Catholic Anti-Slavery Network in Australia Becomes Role Model for Businesses



Sydney – When the Australian National Customs and Border Enforcement Agency uploaded a Catholic document to a federal government registry monitoring modern slavery at the end of June, it was a significant development in efforts to end the exploitation of workers.

The document commits Australia’s largest Catholic entities to eradicate ties to slavery in their operations. It includes commitments from Catholic organizations that provide approximately 70% of Catholic-led services in the country. This is important because the Catholic Church is Australia’s second largest employer, ranking only behind the government.

The Australian Border Force uploaded the Compendium of Modern Slavery Statements 2020, developed by the Australian Catholic Anti-Slavery Network, to the National Public Register on June 26, making this document a template for businesses and organizations to comply. to the Modern Slavery Act 2018.

The compendium includes statements from 33 Catholic entities, such as hospitals and school systems, outlining measures they are taking to combat slavery in areas such as supply and employment. Further statements will be sought as more Catholic organizations join the network, known as PAC.

Australian Catholic institutions, including extensive education and health care networks, generate about A $ 22.3 billion (US $ 16.5 billion) in annual revenue, spend around A $ 6.3 billion (US $ 4.6 billion) in procurement of supplies and services and employ more than 156,000 workers.

The International Labor Organization estimates that more than 40 million people around the world live in modern-day slavery, with children making up about a quarter of the victims. Modern slavery accounts for A $ 202.5 billion (US $ 150 billion) in annual revenue.

The compendium is a work in progress, said attorney John McCarthy, chair of the Archdiocese of Sydney Anti-Slavery Task Force and a driving force behind its compilation.

While Catholic social education is fundamental, McCarthy, who also served as Australian Ambassador to the Vatican from 2012 to 2016, said the document is more than a position paper. Signatory organizations, such as the Catholic Schools of the Archdiocese of Sydney, are identifying areas at risk and the steps they will take to eradicate supplies contaminated by slavery.

The idea for a compendium emerged from the task force, which Archbishop of Sydney Anthony Fisher established in 2017. At that time – and before the introduction of federal legislation – Fisher hired the Archdiocese to work on the eradication of modern slavery from its operations and supply chains.

The Archbishop has spearheaded anti-slavery efforts since his appointment by Pope Francis in 2014. The Pope denounced slavery as “an open wound on modern society” and a “crime against it.” humanity”.

While addressing areas of potential cooperation with slavery by the Archdiocese, the working group also proposed a national network of Catholic agencies and institutions, which became ACAN.

PAC participants agree that the eradication of slavery in all its forms is an expression of fundamental Catholic social teaching.

One of the key achievements of the compendium, said McCarthy, has been the in-depth identification of areas of risk organizations need to consider.

“We no longer rely on anecdotal evidence,” he said. “We now know where our main risks are and what to do about them.”

The risk of involuntary cooperation with slavery is significant, McCarthy said, citing the construction industry and the supply of medical supplies as major economic sectors that subject workers to forced labor and exploitation.

As the PAC grew, participants appointed liaison officers and formed working groups comprising staff working in the areas of finance, human resources, property management, legal affairs, governance and communications to address the issue.

ACAN’s risk management plan generated vital information from each participant, including vendor identities, annual spend with vendors, and vendor locations.

As part of the pandemic, e-learning modules on modern slavery and risk management in operations were also provided to network partners.

ACAN, meanwhile, has developed a service that explains to its members, employees or people affected by modern slavery how to obtain support, advice and guidance to respond to adverse situations they may encounter.

The Australian effort is garnering international attention.

McCarthy addressed a July 14 webinar sponsored by the German Bishops’ Conference and the international anti-slavery group Santa Marta on the efforts of the task force, ACAN, and anti-slavery programs introduced by agencies and organizations of the Australian Church.

“As Catholics and organizations around the world hear about what we have been able to achieve in Australia, they are starting to see the possibilities of introducing anti-slavery measures into religious entities in their own countries,” said McCarthy.

“This makes all the work our members have done so far worthwhile. We show that the Catholic Church is committed with Pope Francis to eradicate modern slavery in our generation.”



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