Field report: Freedom United petition helps secure Australia’s Modern Slavery Act as strongest in the world


Freedom United launched a campaign in partnership with Stop The Traffik under the Be Slave Free coalition of 38 organizations united in calling on Australia to ensure its creation of a modern slavery law would be robust.

We know all too well that many workers in Asia endure forced labor to bring us the garments, foods, electronics and other goods we enjoy. In the Asia Pacific region, where nearly half of all Australia’s goods come from, and where an estimated 30 million people are living in slavery, a national anti-slavery law in Australia that would require large companies to submit a modern slavery statement to report on the meaningful steps they are taking to combat modern slavery in their supply chains.


We launched our campaign in October 2017 following the Australian government’s consultation process in August 2017 calling for recommendations from civil society and businesses to inform their new modern slavery law.

  • In November 2017 our partners at Stop The Traffik references the Petition in meetings with politicians and their advisors powering the voice for a robust Modern Slavery Act.
  • In December 2017 our partners submitted over 27,000 Freedom United signatures to the Australian government which was mentioned in the Committee report.
  • Our recommendations were also included in the report which recommended the creation of an Independent Anti-Slavery Commissioner, ensuring the Australian government to only procure from businesses that complete a modern slavery statement, and increased support for victims.
  • In May 2018 the Freedom United community reached out to their Senators and Representatives in Australia to make sure the Independent Anti-Slavery Commissioner and penalties for non-compliance would be included in the Modern Slavery Act.

Following sustained action from our global community including writing to their Senators and Representatives in Australia, Stop The Traffik handed in over 57,000 Freedom United names to Senators in November 2018.


In November 2018 the Modern Slavery Act passed and despite the final text not including financial penalties for companies that don’t comply or providing for an Independent Commissioner, Australia’s Modern Slavery Act is still the strongest in the world. The Act requires businesses with a turnover of US$73million or more to publish annual statements detailing the risk of slavery in their supply chains and actions they are taking to address the problem. It goes beyond the UK’s Modern Slavery Act of 2015 by requiring statements to address seven mandatory criteria, including risks in the business’ operations and supply chains and the actions taken to address those risks. Furthermore, the Australian government will operate a central registry of statements and has the power to publicly name those companies that fail to comply.