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Clearinghouse promotes joint action against human trafficking

by Rosie Hoban

Australia’s first clearinghouse, focussing specifically on the issue of human trafficking, The Trafficking in Persons Clearinghouse, is a web-based resource, which will act as a central access point for information on the global trafficking problem.

The website an initiative of the Good Shepherd Social Justice office, supported by many religious congregations in Australia, draws together relevant material on human trafficking in Australia and the region. 

The site will promote conversation on human trafficking and related issues through the listing of: Published and unpublished resources, including print and audio-visual materials; information on projects aimed at combating human trafficking; information on relevant news and upcoming events; and links to other national and international websites and resources.

The Trafficking in Persons Clearinghouse site manager, Melina Simmond, believes the site could draw groups together and encourage further collaboration and joint actions against human trafficking.

Students, academics, community workers and organisations are invited to submit relevant research, documents or information regarding services for trafficked persons to be included on the clearinghouse. All documents and information should be forwarded to trafficking@infoxchange.net.au

“While we have developed ‘criteria for inclusion’ to assess the suitability of materials for the site, we warmly welcome a range of submissions from academics, students, NGO workers and welfare practitioners,” Ms Simmond said.

The website was launched at the public meeting held in Melbourne earlier in March as one of two meetings following the Religious Congregations’ Anti-Trafficking Working Group’s presentation to the CEDAW (Convention on the Elimination of all forms of Discrimination Against Women) Committee at the United nations, in New York, in  January.

About 100 men and women from religious congregations, community organisations and the general public gathered to discuss ways of combating the trafficking of women into Australia. Almost half the people at the meeting indicated a desire to raise awareness in their community, workplace or parish about trafficking.

Slavery Today – Human Trafficking, followed by one in Sydney the following week, was organised by the Religious Congregations’ Anti-Trafficking Working Group.  The group’s campaign, which gathered momentum last year, led to a major report on the Trafficking of Women into Australia being presented to the CEDAW.  The group is also seeking to protect the rights of trafficked women, and to use international links to support trafficked women who are deported from this country.  The public meetings provided participants with a global view of trafficking and how authorities treat women who are found to have been trafficked into Australia.

Sydney academic Jennifer Burn from the University of Technology Sydney's Anti-Slavery Project, and Melbourne barrister Georgina Costello, helped prepare the CEDAW report to the UN and presented it in New York. Both women spoke at the Melbourne public meeting and highlighted issues of injustice that could be a focus for activists.

Sr Tania de Jong rgs, a member of the Religious Congregations’ Anti-Trafficking Working Group who works at the Good Shepherd Social Justice office in Melbourne, said the public meetings extended the community’s awareness of the problem and ‘recruited’ people willing to collaborate on actions.

Three important outcomes of the public meeting were:

1. A majority of people said that they wanted to work within their own community, organisation or parish to raise awareness of trafficking of women.

2. Many participants wanted to participate in advocacy work, particularly to create a more just and compassionate visa for women who have been trafficked into Australia. At the moment the only women who receive support are those able to help with the prosecution of traffickers.

3. Many religious congregations said they were keen to help develop networks within their congregations in the Asia-Pacific region that could be called on to support women repatriated to the source country.

Sr Tania said it was interesting that the CEDAW Committee, in its concluding comments from the 34th session, said, it was “further concerned about the low rates of prosecutions and convictions of traffickers and the lack of support and protection offered to victims who do not cooperate in the investigation and prosecution of traffickers…  The Committee further urges the State party (Australian Government) to consider the extension of temporary protection visas and reintegration and support services to all victims of trafficking, including those who are unable or unwilling to cooperate in the investigation and prosecution of traffickers.”

A brainstorming session will be held at the Good Shepherd Social Justice office, Melbourne, on Thursday, April 27, at 10am and at 7.30pm.  Anyone who did not attend the public meeting but who was interested in taking action would be welcome at attend.  Further information:  Sr Tania de Jong or Sr Christine Carolan, at the Good Shepherd Social Justice Office, telephone 9421 6873.

Visit theTrafficking in Persons Clearinghousewebsite. And see this week's from the editor's desk

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