Policy update: What is the Modern Slavery Act?

The Commonwealth Modern Slavery Act 2018 establishes Australia’s national modern slavery reporting requirement.

Under the Act, certain large entities will be required to report publicly on their actions to assess and address modern slavery risks in their operation and supply chain.

Modern slavery describes situations where victims are being deprived of their freedom through threats, coercion or deception.  

There is an important distinction to be made here as well when we talk about slavery, we are not talking about practices like substandard working conditions or underpayment of workers, however these practices can escalate into modern slavery if they are not addressed.   

If you actually read the Guide, it goes into detail about what exactly constitutes slavery and even divides it up into several useful categories.

Who does the Act apply to?

Companies and other entities (such as trusts, partnerships and associations) with annual consolidated revenue of over $100 million will be caught by the Act.

The guide sets out how you can work out if you must comply. The scope of the Act is broad — even charities may be caught by it.

A lot of Australians seem to think slavery is something that only happens overseas. Should Australians be more concerned about this issue?

It’s certainly more prevalent in developing countries, but that doesn’t mean we are immune.

It’s estimated that some 15,000 people in Australia are living in Modern Slavery.

Australian businesses and organisations are also exposed to the risk of being complicit in these practices, particularly throughout their supply chains. Of the more than 40 million victims of Modern Slavery world-wide, over half are exploited in the Asia-Pacific region, in which the supply chains of a significant number of large businesses operating in Australia are based.

The growing recognition around this risk is seen as a major driving force behind the passage of the Modern Slavery Act 2018.

Tell us a little bit about this new guide  

Governance Institute has engaged with the Australian Government’s Modern Slavery Business Engagement Unit from the beginning to help raise awareness of the Act and the new reporting requirements with affected stakeholders.

We provided feedback on the development of the guide and commend the Government for the work it has done with affected stakeholders. 

The Guide provides useful, plain language advice on whether entities have compliance obligations under the Act, and what these obligations are.

Why should I be interested in the guidance?

The Act requires certain large entities to publish annual modern slavery statements. Each chapter of the guide will assist the reader in understanding a specific part of the reporting requirements.

There is a useful list of resources at the end of the Guide, which can help you learn more about modern slavery and how to respond. I’d certainly recommend that anyone with responsibility for ensuring organisational compliance with modern slavery obligations read and follow the instructions in the guidance.

Where can I find the Guide?

It’s available through the Department of Home Affairs website.

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