An official website of the United States Government Here's how you know

Official websites use .gov

A .gov website belongs to an official government organization in the United States.

Secure .gov websites use HTTPS

A lock ( ) or https:// means you’ve safely connected to the .gov website. Share sensitive information only on official, secure websites.

AUSTRALIA: Tier 1

The Government of Australia fully meets the minimum standards for the elimination of trafficking. The government continued to demonstrate serious and sustained efforts during the reporting period, considering the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on its anti-trafficking capacity; therefore Australia remained on Tier 1. These efforts included more than doubling funding for victim protection services; updating, adopting, and funding a new five-year national action plan; and creating a publicly available registry of annual modern slavery statements from more than 250 businesses on their efforts to reduce the risk of forced labor in their supply chains. Although the government meets the minimum standards, its trafficking convictions remain low in comparison to the number of trafficking cases identified and the overall broader scope of the crime. Additionally, while courts convicted one trafficker during the reporting year, the trafficker received three years’ probation; such lenient sentences weaken deterrence and may undercut broader efforts to fight trafficking. The government also did not adequately screen vulnerable groups traffickers may target, including domestic workers, international students, and migrant workers, which at times may have resulted in the government’s detention or deportation of unidentified victims.

PRIORITIZED RECOMMENDATIONS:

Significantly strengthen efforts to investigate and prosecute trafficking crimes pursuant to trafficking laws, with increased focus on pursuing labor trafficking crimes instead of labor or employment violations, and sentence convicted traffickers to significant prison terms. • Significantly strengthen efforts to proactively identify trafficking victims among vulnerable groups, such as undocumented migrants, agricultural and hospitality industry workers, and domestic workers; and to refer those victims to appropriate government authorities. • Further de-link the provision of services from participation in the criminal justice process and increase services available to victims unable or unwilling to participate in the criminal justice process. • Ensure the statutory definition of trafficking under the criminal code does not require movement of the victim as an element of the crime. • Increase efforts to train police, immigration officials, and other front-line officers, both offshore and onshore, to recognize indicators of trafficking and respond to suspected cases of both sex and labor trafficking. • Establish the National Labour Hire Registration Scheme with sufficient compliance tools. • Increase training for prosecutors and judges on Australian trafficking laws. • Conduct initial screening interviews with potential victims in a safe and neutral location and in the presence of a social service professional. • Consider establishing a national compensation scheme for trafficking victims. • Implement or fund awareness campaigns, particularly among rural communities and migrant populations (including international students) vulnerable to forced labor. • Strengthen efforts to prosecute and convict Australian child sex tourists. • Increase efforts to investigate and hold accountable foreign diplomats posted in Australia suspected of complicity in trafficking.

PROSECUTION

The government maintained law enforcement efforts. Divisions 270 and 271 of the Commonwealth Criminal Code, when read together, criminalized sex trafficking and labor trafficking. Inconsistent with international law, the definition of “trafficking” under Division 271 required the element of movement of a victim. However, Division 270, which criminalized “slavery,” “servitude,” and “forced labor” offenses, could be utilized to prosecute trafficking crimes that did not involve victim movement. Division 271 prescribed penalties of up to 12 years’ imprisonment for offenses involving an adult victim, and up to 25 years’ imprisonment for those involving a child victim. These penalties were sufficiently stringent and, with regard to sex trafficking, commensurate with those prescribed for other serious crimes, such as rape. Division 270 prescribed penalties of up to 25 years’ imprisonment for slavery, up to 15 years’ imprisonment for servitude, and up to nine years’ imprisonment for forced labor. These penalties were all sufficiently stringent.

In 2020, the government referred 212 suspected cases of trafficking for possible investigation, compared with 213 in 2019 and 179 in 2018, and initiated prosecutions against four defendants, compared with nine in 2019 and two in 2018. Authorities continued prosecutions from previous reporting periods against 20 defendants. The government convicted one trafficker for forced labor under section 270.6A(1) of the criminal code, compared with two convictions in 2019 and zero in 2018. The forced labor case involved one defendant convicted of forced labor of an employee; courts sentenced the trafficker to one year and six months’ imprisonment. However, the prison sentence was reduced to a three-year probation. The government also prosecuted 38 defendants for planning or engaging in sexual activity with children overseas; some of these cases were initiated in prior reporting periods. These efforts led to one conviction, compared with 30 prosecutions with 10 convictions reported in 2019 and 11 prosecutions with no convictions in 2018. Authorities continued to pursue labor or employment violations in lieu of trafficking charges, resulting in potential labor traffickers receiving only fines and other civil penalties that were inadequate to deter trafficking crimes. The government did not report any investigations, prosecutions, or convictions of government employees complicit in trafficking crimes. The government reported pandemic-related delays in some court cases that required a jury; the courts allowed for remote court appearances and focused on facilitating early resolution of cases to address these delays. The government funded and facilitated training on trafficking investigations, legal provisions, and victim support for approximately 120 Australian Federal Police (AFP), prosecutors, and other law enforcement officers, and approximately 450 immigration officials. In addition, the AFP conducted 25 victim identification training presentations for 496 law enforcement and other government officials.

PROTECTION

The government maintained efforts to protect victims. Authorities identified 65 potential victims, including 25 for sex trafficking and/or forced labor—compared with 54 sex trafficking and/or forced labor victims identified in 2019 and 41 in 2018; for the remainder of victims, the form of exploitation was unclear. Eleven of the potential victims were younger than 18 years old. Authorities referred all 65 potential victims to the Australian government’s NGO-implemented Support for Trafficked People Program (support program). The government also assisted 11 potential Australian trafficking victims abroad, compared with 17 in 2019 and 25 in 2018; however, it was not clear how many of these individuals were victims of trafficking as defined by international law compared to victims of forced marriage or individuals vulnerable to forced marriage. Authorities identified most victims through the efforts of joint agencies, health care facilities, task forces, and cooperative action with foreign governments. Authorities continued to utilize a list of indicators to identify trafficking victims and refer them to services, and during the reporting period, the AFP updated the list in consultation with NGOs and other government agencies. However, authorities often linked trafficking to migration and continued to inadequately screen for indicators of trafficking in the agricultural and hospitality industries and among offshore migrants. The government continued to not report screening for trafficking indicators among individuals smuggled via sea before forcing intercepted boats back outside of Australian territorial waters or among refugees and asylum-seekers held in offshore detention centers. Civil society has reported some victims may have been reluctant to communicate with law enforcement officers due to fear of detention and deportation. Government policy sought to prevent victims from being held in immigration detention or otherwise arrested for unlawful acts traffickers compelled them to commit; however, due to a lack of formal identification procedures, authorities may have deported or detained some unidentified victims.

Authorities provided formally identified trafficking victims with accommodation, living expenses, legal advice, health services, vocational training, and counseling through the support program. The government allocated 4.1 million Australian dollars ($3.17 million) from the federal budget to the support program in the 2020-2021 funding year, which includes 2.7 million Australian dollars ($2.09 million) for pandemic-related needs, an increase compared with 3.13 million Australian dollars ($3.31 million) during the 2019-2020 funding year. Only the AFP had the legal authority to refer victims to the support program; experts reported this requirement prevented some victims from accessing needed support services. The support program had five “streams” that were tailored to the needs of the particular victim. The assessment and intensive support stream within the support program assisted victims for up to 45 days irrespective of whether they were willing or able to assist with the investigation or prosecution of a human trafficking or slavery-related crime. The extended intensive support stream allowed for an additional 45 days of access to the program on a case-by-case basis for victims willing to assist with investigation or prosecution but not yet able to do so due to age, ill health, trauma, or a practical impediment. Children were automatically entitled to the extended support program if it was in their best interest. The temporary trial support stream assisted victims giving evidence pertaining to a human trafficking related prosecution. The justice support stream aided victims until the finalization of their case investigation and/or prosecution. The forced marriage support stream provided those in or at risk of forced marriage—who may or may not have been trafficking victims—with up to 200 days of support without being required to participate in a criminal investigation or prosecution against perpetrators. NGOs continued to report some support services for victims were contingent on participation in law enforcement investigations and the government would cease provision of services when investigations ended. The government did not report how it provided services to adults unable or unwilling to participate in law enforcement investigations. The government created an interagency working group to focus on operational issues and information-sharing in relation to the support program; the interagency group met several times throughout the reporting period and reported meeting about pandemic-related impacts on trafficking victims.

The government provided temporary and permanent “referred stay” visas to eligible victims. In 2020, the government provided 28 temporary stay visas to foreign trafficking victims, compared with an unspecified number of victims in 2019 and 12 in 2018. Fewer than five individuals were granted permanent “referred stay” visas, the same as in 2019 and 2018; this included victims and their immediate family members, although some of these cases may have been victims of forced marriage rather than trafficking. In the previous reporting period, the government increased funding and staffing levels within the Commonwealth Director of Public Prosecutions’ Witness Assistance Service, which provided support to victims of human trafficking during the court process; the government did not report any changes to these levels during the reporting period. The government did not report whether prosecutors requested restitution or if courts provided restitution for victims. The government did not have a centralized victim compensation system, and victims relied on civil proceedings to access compensation.

PREVENTION

The government increased efforts to prevent trafficking. The Australian Interdepartmental Committee on Human Trafficking and Slavery continued to coordinate the government’s anti-trafficking efforts, while the Modern Slavery and Human Trafficking Branch within the Australian Border Force led the government’s domestic response to trafficking. In December 2020, the government finalized and launched its updated five-year national action plan (NAP) to combat trafficking. During the drafting of the NAP, the government invited public consultation on its development and held workshops with community stakeholders. The NAP focused on five national strategic priorities and continued to fund research projects and civil society organizations; facilitate awareness sessions for the public, government agencies, and civil society groups; and train law enforcement and government officials. The government allocated 10.5 million Australian dollars ($8.11 million) to the implementation of the NAP. In addition to funding multiple research projects conducted by an academic institution, the government funded the institution to review the implementation of the previous NAP; this report was publicly available. In 2020, the government announced availability of almost 393,380 Australian dollars ($304,000) for four NGOs to implement community prevention programs in Australia, compared with 400,000 Australian dollars ($309,120) for the 2019-2020 period. NGOs implementing these programs focused on forced labor, migrant worker rights, and increasing trafficking awareness and community collaboration of anti-trafficking activities. The government, through the AFP, continued to operate a national hotline to report victims of trafficking.

The government established an interagency advisory group, which met four times in 2020, to provide strategic advice on the implementation of the Modern Slavery Act, which required businesses and entities with annual revenue of 98 million Australian dollars ($75.73 million) or greater to publish an annual modern slavery statement detailing their efforts to combat modern slavery in their supply chains and operations, among other provisions. In 2020, the government published its first Modern Slavery statement, in compliance with the act, and created a publicly available online registry of all submitted statements. The government posted more than 250 statements from businesses, covering nearly 500 entities operating in over 21 different industries on the registry during the reporting period, which was the first submission period under the act. The government disseminated three additional guidance documents, including on how the pandemic may increase supply chain risks to forced labor, to assist businesses with the implementation of the act’s requirements during the reporting period. In addition, the government participated in more than 50 educational engagements with businesses to support the understanding and completion of the act’s requirements. The Fair Work Ombudsman continued to prioritize prevention of potential labor exploitation—including human trafficking—amongst migrant workers, focusing on awareness in domestic workers and among international students.

In the previous reporting period, the government established a Migrant Workers’ Interagency Group to implement recommendations from the February 2019 Migrant Workers Taskforce Report. One recommendation from the report was to create a national Labour Hire Registration Scheme to require recruitment agencies in designated high-risk industries to register with the government and employers to use only these registered agencies. While this recommendation had still not been implemented nationally at the close of the reporting period, similar registration schemes had been implemented in Queensland and South Australia in 2018, Victoria in 2019, and the Australian Capital Territory in 2021. An NGO reported concern that the government did not effectively monitor and enforce labor laws in rural parts of Australia, heightening risks of forced labor. Domestic workers within Australia—especially in the state of Western Australia, those lacking a contract, or residing within diplomatic households—remained extremely vulnerable to exploitation due to the lack of clear protective oversight mechanisms relevant to these populations. However, in the previous reporting period, an NGO reported that Western Australia authorities began reviewing its industrial relations framework to consider including domestic work in the definition of “employee” to bring such work under state regulation; the government did not report an update to this definition change.

The government continued to make efforts to reduce the demand for participation in international sex tourism of its citizens. It did so by continuing to publish materials for passport applicants outlining the application of Australian child sex trafficking laws to Australians overseas. The government cancelled 64 passports and denied five to registered child sex offenders during the reporting period, which was the second year these authorities were implemented. In addition, authorities provided 100 notifications to foreign law enforcement regarding traveling Australian child sex offenders. The government reported pandemic restrictions reduced the overall number of individuals leaving the country and, therefore, reduced the number of notifications and cancelled or denied passports for this reporting period. The government did not make efforts to reduce the demand for commercial sex acts within Australia. The Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade provided pre-departure training to diplomatic personnel in compliance with Australia’s anti-trafficking legislation, and Home Affairs distributed a training package to its overseas staff and visa service providers. The government continued to work with international governments by engaging in anti-trafficking dialogue, conducting trainings, and sharing technical assistance.

TRAFFICKING PROFILE

As reported over the last five years, human traffickers exploit domestic and foreign victims in every state and territory in Australia. Traffickers primarily exploit women and men in forced labor, and to a lesser extent, women and girls in sex trafficking. Traffickers exploit a small number of children, primarily teenage Australian and foreign girls, in sex trafficking within the country. Some women from Asia and, to a lesser extent, Eastern Europe and Africa, migrate to Australia to work legally or illegally in a number of sectors, including commercial sex. After their arrival, traffickers compel some of these women to enter or remain in commercial sex in both legal and illegal brothels, as well as massage parlors and private apartments. Traffickers hold some foreign women—and sometimes girls—in captivity, subject them to physical and sexual violence and intimidation, manipulate them through illegal drugs, and force them to pay off unexpected or inflated debts. Traffickers attempt to evade authorities by allowing victims to carry their passports while in brothels and frequently move the victims to different locations to prevent them from establishing relationships with civil society or other victims. Some victims of sex trafficking and some women who migrate to Australia for arranged or forced marriages are exploited by their husbands or families in domestic servitude. Unscrupulous employers and labor agencies subject some men and women from Asia and several Pacific Islands who are recruited to work temporarily in Australia to forced labor in agriculture, cleaning, construction, hospitality and tourism, and domestic service. An investigation by the Fair Work Ombudsman found that some fraudulent foreign contracting companies exploit farm workers in bonded labor. There are reported cases of forced labor and other forms of exploitation in the agriculture and horticulture sectors, where victims (often foreign migrants and often from Asia) are threatened against leaving their jobs or seeking help. Traffickers may exploit temporary migrants and international students in forced labor, especially when based in remote regions with limited access to support. Some identified victims are foreign citizens on student visas who pay significant placement and academic fees. Unscrupulous employers coerce students to work in excess of the terms of their visas, making them vulnerable to trafficking by exploiting fears of deportation for immigration violations. Some foreign diplomats allegedly subject domestic workers to forced labor in Australia. Recent changes to entitlements for diplomats in Australia may reduce slightly the overall number of foreign domestic workers in the country; however, instances of forced labor in domestic service are frequently undetected or unacknowledged by authorities and thus not captured in official statistics. Some fishing vessels that transit or dock at Australian ports use physical abuse to force men to perform labor. Victims of domestic servitude in Australia work in extremely isolated circumstances with little to no oversight or regulation.

U.S. Department of State

The Lessons of 1989: Freedom and Our Future