'I was raped': Compensation for modern slaves welcomed after victims speak out


A parliamentary inquiry has called for Australia to introduce laws to crack down on modern slavery.

Brave victims of modern slavery have spoken of the dreadful conditions in which they worked.

Cambodian Sinet Chan told her story to a Foreign Affairs committee investigating orphan trafficking and modern slavery in Australia.

She said she was expected to do hard labour as well as singing and dancing for volunteers whose visits propped up the orphanage where she lived.

"We were also forced to work at the director's rice field and at his fish farm," Ms Chan said.

"I was raped by the director of the orphanage several times."

Fijian man Moceica Turaga was trafficked from his home country to pick grapes and watermelons in Victoria.

He bears scars on his back from falling onto a barbed wire fence. Mr Turaga worked 12-hour days, seven days a week but never received a pay check.

He also gave evidence to the parliamentary inquiry.

According to research by the group, ReThink Orphanages, one in seven Australian schools last year had an association with an orphanage.

The committee wants a register set up of compliant institutions that meet UN guidelines on the care of children.

After a two-year phase-in no Australian volunteers or funds would go to institutions not registered.

"More of the donations going towards that field would filter through to those doing the right thing, and more volunteers would go to those particular organisations," committee chair Chris Crewther told SBS News.

Growing controversy has already brought change with World Challenge and Intrepid Travel among the travel groups and schools declaring they now have nothing to do with orphan volunteering.

The committee handed down its report on Thursday night. Among the 49 recommendations was a call for Australia to establish modern slavery laws and a special commissioner.

The inquiry looked at the effectiveness of the UK's modern slavery act.

Mr Crewther spoke of a shocking case in his Victorian electorate in which a woman was forced to live in a wall cavity at a brothel.

There are an estimated 40 million victims of modern slavery, including 4300 in Australia, he said.

"In a number of cases we heard strong evidence around human traffickers utilising children and trafficking children into orphanages - even where they have family," Mr Crewther said.

The Law Council of Australia endorsed the committee's recommendation to introduce a compensation scheme for victims.

Council president Fiona McLeod SC said while the Law Council would take the time to examine the whole report, the recommendation for the creation of a National Compensation Scheme was critical.

"The Law Council has long argued that, for trafficking and slavery laws to be effective, they must include a thorough national compensation scheme for survivors of human trafficking, slavery, and slavery-like practices," she said in a statement.

"The current statutory victims' compensation schemes provided by the states and territories allow victims to fall through the cracks with potential to lead to unjust results.

"A national compensation scheme is necessary not only to provide justice, but to ensure victims are incentivised to come forward and tell their stories."

The committee also recommended more training for the federal police and immigration department officials and an education campaign to discourage Australians from taking part in orphanage tourism which exploits children.

Additionally they urged an overhaul of tied visas that can put migrant workers at risk of being exploited on farms.

- with AAP

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