For many of us, slavery may be something we associate with times past, or perhaps as something that is occurring in other parts of the world. But we need to be better educated about this illegal practice as it is happening in our own backyard, says award-winning actor Rachel Griffiths.
The iconic Australian star appeared in Melbourne on Wednesday as part of an inquiry to look at whether UK laws to stop modern slavery could be put in place in Australia.
The laws would require businesses to report on how they have stamped out modern slavery from their global supply chains. “It’s the right time,” Griffiths told federal MPs, “Please seize this moment.”
During the hearing, the actor asked politicians to set aside their differences and enable Australia to become a world leader in cracking down on the 45 million people around the world who are still living in servitude. “Human being should never be treated as commodities,” she said.
Griffiths challenged the notion that slavery is only a practice of the past, pointing out that there are actually more people in slavery today than any other time in history, “It’s the second biggest illicit trade behind drugs on our planet,” said Griffiths. “It’s happening mostly in our region. It’s happening via international criminal networks, it permeates labour from sex work to fishing to construction to domestic services.”
Griffiths is the patron of child protection organisation Hagar Australia. She has spoken out in the past against issues such as child sex abuse and gambling. She said that change needed to come from all quarters if we were going to effectively address this problem. “ We as a nation need to fully understand who these players are, and how they operate and what mechanisms we have to thwart their operations,” she said. “I feel very positively that we can make, as Australians and individual consumers, a considerable impact.”