeshi community in Australia, Probashi, who are very active in raising this issue of acid burns and in raising money for victims.
Mrs Kennedy : No, I am not.
CHAIR: Thanks very much for your attendance. You will be given a copy of Hansard's record of today. If you have any corrections of fact or grammar do not hesitate to get back to us. And you have committed yourself to providing quite a few things to the committee in the future. Thank you.