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Options for monitoring human trafficking and slavery

There is in-principle commitment from stakeholders to the implementation of an ongoing monitoring program on human trafficking and slavery, with the AIC as the identified administrator and data custodian to the program if it proceeds. However, this commitment must also be accompanied by recognition that a formal monitoring program will need to be fully developed over time, given the current state of data collected for human trafficking and slavery matters, and as existing datasets are developed and refined to provide better coverage of the core data required for such a monitoring program to be effective.This final section outlines the articulated benefits of implementing a monitoring program on human trafficking and slavery, and the options available to fulfil that objective or more modest monitoring efforts.

Benefit of a monitoring program

An important consideration in examining options for monitoring human trafficking and slavery is the benefit of developing a formal, ongoing monitoring program. While the prevalence of human trafficking and slavery as it affects Australia is unknown, it is not an overly common form of criminal activity and whether an enhanced monitoring effort should be developed needs to be examined in the context of practicality and ultimate need and usefulness. Some of the practicalities involved in the establishment of such a monitoring program have been addressed in part in the previous discussion.

Agencies were specifically asked about the broader benefits of a monitoring program on human trafficking and slavery, as well as those specific to their agency. All agencies expressed support for an ongoing monitoring program and a willingness to contribute data. The overall benefit of the monitoring program (and the conceptual framework on which it rests) was the consolidation of existing information to produce a central, more comprehensive panorama of human trafficking and slavery as it occurs and is responded to in Australia. However, the main benefits identified by individual agencies centred on broadening agency knowledge (eg on common methods of trafficking), informing program policies and procedures (such as assessment processes and identifying appropriate services and support for victims) and in particular, the anticipated positive outcome of creating a formalised process for data collation.. Specifically, it was presumed that the implementation of a monitoring program would encourage wider, more official data sharing arrangements; this in turn would influence agency commitment to improving the accuracy and reliability of data and the usefulness of the data for intelligence, reporting and case management purposes. The monitoring program also offered the opportunity for the analysis of data that is generally not used outside mandatory reporting requirements.

Options for monitoring human trafficking and slavery

There are four fundamental factors that should be considered before there is any authorised commencement towards the development of a new monitoring program. Two of these factors have already been raised—the long-term benefit attributed to monitoring and the commitment of data providers to routinely collate data in a format that is useable for the monitoring effort. As noted before, stakeholders were united in their views on the benefit of a monitoring program and for the most part confident that commitment to the program would be sustained. ‘Good will’, as noted by one consulted agency, is often easy to achieve at the early stages of such an endeavour but longer term commitment may not always be forthcoming if stakeholders (particularly data providers) are not made aware of the investment required to move forward.

A third factor, which is related to benefit, is the ultimate purpose of the monitoring program. That purpose is predicated to some extent on the interests of immediate stakeholders but should also attend to those interests from a broader group of consumers, including the data custodian, the states and territories, and the community. In that sense, the monitoring of human trafficking and slavery has to become more than an instrument for operational and reporting functions and avoid being consigned to a performance measurement tool. The function of the proposed monitoring program, like that of other AIC monitoring programs such as the NHMP, NDICP and DUMA, is to provide as complete as possible a statistical depiction of the phenomenon under examination that is understandable, useful and informative to the wider audience and its needs.

The final factor concerns the availability of resources (for data providers and custodian alike) and the ultimate effort required to develop and administer a formal monitoring program in place of less resource-intensive efforts. These resources include those required to ensure the data collection is properly formulated, administered, tested and maintained over a sustained period. The variable nature and status of human trafficking and slavery data, compared with that collated for other AIC monitoring programs, suggests that data development and the first years of data collection will be less straightforward, with greater involvement needed to further refine the data and how it is provided. With these factors in mind, the following proposes three options for monitoring human trafficking and slavery in Australia.

Option 1: Maintain the status quo

The first option is to continue reporting on human trafficking and slavery as undertaken in the annual reports to the IDC. At present, outside of the human trafficking and slavery monitoring reports previously published by the AIC (see below), the IDC reports remain the only published compendium on human trafficking and slavery matters in Australia, and its content has grown as more agencies are invited to contribute to the annual findings.

The benefit of maintaining the status quo is that it reinforces a data collection process that is already in place and to which data providers are obliged as well as willing to contribute to. It therefore requires no further resources from participating agencies. The reports are also publicly available (on the Attorney-General’s Department website), thus providing information to the wider audience. However, the proposal for a monitoring program, supported by those who contribute to the IDC report, suggests that while the IDC reports are an important resource, the preferred goal is to expand on what is currently published. In other words, staying with the status quo restricts the compilation of human trafficking and slavery data to that customary for an administrative report.

Option 2: Renew the original AIC monitoring report series

The second option proposes renewing the AIC’s human trafficking and slavery monitoring report series in the format previously used. These reports, like the IDC reports, provide clear statistics drawn from administrative data. In the previous reports, these data mostly focused on victim characteristics and criminal justice responses (as these were the only data available at the time) but were supplemented with summaries of recent developments in preventing and counteracting human trafficking and slavery, and findings from the AIC research program.

The data stocktake for this study indicated that some additional data to that presented in earlier reports could be sourced for the report series, without the need to investigate a data collection process essential for a formal monitoring program. Like the IDC report process, data gathering is also generally straightforward. An added benefit is that the AIC is often the first port of call for information on crime and criminal justice matters and hence the monitoring reports are better placed to be that comprehensible source of information for the wider audience. Nonetheless, changes to the content of the IDC report in recent years risks replication of effort between the two reporting series if they are both based only on what data is at hand and able to be easily obtained. There is also the risk that data providers may not see the relevance of providing the same data (albeit captured in different annual presentations) for products that might be perceived as ostensibly identical (ie there is no value add to the exercise). If this option is pursued, the preference is to gradually introduce a process where new data is sourced that more fully develops the representation of human trafficking and slavery over time.

Option 3: Develop and pilot a small-scale data collection

The third option is an extension on the renewal and refreshment of the monitoring report series by augmenting the process of sourcing new data. To this end, it proposes the development and piloting of a small-scale data collection process incorporating the 34 indicators identified as potentially ready for inclusion in a monitoring program. These 34 indicators are those which are routinely collected in administrative datasets (and hence theoretically able to be provided with minimal effort) and replicated in at least one of the international data collections. In the first instance, those data that can be reliably transmitted by identified providers will form the dataset, with the option to scope outwards in future years where and if data can be sourced and provided in a reliable format.

Some of the data that would be incorporated into the dataset are, however, already compiled in the IDC reports (see Table 17). Of the 34 indicators proposed for inclusion in the first iteration of the monitoring program, 16 (47%) are also available (as statistics or in descriptive format) in the 2013–14 IDC report. Some of these data, however, rely on single sources of information (ie potentially reporting underestimated or unrepresentative findings) or are less detailed in presentation. The value of the monitoring program in collating and describing these indicators is that the data will have undergone further steps in refinement and combination to produce a more context-laden description of human trafficking and slavery matters.

Table 17 Duplication of indicator data in IDC annual report
Proposed indicators Reported in IDC annual report
Action and means
Visa status/application on entry into Australia Yes

Suspected victims on a valid visa

Type of visa (descriptive)

Type of exploitation Yes

Matters referred to AFP—sexual or labour exploitation (% in reference period)

Clients on STPP—sexual or labour exploitation (number and % in reference period, by gender)

Finalised and ongoing prosecutions (descriptive)

Sector/industry of exploitation Yes Finalised and ongoing prosecutions (descriptive per individual matter)
Location(s) of exploitation No
Means of control No
Gender Yes New clients to STPP (number in reference period)
Age No
Country of birth No
Country of residence No Finalised and ongoing prosecutions (where described per individual matter)
Citizenship Yes New clients to STPP (citizenship—number in reference period)
Marital status No
Children No
Employment status Yes Finalised and ongoing prosecutions (where described per individual matter)
Visa status Yes

Suspected victims on a valid visa

Type of visa (descriptive)

Revictimisation status No
Gender Yes Finalised and ongoing prosecutions (where described)
Age No
Country of birth No
Citizenship No
Previous convictions No
Legal status at time of detection No
Criminal justice response
Number of referrals Yes Reports (and victims) referred by DIBP to AFP (number in reference period)
Number of assessments Yes Total assessments and investigations for two time periods—January 2004 to most recent date and last financial year (number)
Number of investigations Yes
Charges at arrest No
Charges proceeded against No
Offence outcome Yes Matters finalised (where described)
Sentence imposed Yes Finalised prosecutions (where described)
Conviction appealed Yes Matters at appeal (number in reference period)
Offence outcome on appeal
Victim support
Number of victims referred to STPP Yes New clients (number in reference period)

Total clients (number in reference period)

Support/assistance provided
Visa support
Number of victims/proportion of applicants granted visas Yes Visas granted by visa type (number in reference period)
Impacts and outcomes
Victim residency/repatriation outcomes
Permanent residency/repatriation status No

In proposing option 3, the realities of the investment required to produce a monitoring program need to be acknowledged by interested parties, particularly those involved in the provision and administration of the monitoring data. Three critical steps are proposed to ensure that data collation and transmission is streamlined if the monitoring program eventuates. These refer to data development standards such as those prescribed by the ABS and AIHW (see, for example, AIHW 2007) and include:

  • adherence to existing standards where available or, in the absence of these, indicators used in international human trafficking data collections as a measure of standardisation;
  • creation of data specifications to define each indicator and associated value domains and collection rules, and the compilation of these in a data dictionary or similar; and
  • field testing the data collection.

The objectives of field testing are to assess the interpretability of data items, the ease and simplicity of data extraction and transmission, and the quality of the data provided. Test findings will also allow further reexamination of the utility of proposed data items, the identification of potential issues with analysis and any further refinement of data items.


Usefulness and ultimate need are arguably the main authorities on which monitoring activities rest. However, an assessment of the genuine contribution of a monitoring program on human trafficking and slavery for Australia also needs to confirm—before any development work commences—that the costs and effort in undertaking the process are balanced by an end result that significantly and genuinely enhances the monitoring of human trafficking and slavery in Australia. An end product that is a replication or provides minor improvement on information already available would not justify the increased resources required to undertake the monitoring process.

That said, each of the options proposed in this report have their benefits. Simplicity and practicality, as characterised by the IDC and original AIC monitoring reports, are dependable features, particularly where the compilation of consistent and comparable data is less reliable. Enhancement to develop the picture further is equally attractive, if it can be confidently achieved with long-term support in place.

This paper has highlighted the utility and challenges of an Australian monitoring program on human trafficking and slavery, and the technical requirements for establishing a standardised data collection process. The challenges are substantial, but not insurmountable; however, approaches to address these challenges are restricted by data and resource availability. Such constraints are not unique to Australia and are reflected in the approaches international monitoring programs and datasets have taken to collect and present data. As a result, most of the ongoing international programs are modest in scope.

First-stage consultations indicated momentum for the establishment of a monitoring program on human trafficking and slavery. Further consultations with relevant agencies will be required to discuss and confirm preference for the options proposed. This momentum must be accompanied by a refreshed awareness of the challenges attached to such an undertaking and a pragmatic approach to the development process. To proceed to a fully fledged monitoring program, the next phase in development will involve three primary steps—formal follow-up with identified data providers to confirm data quality and data provision logistics, development of data collection tools and data specifications, and pilot testing the collection tools and data transmission processes. The outcome of the pilot test will be presented in a companion report to this publication.

Last updated
3 November 2017