The types of exploitation that may constitute modern slavery can look very different. This section contains survivor stories that portray some common characteristics of different types of modern slavery as well as some notable Australian legal cases.

Tana (Debt bondage)

Tana lives in a regional part of Vietnam. Her family is often unable to afford food and clothing and desperately needs money in order to get medical treatment for one of Tana’s brothers who is very ill. A ‘businessman’ who goes by the name of Hop, lives in an adjacent town to that of Tana and her family. Hop says he will take Tana to Australia for $40,000. He offers Tana an arrangement wherein he says that he will arrange for Tana to travel to Australia. In exchange Tana will need to work for a friend of Hop’s in Australia and pay back the $40,000 debt. Hop tells Tana that she will work 5 days a week and at the end of the week half of the pay would go towards the debt and the remaining half will be given to Tana to do as she pleases with. Tana agrees to this arrangement after significant pressure from her family and a worsening of her brothers illness. She believes that the arrangement offered by Hop sounds reasonable and fair. Hop gives Tana a false passport,a forged visa and a one-way ticket to Sydney.

When Tana arrives in Sydney she is taken to a restaurant and told that she must work six days a week until the $40,000 debt was paid off. Until the $40,000 is paid off she will not receive any wages for her work. While paying off the debt she is required to live in her employers house. Every weeknight Tana is required to do housework for her employer as well as for the entire day that she has off from working at the restaurant.

What forms of exploitation has Tana experienced?

Tana is a victim of modern slavery. She has been trafficked into Australia by Hop. She has been the victim of debt bondage and labour exploitation including domestic servitude.

Will (Forced labour)

Will is an international student living in Sydney who has recently started University in Australia. He is in Australia on a student visa and sends money to his family each week. After a few months living, working and studying in Sydney, Will realises that his student visa does not allow him to make enough to support himself and send money home each week.

Will is introduced to Liam who owns a farm two hours outside of the city. Liam offers Will work on the farm and Will accepts. Will arranges to work on the farm each day over the upcoming university break. Over this period Will stays on the farm in a small room to save on travel and rent. Will has nowhere else to stay when working on the farm and is very isolated. The nearest town is a 30 minute drive. Will does not know how to drive nor does he have access to any form of transportation.

Will works from 6am to 7pm each day. His work on the farm often involves dangerous tasks and hazardous conditions. He was never given any training for this type of work nor does his employer provide him with adaqueate safety gear and equipment. His work often includes maintaining the different buildings and shelters on the farm. When working he does not have a helmet to wear, despite often encountering falling debris from the old structures. He also has to work barefoot since the sneakers he brought with him fell apart during his first week on the farm and he is unable to travel to the nearest town to make purchases.

Will works for Liam on the farm for three months where he is paid $8 an hour. Over this period Will greatly exceeds the number of hours he is allowed to work on his student visa. Liam threatens to report Will to immigration for breaching the conditions of his student visa. Liam tells Will that if immigration finds out that Will has been working illegally, he will prosecuted of criminal offences and deported. Trent tells Vin that he must continue to work and live on the farm. Vin is told he cannot return to university nor can he complete his studies online and Trent demands to hold onto Vin’s passport. Vin feels trapped and does not have any other options. He needs to keep working so that he has money to send home to his mother and siblings, and cannot risk being sent back to Sri Lanka.

What forms of exploitation has Will experienced?

Will is a victim of modern slavery. Will has experienced labour exploitation and forced labour. Liam has paid Will less than the minimum wage and has failed to provide Will with adaqueate safety equipment as required by law. Liam may also be guilty of possessing a slave, which is a serious criminal offence in Australia.

Mel (Human trafficking)

Mel was a sex worker in Korea who wanted better working opportunities and conditions. She was put in touch with Ms Tai, who told her that she would be able to work in the heart of Sydney, where she could choose her hours, see the city, and learn English. Ms Tai told Mel that she would only need to pay $5000 for organising the visa and flights.

When she arrived in Australia, Mel was taken to the place of work by a man named Ro. Ro took Mel’s passport and told her that she actually owed $40,000 to the manager Ms Kim for the flights, visas, rent, and the opportunity to work in Australia. She was told she would have to sleep at the place she worked, and that they would deduct half of her wages towards paying off the debt. Ro told her if she tried to escape or get help he would find her and kill her, or Ms Tai would hurt her family in Korea. Mel had to start working from the day she arrived, and worked up to 20 hours a day, 6 days a week.

What forms of exploitation has Mel experienced?

Mel is a victim of modern slavery. Mel has been trafficked by Ms Tai. She has been the victim of deceptive recruitment for labour and debt bondage.

Notable Cases on Modern Slavery in Australia

Farok Shaik (2020

Forced labour

Essey and Elia (2013)

forced marriage

Divye Kumar Trivedi (2012)

trafficking in persons

Madley & Madley (2011)

forced marriage

Wei Tang (2009)

slavery offences including debt bondage