Australia will soon have its first federal Anti-Slavery Commissioner.

The Modern Slavery Amendment (Australian Anti-Slavery Commissioner) Bill 2023 passed Parliament last week. 

The establishment of the Anti-Slavery Commissioner is backed by an $8 million investment over four years from the 2023-24 Budget. 

The Commissioner will play a pivotal role in shaping future reforms related to modern slavery, including those suggested by the statutory review of the Modern Slavery Act 2018.

Modern slavery remains a significant issue in Australia, as highlighted by recent data from the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare. 

In the 2022-23 period, the Australian Federal Police (AFP) received around 340 reports of modern slavery, the highest on record.

However, it is estimated that for every recorded victim-survivor, there are four undetected victim-survivors. 

Forced marriage has consistently been the most reported form of modern slavery, with 90 cases reported in 2022-23.

Modern slavery encompasses various forms of severe exploitation, including human trafficking, forced labour, servitude, sexual exploitation, debt bondage, and deceptive recruitment. 

Victim-survivors often face multiple overlapping forms of modern slavery, compounded by factors such as discrimination, poverty, and lack of legal protections.

Globally, modern slavery is estimated to affect around 50 million people.

Of these, approximately 27.6 million are in forced labour and 22 million in forced marriage. The COVID-19 pandemic has exacerbated conditions, leading to increased vulnerability to exploitation due to socio-economic instability.

Australia's approach to combating modern slavery involves international collaboration, recognising the transnational nature of the issue. 

Locally, efforts include supporting victim-survivors through initiatives like the Support for Trafficked People Program, managed by the Australian Red Cross.

Following the passage of the bill, the search for Australia’s inaugural Commissioner is set to commence shortly.