Australian Catholic Anti-Slavery Network unites groups to fight modern slavery

Catholic Anti-Slavery Network

The Australian Catholic Anti-Slavery Network (ACAN) has released a landmark report showcasing how its member organisations are responding to the challenge posed by modern slavery.

ACAN’s Compendium of Modern Slavery Statements highlights the work of over 40 Catholic entities including dioceses, health, education and welfare bodies.

Signatory organisations, such as the Sydney Archdiocese’s Catholic schools, identify areas of risk and the measures they will take to eradicate supplies tainted by slavery.

The International Labor Organization estimates that more than 40 million people globally live in modern-day slavery. Children are thought to make up about a quarter of those being victimised.

Australia is far from immune, with the United Nations estimating there are approximately 15,000 victims in Australia.

The ACAN document commits Australia’s largest Catholic entities to eradicate links to slavery in their operations. This is significant as the Catholic Church is Australia’s second-largest employer, ranking only behind the government.

The compendium is a work in progress, said attorney John McCarthy, chair of the Archdiocese of Sydney’s Anti-Slavery Taskforce and a driving force in its compilation.

While addressing areas of potential cooperation with slavery by the archdiocese, the task force also proposed a national network of Catholic agencies and institutions, which became ACAN.

ACAN participants concur that eradicating slavery in all its forms is an expression of fundamental Catholic social teaching.

A key achievement of the compendium, McCarthy said, has been the extensive identification of areas of risk for organisations to consider.

“We don’t rely on anecdotal evidence anymore,” he said. “We now know where our major risks are and what to do about them.”

The Australian effort is gaining international attention.

“As Catholic people and organisations around the world are hearing about what we’ve managed to achieve in Australia, they’re starting to see the possibilities for the introduction of anti-slavery measures in Church entities in their own countries,” McCarthy said.

“That makes all the work our members have put in so far worthwhile. We’re showing that the Catholic Church is committed with Pope Francis to eradicating modern slavery in our generation.”


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