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MEDIA RELEASE: Latest modern slavery figures released

Thursday 25 May 2023

There are 41,000 people in Australia living in modern slavery, according to the latest Global Slavery Index released by international human rights group Walk Free.

This figure has more than doubled in the past four years in Australia – revealing that while Australia has strong modern slavery protections compared to other countries, there is more work to be done.

This latest research is consistent with ILO-IOM-Walk Free numbers released in September 2022: that 50 million people worldwide now live in modern slavery – 10 million more than five years ago. 

Shockingly, almost 60 per cent (29 million) of all enslaved people in the world are located in the Asia Pacific region, meaning Australia’s role in combatting modern slavery in the region is even more important.

In good news, Australia ranked second on the list of 160 countries for taking the most action to address modern slavery on its shores.

International Justice Mission (IJM) Australia CEO Steve Baird said the new figures are confronting, but serve as an important reminder that more needs to be done to strengthen formal justice systems both in Australia and the neighbouring Asia Pacific region.

“It is always confronting to hear that people are living in modern slavery,” Mr Baird said.

“I am saddened to see that almost 60 per cent of all those in modern slavery are located in the Asia Pacific region – our neighbours just across the water.

“It is pleasing to see Australia rank second in the world for taking the most action to address modern slavery, but clearly we have more work to do.”

“These new figures show that we have gone backwards both in Australia, and more broadly around the world. Global case data from the UNODC shows that formal justice system responses – victim identifications, and trafficker arrests and convictions – are declining.

“IJM’s work shows that this trend can be reversed. When formal justice system responses improve, slavery rates rapidly and significantly decline. While the data shows an increase in the number of people living in slavery worldwide, IJM has seen the opposite in the places we work.

“We must use this new research to double down on our efforts to address the scourge of slavery on society. We must find solutions that work and replicate them at scale.”

The Federal Government allocated funding in the Budget to establish Australia’s first Federal Anti-Slavery Commissioner – an election commitment from the Federal Labor government.

For more information on IJM Australia, visit: 

MEDIA:   Isabelle Colla | 0432 970 548 | [email protected]

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