ADDRESS AT THE LAUNCH OF THE NATIONAL ACTION PLAN TO COMBAT HUMAN TRAFFICKING & SLAVERY

Thank you Minister Keenan.

I would also like to acknowledge my Parliamentary colleagues, including Minister Cash and distinguished guests present here today.

Today is the International Day for the Abolition of Slavery, a date that marks the adoption of the United Nations Convention for the Suppression of the Traffic in Persons and of the Exploitation of the Prostitution of Others on 2 December 1949.

This Convention was a significant milestone, as it was the first international instrument on trafficking.

So the anniversary of the adoption of the Convention is a timely opportunity for us to celebrate our many achievements and to consider the challenges ahead.

In launching the National Action Plan to Combat Human Trafficking and Slavery 2015-2019, Minister Keenan has reiterated this Government’s strong commitment to combatting human trafficking and slavery in Australia.

Human trafficking and slavery are serious crimes that violate human rights and can never be tolerated.

As Minister for Social Services, I have portfolio responsibility for the Support for Trafficked People Program.

The Support Program is an important component of the National Action Plan, as it provides timely assistance to all victims of human trafficking, slavery and slavery-like practices, including forced labour and forced marriage, who meet the eligibility criteria.

Since 2004, the Support Program has provided practical and compassionate support to 254 clients.

We will continue to work to ensure that victims of human trafficking and slavery are provided with a range of supports that respond to their unique and complex needs.

This includes considering the needs of victims of human trafficking and slavery more broadly in Government policy.

The National Action Plan launched today already has strong linkages with a range of Commonwealth policy initiatives, including the National Plan to Reduce Violence Against Women and their Children 2010-2022.

On the 27th of June this year, I launched the Second Action Plan of the National Plan with the Prime Minister and Assistant Minister Cash.

The Second Action Plan sets out 26 practical actions that all Australian governments agree are critical to reducing violence against women and their children. This includes addressing complex forms of violence, such as forced and servile marriage.

Under the Second Action Plan, the Government has committed $28 million to continue the valuable services of 1800RESPECT or 1800 737 732 over four years to 30 June 2017.

1800RESPECT is Australia’s first national telephone and online counselling service for domestic and family violence and sexual assault to be staffed by professional counsellors.

I am proud to announce today that 1800RESPECT will be expanded to provide victims, and those at risk, of forced marriage with tailored, appropriate support and assistance nationwide.

We know that victims of forced marriage, as well as those at risk of being forced into a marriage, come from a broad range of backgrounds.

They may be Australian citizens, here on a valid visa or have overstayed their visas.

They may have limited understanding of what support and assistance is available to them, or where to go to seek that assistance.

They may feel they have no one to talk to about their situation, or to recover from the trauma they have experienced.

The expansion of 1800RESPECT will empower victims and those at risk of forced marriage by ensuring that they can access appropriate support and assistance, wherever they are, at any time of the day or night.

The expansion of 1800RESPECT responds to the recommendations for the establishment of a 24-hour national forced marriage helpline made by people and organisations represented here today.

This expansion is reflective of the productive working relationship between Government and civil society organisation through mechanisms such as this Roundtable.

I would like to think we are all continuing the work of William Wilberforce who did so much to abolish slavery in the British Empire and its trade on the high seas almost two hundred years ago.

I look forward to hearing about the dialogue that will take place today and thank you for your participation.

I would now like to handover to my colleague Minister Cash.