SD Strategies director Sonja Duncan, who has advised several organisations, including St Vincent's Health Australia, on modern slavery risks, said the new regulations will make organisations more accountable.
“With the 1 July, which is the start of the reporting period, businesses really need to start thinking seriously about what action they are going to take to assess and address the risk of slavery in their operations and supply chains,” she told SBS News.
“They have a 12 month period now to understand those risks so that by the end of that 12 months period they can prepare their report, which is the modern slavery statement, which becomes a public document.”
“I think a lot of businesses are looking at the statement as a starting point, but it’s actually the endpoint of the process, as it’s effectively a report of the actions that they have taken from July 2019.”
Modern slavery practices include people trafficking, forced labour, debt bondage and forced marriage.
Businesses most at risk for modern slavery include the textile industry, mining, the construction sector, financial services and healthcare.
The seafood industry is also badly affected.
The Walk Free Foundation Founder Andrew Forrest earlier commended MPs for passing the bill.
“An Australian Modern Slavery Act is essential if Australia is going to play a role in making slavery a thing of the past,” he said earlier.
But Ms Duncan said the main challenges a lot of businesses face are a lack of resourcing and a gap in understanding where within their business the new rules should be rolled out.
She said many business leaders in Australia take the issue seriously and there are some companies that have already addressed or are working on the issue, but she said: “there’s a slowness in uptake”.
“There’s this, maybe, a bit of a head in the sand approach to it, ‘we’ll get there and all we’ll have to do is write a statement’, but I think there needs to be a much clearer understanding in the business community that the statement is the endpoint of this, it’s the work that has to happen in the 12 months leading up to it.”