Australian Red Cross is welcoming Federal Budget measures to support survivors of human trafficking, forced labour and forced marriage.
The announcement of $24.3 million over four years will mean victim-survivors are able to access the Support for Trafficked People Program through a community service provider without direct engagement with law enforcement.
The Support Program provides complex case management support for people who have been subjected to trafficking and slavery and has provided individualised casework support to 624 people since 2004.
This includes assistance with finding suitable accommodation, medical treatment, counselling, referral to legal and migration advice, skills development training and vocational guidance, and social support.
Referral to the program is currently through the Australian Federal Police, which can be a barrier for those who are too afraid or unable to engage with law enforcement.
Australian Red Cross Director of Programs, Vicki Mau said the increased funding and introduction of an additional referral pathway would enable more people to access humanitarian support and assistance, allow victim-survivors to be supported for longer and reduce barriers for those seeking help through the additional referral pathway.
“Based on Red Cross’s experience working directly with people impacted by trafficking and slavery, we know that some victim-survivors are reluctant to engage with law enforcement about the issues they are facing, and are currently not able to access this crucial support,” Ms Mau said.
“The additional referral pathway will help overcome this, allowing us to reach these victim-survivors who may be at risk.
“We know that access to support empowers victim-survivors to rebuild their lives, and this will also allow us to better meet the needs of victim-survivors and address current and future demand.
“This is a policy change we have been advocating on for a number of years alongside others in the sector, and it will make a genuine difference to survivors.”
On behalf of Australian Red Cross, Ms Mau recognised the work of the Referral Pathway Working Group, chaired by Red Cross, in understanding the issue created by the existing referral pathway and in designing a potential solution with an additional avenue of support.
“We welcome this partnership between government and civil society to achieve these outcomes and recognise the important contribution of members and observers of the Working Group including Anti-Slavery Australia, Salvation Army, Australian Catholic Religious Against Trafficking in Humans, Scarlett Alliance, Project Respect, Australian Muslim Women’s Centre for Human Rights, Lighthouse Foundation, and the International Organization for Migration,” Ms Mau said.
The additional referral pathway will be trialled through a pilot to commence in 2024, continuing for up to 18 months.
The funding also includes enhancements for the Support Program which will provide additional and much needed support for survivors into the future.
Red Cross has also welcomed the announcement to implement an Australian Anti-Slavery Commissioner, with $8 million allocated over four years in the Budget.
Minister for Social Services, Hon. Amanda Rishworth MP today visited the Australian Red Cross office in Melbourne to meet with case workers and learn more about the program.
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