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Woman enslaved in relationship

Maria,   Philippines, 24

Name: Maria*
Age: 24
Country of Origin: Philippines
Visa type: Prospective marriage visa

Why did Maria come to Australia?

In the Philippines, Maria worked in a factory earning $10 a week. She had split up with her husband and had to support her young son and her mother. A family friend said she could help Maria get work in Australia. This friend had relatives in Australia and said that they would give her a job in their shop and enrol her in English classes in her spare time. In return, Maria was to marry an Australian man and she would have to give him some money for the visa and airfares.

What happened when Maria got to Australia?

When Maria arrived, her Australian fianc took her passport. Maria had to work in the family shop seven days a week and wasn't enrolled in English classes as promised. Maria was only given $20 every fortnight or so but was never paid a wage. Maria spent all her time at the shop or at her fiance's house cooking, cleaning and gardening.

Maria wasn't allowed to leave the house and felt like she had to do whatever they told her to do. If she didn't, Maria's finace threatened to hit her or made threats about hurting her family in the Philippines. Maria had no money, and was told that if she contacted her family or tried to go back to the Philippines, they would find her and hurt her. She didn't want her mother to worry. Maria didn't speak much English and she didn't know anyone else in Australia. She was trapped.

How does the Australian law see this?

It is an offence to traffic someone to Australia by coercion, threat or deception, for the purposes of exploitation.
Due to the high degree of control exercised over Maria, as well as the threats of violence and lack of payment for her work, this may be a case of slavery or servitude.

Trafficking, slavery and slavery-like conditions such a servitude are offences under the Criminal Code Act 1995 (Cth). Additionally, the Fair Work Act 2009 (Cth) provides that all employees get minimum rates of pay and conditions.

For more information about how Australian law would respond to this situation, see: Factsheet 1: What is Slavery? and Factsheet 2: Australia's slavery and trafficking laws

"I was hoping to start a new life in Australia, earn money to send back to my family and grow to love my fiance. But everything promised to me about my life in Australia was a lie. I had no opportunities and no friends and no family to help me."

*Note: this is just an example and not an actual case.


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