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Modern slavery

Overview

Modern slavery describes situations where offenders use coercion, threats or deception to exploit victims and undermine their freedom.

Practices that constitute modern slavery can include:

  • human trafficking
  • slavery
  • servitude
  • forced labour
  • debt bondage
  • forced marriage
  • the worst forms of child labour.

Modern slavery is a term used to describe serious exploitation. It does not include practices like substandard working conditions or underpayment of workers. These practices are also harmful and may be present in some situations of modern slavery. For more information on workplace rights and obligations in Australia, visit the Australian Government Fair Work Ombudsman website.

Modern slavery can occur in every industry and sector and has severe consequences for victims. Modern slavery also distorts global markets, undercuts responsible business and can pose significant legal and reputational risks to entities.

Entities have a responsibility to respect human rights in their operations and supply chains, as outlined in the United Nations Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights. This includes taking steps to assess and address modern slavery risks.

Taking action to combat modern slavery also makes good business sense. Entities that take action to combat modern slavery in their operations and supply chains can protect against possible business harm and improve the integrity and quality of their supply chains.

They can also increase profitability, investor confidence and access to financing opportunities.

The Australian Government is taking a global leadership role in combating modern slavery. There is no place for modern slavery in the Australian community or in the global supply chains of Australian goods and services.

Modern Slavery Act 2018

The Commonwealth Modern Slavery Act 2018 entered into force on 1 January 2019. The Act established a national Modern Slavery Reporting Requirement.

This Reporting Requirement applies to large businesses and other entities in the Australian market with annual consolidated revenue of at least A$100 million.

The Reporting Requirement supports the Australian business community to identify and address their modern slavery risks, and maintain responsible and transparent supply chains.

Entities required to comply with the Reporting Requirement, including the Australian Government, must prepare annual Modern Slavery Statements.

These statements must set out the reporting entity’s actions to assess and address modern slavery risks in their global operations and supply chains. The Australian Government publishes these statements through an online central register.

Impact of coronavirus on reporting under the Modern Slavery Act 2018

We have developed guidance for entities impacted by the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic about how to report under the Modern Slavery Act 2018. Entities can take actions to reduce the risk of vulnerable workers in their operations and supply chains becoming exposed to modern slavery as a result of COVID‑19. See Information for reporting entities about the impacts of coronavirus.

You can contact the Modern Slavery Business Engagement Unit for advice about reporting on the impacts of COVID-19 at slavery.consultations@ag.gov.au.

Key resources

The Business and Government Engagement Section is responsible for driving effective implementation of the Act. This includes providing guidance and support to reporting entities about compliance.

The Business and Government Engagement Section has also developed supplementary guidance material. This is based on identified compliance trends to support entities to comply with the Act over the second reporting cycle.

To contact us and register for email updates, email slavery.consultations@ag.gov.au.

We have worked with businesses and civil society to develop the Commonwealth Modern Slavery Act – Guidance for reporting entities (2MB PDF) to comply with the Act.

Find additional resources below:

Register for Modern Slavery Statements

Under the Act, the Australian Government is required to maintain an online publicly accessible register of modern slavery statements submitted by reporting entities (the Register). 

The Register was launched on 30 July 2020, and the first tranche of modern slavery statements published on 27 November 2020. 

For the first full reporting cycle under the Act, which ended on 30 June 2021, there were close to 2,500 statements submitted to the Register, representing close to 4,500 entities.

A range of resources and guidance materials are also available in the news and resources section to support entities to comply with their reporting obligations under the Act.

How to prepare your statement

We recommend all reporting entities review the guidance materials located in the news and resources section of the Register. This section contains resources to help entities in preparing all aspects of their modern slavery statements.

Entities unsure of how to structure their statement may review statements submitted by other reporting entities in a similar industry or sector with comparable resources. The Register has a range of search criteria that allows users to search by:

  • industry
  • revenue
  • country of headquarters
  • reporting period.

When preparing a modern slavery statement, we recommend completing and attaching the Modern Slavery Statement Annexure which is located in the news and resources section. This annexure is designed to assist entities in displaying how they have addressed all 7 mandatory reporting criteria. Entities need to show that their statement has been approved by its principal governing body. It also needs to be signed by a responsible member.