Hollywood star Rachel Griffiths says tourists who travel to Asian orphanages and donate money aiming to help, could actually be fuelling the slave trade.
Hollywood actress Rachel Griffiths is used to tackling complex roles, but now she wants Australians to take on the critical task of battling slavery.
Well-intentioned tourists who travel to southeast Asian orphanages, donate money and take feel-good selfies aiming to help, could actually be fuelling the slave trade, she warned.
"We need to counter the selfie moment," Ms Griffiths said in her role as patron for international charity Hagar.
"If running into the orphanage and being greeted by 100 children making you feel good is the selfie moment, it's going to take time for our educators to explain (that) while it may feel good, it may not actually be good."
The Muriel's Wedding star was one of many people to address a federal parliamentary inquiry held in Melbourne on Wednesday, looking at creating a Modern Slavery Act.
There needs to be closer scrutiny of where the money goes when Australian schools and organisations volunteer or fundraise for orphanages, Ms Griffiths said, amid fears struggling parents could be getting incentives to handover their children.
The actor joined Hagar in 2012 and said there was no shame in being ignorant about modern slavery.
"I was incredibly ignorant until my best friend (and I) had a conversation," Ms Griffiths told reporters.
"I don't think there's any shame in being late to the party, the last person through the door is welcome."
Many of the children are trafficked into orphanages, Hagar chief executive Jo Pride said.
"We know that in Cambodia three-out-of-four children in orphanages still have a parent alive, many of them don't need to be there," she told reporters.
"But we've created this orphanage economy which is forcing parents living in poverty to rip their families apart, causing that intergenerational trauma that we know is so serious."
Hagar started in 1994 in Cambodia to help survivors of trafficking recover from trauma and reintegrate into society.
Sophea Touch became emotional while recounting how she was handed over by her father at just three or four to a woman who enslaved her in domestic servitude.
She endured repeated beatings and starvation and ran away to several other families where her mistreatment continued, resulting in her attempting suicide.
Ms Touch eventually found love, support and hope with a Hagar foster family, the inquiry was told.
Hagar told the inquiry that Australian companies and the government should also have to publicly report on the steps they have taken to ensure there is no slavery in their supply chains.
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