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
- 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.
Statutory review of the Modern Slavery Act 2018
On 25 May 2023, the government tabled a report on the statutory review of Australia's Modern Slavery Act, which reviewed the first 3 years of the Act's operation. The review was conducted in accordance with s 24 of the Act and was led by Professor John McMillan, AO, supported by us.
The review made 30 recommendations for government consideration to strengthen the Act. Key recommendations made in the review include:
- introducing penalties for non-compliance with statutory reporting requirements
- lowering the reporting threshold from $100 million to $50 million
- requiring entities to report on modern slavery incidents or risks
- amending the Act to require entities have a due diligence system in place
- strengthening the administration of the Act through proposed legislative amendments and expanded administrative guidance
- proposing functions for the federal Anti-Slavery Commissioner in relation to the Act.
The review was informed by an extensive public consultation process, involving 38 targeted consultations with 285 government and non-government organisations, including from business, civil society and academia.
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 email@example.com.
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 firstname.lastname@example.org.
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:
- UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights
- OECD Due Diligence Guidance for Responsible Business Conduct
- 2018 Global Slavery Index
Modern Slavery Statements Register
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 in the news and resources section of the register. This section contains resources to help entities in prepare 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:
- country of headquarters
- reporting period.
When preparing a modern slavery statement, we recommend completing and attaching the Modern Slavery Statement Annexure located in the news and resources section. This annexure is designed to help entities show 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.
How to submit your statement
Entities can upload their statements to the register.
The resources section contains documents outlining how to create an account and submit a modern slavery statement.
You can create your account and familiarise yourself with the process for submitting your statement before your reporting deadline.
The AGD will review all statements to assess their compliance with the Act. They may require entities to revise non-compliant statements. The AGD is writing to entities who failed to address one or more mandatory criteria in their modern slavery statements.
Commonwealth Modern Slavery Statement
Under the Act, the government is required to submit annual Commonwealth modern slavery statements detailing its actions to identify, assess, and address modern slavery risks in its operations and global supply chains.
On 22 December 2022, the government published the Commonwealth Modern Slavery Statement 2021-22 (Commonwealth Statement). This is the third Commonwealth Statement published by the government and covers the 2021-22 Australian financial year.
The Commonwealth Statement is submitted on behalf of all non-corporate Commonwealth entities. The government’s third Commonwealth Statement continues to build on the targeted, risk-based approach to identifying and assessing modern slavery risks outlined in previous Commonwealth Statements. The statement details the actions the government has taken throughout 2021-22 to address these risks, in particular focusing on the identified high-risk areas: the procurement of textiles; construction; ICT hardware; cleaning and security services and Commonwealth investments.
The Commonwealth Modern Slavery Statement 2019-20 and Commonwealth Modern Slavery statement 2020-21 are available on the government’s online Modern Slavery Register.
Annual report to Parliament on the implementation of the Modern Slavery Act
On 14 December 2022, the government released the third annual report to Parliament on the implementation of the Act (1.8MB PDF). The annual report highlights the government's continued efforts to engage with business and civil society to implement the Act and improve compliance over the first and second reporting periods.
On 23 November 2021, the government released the second annual report to Parliament on the implementation of the Act (1165KB PDF). The report highlights the world-leading initiatives implemented in 2020, including:
- launching the government’s online Modern Slavery Statements Register (Online Register)
- publishing the first Commonwealth Modern Slavery Statement
- establishing the Modern Slavery Expert Advisory Group with representatives from business, academia, and key peak bodies to provide specialist advice to government on the implementation of the Act.
On 18 June 2020, the government released its first annual report to Parliament on the implementation of the Act (2MB PDF). The report highlighted the government’s collaborative and proactive approach to implementing the Act over 2019.
These reports fulfil the government’s obligations under Section 23A of the Act, which stipulates that the government must report annually on its actions to implement the legislation.
Application of the Modern Slavery Act to local government entities
The Act explicitly excludes state and territory governments from the reporting requirement. Consistent with this approach, local government entities are not required to comply with the reporting requirement. This ensures that local government entities are treated in the same way as state and territory governments under the Act.
Local governments have an important role to play in combatting modern slavery, particularly as they often have significant procurement activities. Local government entities are encouraged to voluntarily comply with the Act, where they have capacity to do so.
Single reporting periods for joint statements covering entities with different reporting periods
The Act allows an entity to submit a joint statement on behalf of one or more reporting entities (the submitting entity).
The submitting entity may or may not be a reporting entity itself. For example, a global parent company may want to submit a joint statement on behalf of a number of its subsidiaries that are reporting entities under the Act.
In many cases, the submitting entity and all reporting entities covered by the joint statement will share a common reporting period, such as an Australian financial year. However, in some scenarios, the submitting entity and one or more of the reporting entities covered by the statement may not share a common reporting period.
In this case, the entities involved may select a single reporting period to be used for the purposes of the joint statement. This single reporting period does not have to align with an existing reporting period used by the entities. However, it must not be:
- later than the latest reporting period for any of the reporting entities covered by the statement, or
- the operating financial year of the submitting entity if this entity is not a reporting entity.
Some entities may choose to move from reporting through a joint statement back to an individual statement, or vice versa.
Where an entity reverts to an individual statement, it will also revert to the original individual reporting period. In these circumstances, entities must ensure that their next report covers actions they undertook to prevent and combat modern slavery during any gap resulting from the change of reporting period.
Voluntary modern slavery statement
Any Australian entity or foreign entity carrying on a business in Australia can provide a voluntary statement if they do not meet the thresholds for mandatory reporting.
You should carefully consider your capacity and resources to prepare a voluntary statement before making a commitment. Once you have volunteered to report and the related reporting period commences, you will be bound as though you were a mandatory reporting entity.
If you are unsure about whether to report voluntarily, or think you need more time to prepare, you could choose to prepare a voluntary statement and make it available on your website. The statement should clearly identify whether it has been formally submitted to the AGD as a voluntary statement.
For further information on how to prepare a voluntary statement, see news and resources.
Modern Slavery Expert Advisory Group
The Modern Slavery Expert Advisory Group provides the Attorney-General’s Department with trusted advice on the implementation of the Commonwealth Modern Slavery Act 2018.
First meeting of the advisory group, June 2020
On 10 June 2020, the former Assistant Minister for Customs, Community Safety and Multicultural Affairs, the Hon Jason Wood MP, opened the first meeting of the advisory group. The group’s first meeting focused on:
- the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on modern slavery risks
- developing a Modern Slavery Recognition Scheme
- the development of the Commonwealth’s Modern Slavery Statement, and
- outreach and engagement strategies.
Second meeting of the advisory group, July 2020
The group’s second meeting was held on 28 July 2020, and focused on:
- the response of Australian businesses to modern slavery risks in overseas supply chains
- finalising a model for a Modern Slavery Recognition Scheme
- the structure and content of the Commonwealth’s Modern Slavery Statement, including assessing the effectiveness of the government’s response.
Third meeting of the advisory group, September 2020
The group’s third meeting was held on 28 September 2020, and focused on:
- compliance trends identified from entities who submitted statements early to the Register for Modern Slavery Statements
- development of guidance on remediation around instances of modern slavery
- the development of the Commonwealth Modern Slavery Statement 2019-20.
Fourth meeting of the advisory group, December 2020
The group’s fourth meeting was held on 14 December 2020, and focused on priorities for 2021, including:
- supporting the development of additional guidance for reporting entities under the Modern Slavery Act 2018 including approval and signature of statements, reporting on related entities, and measuring the effectiveness of actions
- key compliance trends from the first tranche of modern slavery statements, published on 27 November 2020, submitted to the Register for Modern Slavery Statements
- contributing to the establishment of the Modern Slavery Recognition Scheme.
Fifth meeting of the advisory group, February 2021
On 18 February 2021, the former Assistant Minister for Customs, Community Safety and Multicultural Affairs, the Hon Jason Wood MP, opened the advisory group’s first meeting for 2021. The meeting focused on:
- the impact of the Modern Slavery Act 2018 on small to medium size businesses
- the response of Australian businesses to modern slavery risks in overseas supply chains
- publication of the third tranche of modern slavery statements under the Modern Slavery Act 2018.
Sixth meeting of the advisory group, May 2021
The group’s sixth meeting was held on 4 May 2021, and focused on:
- compliance trends emerging from statements submitted by entities for the 31 March 2021 reporting deadline
- enhancements to the Register for Modern Slavery Statements the ABF is considering to streamline and promote consistent submission and review of statements
- actions the ABF is considering to strengthen its response to modern slavery risks in public sector procurement
- the establishment of the Inter-Governmental Network and ABF's engagement with state and territory governments to promote awareness of possible modern slavery issues.
Seventh meeting of the advisory group, August 2021
The group’s seventh meeting was held on 5 August 2021, and focused on:
- compliance trends emerging from the first full reporting period under the Modern Slavery Act 2018
- developing the government’s 2020-21 Commonwealth Modern Slavery Statement
- Australia’s international engagement on modern slavery and human trafficking risks for businesses operating overseas.
Eighth meeting of the advisory group, November 2021
The group’s eighth meeting was held on 5 November 2021, and focused on:
- update and discussion on enhancements to the Online Modern Slavery Register
- update on reporting entities’ compliance with the Modern Slavery Act 2018 and discussion on future compliance activities
- Cleaning Accountability Framework (CAF) presented on their work with reporting entities under the Act, followed by a discussion on managing modern slavery risks in the cleaning industry.
Ninth meeting of the advisory group, February 2022
The group’s ninth meeting was held on 15 February 2022, and focused on:
- update and discussion on compliance with the Modern Slavery Act 2018 (Cth) (the Act)
- update on the upcoming three-year statutory review of the Act
- discussion on remediation of modern slavery risks identified in government supply chains
- key findings from a recently published independent research report that evaluated the results of business reporting under the Act identifying and addressing modern slavery risks in their operations and supply chains.
Tenth meeting of the advisory group, May 2022
The group’s 10th meeting was held on 24 May 2022, and focused on:
- update on the assessment of compliance with the Modern Slavery Act 2018 (Cth) (the Act)
- update on the review of the Act, which commenced on 31 March 2022, including introducing Professor John McMillan, AO, and discussing the development of the review’s issues paper
- presentation on Walk Free’s recent report into modern slavery risks in the garment industry; and the upcoming Walk Free Global Slavery Index.
Eleventh meeting of the advisory group, August 2022
The group’s 11th meeting was held on 31 August 2022. It was the first meeting convened by the Attorney-General’s Department, and focused on:
- discussion of entity compliance with the Modern Slavery Act 2018, including early trends emerging from the second full reporting cycle in relation to the first full reporting cycle
- development of the 2021-22 Commonwealth Modern Slavery Statement and members’ views on areas of the 2020-21 statement that could be strengthened
- the statutory review of the Modern Slavery Act 2018, including the release of the review issues paper for public consultation, the development of a survey for reporting entities, and stakeholder consultations.
Twelfth meeting of the advisory group, November 2022
The group’s 12th meeting was held on 14 November 2022, and focused on:
- update on the implementation of the Government’s Tackling Modern Slavery Policy
- presentation from Professor John McMillan, AO, review lead, on the feedback received during the Modern Slavery Act 2018 (Cth) (the Act) review
- discussion, led by the Attorney-General's Department’s Modern Slavery Business Engagement Unit, on the current guidance material available to entities submitting statements and feedback received during the consultation process.
An expression of interest process for the next term of the Modern Slavery Expert Advisory Group is currently open and will close at 9.00pm (AEST) on Friday 9 June 2023.