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The Australian Institute of Criminology’s Trafficking in Persons Research Program was established in 2007. One of its key activities is a monitoring program to assess the nature and extent of trafficking in Australia. I am pleased to introduce this second monitoring report, which summarises the information on known cases of trafficking in Australia from January 2009 until June 2011.

Most people identified by federal authorities as having been trafficked into Australia are girls and women trafficked for the purpose of sexual exploitation. This is reflected in the types of clients who access the Australian Government’s Support for Trafficked People program between January 2004 and 30 June 2011. Of the 184 victims of trafficking who had received assistance, the vast majority (90%) were female. Another key finding was that most came from southeast Asia—over 40 percent from Thailand (n=78) and smaller numbers from Malaysia, South Korea, the Philippines and other Asian countries.

Trafficking is better understood in the broader social and economic context of the movement of people; it often begins with their desire to move to another location in search of an improved quality of life. The Australian Institute of Criminology has been investigating some of the factors that may increase the likelihood of people trafficking in the Asia–Pacific region, including international trends in the supply and demand for cheap labour, lack of employment and educational opportunities, gender attitudes, natural disasters, political instability, economic disparity between countries, international trends in the supply and demand for cheap labour and porous borders.

While people are generally familiar with the idea of women being trafficked for sexual purposes, the reality is that trafficking occurs in industries other than the sex industry. Men, women and children are known to be exploited in domestic service, hospitality, mining and construction—and for a wide range of purposes. The AIC is undertaking research to identify the extent of the exploitation and how various industries can be vulnerable to trafficking and exploitation.

Finally, few of the cases identified in Australia fit the stereotype of the forced movement and confinement of persons by traffickers. The actual situation is far more complex. Many of the persons trafficked into Australia have been recruited from countries with a poor socioeconomic environment and are attracted to Australia by perceived economic opportunities. It is often not until they arrive here that the situation becomes one of trafficking—that is, they are held in a situation of exploitation through debt bondage, intimidation, threats of violence, detention or withholding of travel documents, among other methods.

The AIC is currently undertaking research that continues to examine community attitudes and awareness of trafficking in Australia, the role of organised criminal networks in trafficking, and specific forms of labour trafficking. The AIC has also initiated a project to enhance the dataset that underpins the monitoring of human trafficking in Australia in order to go some way to improving what is known regarding this crime.

Adam Tomison

Last updated
3 November 2017