ACRATH (Australian Catholic Religious Against Trafficking in Humans) recently launched its annual fundraising campaign, aiming to highlight the harsh reality of modern slavery in Australia. This campaign challenges individuals to look beyond the statistics to recognise the victims and survivors— the focus of ACRATH’s mission—as real people. Current estimates indicate that 41,000 men and women are living in modern slavery in Australia, often in plain sight, with a global total of 50 million people.

‘It is easier to look away from this growing crime when you don’t fully understand what it looks like,’ said Christine Carolan, ACRATH Executive Officer. ‘We urge you to hear their stories, understand the reality, share their experiences and donate to support our crucial work. Individuals like Rani and Fatima are more than just statistics.’

Rani’s story: freedom through knowledge

According to the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare, forced marriage has been the most reported form of modern slavery to the Australian Federal Police every year since 2015.

Rani,* a 17-year-old high-school student in Melbourne, was told by her parents that they were taking her overseas to marry a man she had never met. Initially, she felt she had no choice but to comply and thought her fate was sealed.

But when an ACRATH member visited her school and gave a presentation, Rani learnt that forced marriage is illegal in Australia and that she had the right to choose her own husband. Empowered by this timely information, she realised she had an option she never knew existed.

Since 2005, ACRATH’s dedicated members have reached thousands of students across Australia, delivering life-changing presentations on the realities and illegalities of forced marriage, among other critical issues related to modern slavery. Armed with knowledge, many young individuals have been able to take action, protect their rights, and shape their own destinies.

Fatima’s story: from forced labour to freedom

Fatima* found herself trapped in a nightmare. Employed as a housekeeper at a consulate in Sydney, Fatima was subjected to forced labour for months without receiving any wages. Isolated within the consulate’s walls, she endured the harsh reality of modern slavery.

Through social media, Fatima sought help and connected with a police officer, who assisted her. After her escape, a community refugee organisation recognised her situation and approached ACRATH to provide further support.

ACRATH offered essential assistance to Fatima and connected her with a law firm that provided pro-bono legal representation. Fatima also joined the ACRATH Companionship Program, where she received ongoing support from a trained and dedicated ‘companion’. Through this program, she found her strength and the encouragement she needed to rebuild her life.

Fatima went on to enrol at TAFE, and while her journey of recovery and empowerment has been long, she has steadily reclaimed her independence and her future. Fatima’s story of hope is a reminder of the impact that coordinated community efforts can have.

The issue of forced labour remains a significant concern within the Australian Federal Police. Each report represents a real person with a story not unlike Fatima’s—people who need help.

Please donate to ACRATH today. You support will contribute to the elimination of modern slavery and human trafficking in Australia and help provide critical resources and opportunities to survivors, empowering them to rebuild their lives.

Find out more about ACRATH’s work in assisting victim/survivors here.

*All names have been changed to protect the victims/survivors of these crimes.

Banner image: sillouette of a woman mopping the floor of a hallway. (Photo: Shutterstock.)