Evidence of slavery conditions and human trafficking in South Australia – largely affecting migrant women and workers – has been catalogued by a Flinders University researcher, who also notes that many of these harrowing stories have not come to the attention of authorities.
“It is everywhere, yet it is invisible,” says Associate Professor Marinella Marmo, who is presenting her pilot study into SA Human Trafficking and Slavery-like Practices at the Human Trafficking and Modern Slavery in South Australia Forum.
“The pilot study is designed to bring the South Australian situation to the forefront of people’s attention, so that a more complete picture of the situation in SA can be formed. We need a more critical picture if we are to provide a pathway forward,” says Associate Professor Marmo, from the College of Business, Government and Law at Flinders University.
The forum, presented as a part of Social Science Week, will focus on the topics of forced marriage, labour exploitation and the 2018 Modern Slavery Act on supply-chains, which is of interest to SA companies.
Speakers at the forum will include the Federal Department of Home Affairs, Australian Federal Police, Red Cross, Baptist World Aid and Anti-Slavery Australia – and having these stakeholders in attendance will help with sharing information and existing research.
Associate Professor Marmo says that the National Support Program for alleged victims of trafficking has helped mostly SA cases of forced marriage in recent years. However, the service providers she interviewed suggest that victims come from all sort of backgrounds (gender, age, ethnicity) and involve complex situations.
“There is great difficulty in having victims prepared to talk with law enforcement authorities. They are caught up in a difficult web, with many being bound to visa conditions, yet often their sponsor is also the culprit,” she says.
“The most tragic stories are of domestic servitude in bridal or similar type of visas – and fear of their situation in their home means they give out very few details.
“They don’t trust service providers, because they fear their only existing support will be cut – and so the violence continues.
“They are vulnerable because they have no contact with anyone outside their immediate oppressors. They have no-one they can trust.”
Associate Professor Marmo has learned of female workers in the horticulture industry involved in what some have called the ‘accommodation racket’ (paying dearly for basic accommodation and extras such as internet and transportation) and being requested to perform sexual favours to get more hours. She hopes the forum will highlight a need for a more detailed and cohesive investigation of people in SA suffering from domestic or sexual servitude through forced marriage, labour trafficking to feed supply chains, and slavery-like conditions of exploited workers.
“I feel that the pilot report I have done is only scratching the surface,” says Associate Professor Marmo.
“I don’t have access to numbers on the qualitative side of the project, because there are no comprehensive and cohesive data bases created. If I can put forward one suggestion, it is to coordinate service providers’ databases, starting from the way clients are profiled to synchronising terminology. What has been reported so far is very piecemeal, but it is a very real and very alarming situation.”
She hopes that outcomes from the one-day forum – which is organised in collaboration with Red Cross and Australian Catholic Religious Against Trafficking in Humans, and sponsored by ANZ Society of Criminology – “will identify what we can do together to improve the situation”.
The forum will be held on Thursday September 12 at Flinders Victoria Square, in Adelaide.