UTS and Modern Slavery: A Declaration of Commitment
Modern slavery is a hidden problem and a devastating reality for men, women and children around the world, and here in Australia. Australia has now legislated against modern slavery to help stamp out these practices.
The Modern Slavery Act requires entities based, or operating, in Australia, which have an annual consolidated revenue of more than $100 million, to report annually on the risks of modern slavery in their operations and supply chains, and actions to address those risks.
According to Professor Jennifer Burn, Founding Director of Anti-Slavery Australia, the Modern Slavery Act 2018 (Cth) is an extraordinary piece of legislation.
‘This legislation has been long-awaited by those working with the human rights violations of modern slavery. The Modern Slavery Act is world-leading and introduces some of the most robust anti-slavery reporting procedures in the world,’ says Jennifer.
‘Protecting human rights is an important part of our democracy.’
UTS’s anti-slavery legacy
UTS’s commitment to tacking modern slavery is not new. In fact, it’s been a pivotal part of our work for over a decade.
Anti-Slavery Australia (ASA), based in the UTS Law School, is the only specialist legal practice, research and policy centre committed to the abolition of modern slavery in Australia.
Jennifer has over 17 years of research and practice experience in human trafficking, slavery and forced marriage. She was appointed as the Interim Anti-Slavery Commissioner for NSW by the NSW Government in 2019.
According to ASA, in Australia, only 1 in 5 victims of slavery are identified. That means that 80% of victims do not get the support they need and remain in slavery in Australia. And this means that the cases we see are likely to be a small proportion of the scale of trafficking and slavery in Australia.
Some groups of people are more vulnerable than others. For example, backpackers, international students, asylum seekers and migrants on limited working visas may not know their rights in Australia.
‘Slavery and slavery-like exploitation is more common than people think, and it is often difficult to spot,’ says Jennifer. ‘That’s why detailed reporting regulations for all large companies are essential.
‘The focus, however, must remain on the human impact. It is essential that the remedies we put in place centre prevention and victim support.’
ASA has designed two eLearning courses on modern slavery, with the help of he UTS Postgraduate Learning Design Team.
Their course on the broader context of modern slavery in Australia is free for the public, while the Practical Guide to the Modern Slavery Act is for businesses addressing modern slavery in their supply chains. You can find out more about the course on the Anti-Slavery Australia website (www.antislavery.org.au).
An institutional declaration against modern slavery
UTS, along with other Australian organisations, is now required by law to submit a Modern Slavery Statement by 31 December 2020.
Alongside this, UTS has elected to develop a Modern Slavery Declaration of Commitment. This is a visionary declaration created to inform and lead the UTS Modern Slavery Statement. Whilst the Statement is a reporting requirement that explains what we are doing to assess and address the risks that may be occurring in our global and domestic operations and supply chains, the Declaration will set the bar for our institution above and beyond what is necessarily required by law.
Having a Declaration of Commitment gives us the opportunity to think on a grander scale about our role as a knowledge generator, a consumer, and an Australian institution.
Our Modern Slavery Declaration of Commitment is a unique approach to responding to the Modern Slavery Act, giving us an opportunity to consider what currency we can bring – social, economic, and knowledge – to solving the issue of modern slavery.
We intend to focus on a few areas where the university’s unique strengths may be brought to bear on the problem of modern slavery:
- Developing a set of overarching principles that speak to our institutional values, we set out to be bold and visionary in thinking about what UTS can do to combat modern slavery, and how that relates to our responsibilities as a public university in the 21st century.
- Universities are custodians of knowledge. But we are also active partners, with touch points in local communities, industry, and the international community. Our unique voice and relationships can add value in the public sphere.
- We are also democratisers of knowledge, with an incredibly diverse body of staff and students collaborating through our work, and often engaging in independent advocacy.
- And we are enormous consumers of goods and services. We engage in the economy and provide employment for many.
The UTS Centre for Social Justice & Inclusion has worked to include stakeholders from the whole of UTS to create an ambitious and bold Declaration to inform the institution’s Statement to be completed by the end of 2020. Whilst ASA has played an active role in informing these discussions and sharing international examples of best practice, it has been an inclusive process via a series of workshops bringing together voices from students and professional and academic staff.