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Australia Recognizes Orphanage Trafficking As Modern-Day Slavery

By Sharelle Burt

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Behind all the beautiful beaches and bouncy kangaroos, Australia has its share of issues. However, it looks like their government has finally stepped in to take care of at least one.

The country is the first to recognize orphanage trafficking as modern-day slavery. Under the Modern Slavery Bill that was passed earlier this week, businesses are required to report what they are doing in the efforts to stop slavery in supply chains. This is only a part to stop residents from participating in “voluntourism” schemes.

Reports say that 80 percent of kids that live in orphanages have at least one parent still alive and are only there to attract volunteers, for pictures and make them feel good about themselves. Over 57 percent of universities and institutions in Australia market orphanage placements while 14 percent of the schools actually visit, volunteer or fundraise for them. Going to visit a child in need is cool, but it actually does more harm than good in the end.

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Linda Reynolds, a senator from Australia, said the high demand for these trips creates a huge problem in southeast Asia. She called it the “perfect 21st-century scam.” Foreign visitors get a sense of a “sugar rush” by taking these trips. Former Australian Foreign Minister Julie Bishop said that the children have “become tourist attractions,” a proper name because when visitors come, the children are forced to perform, almost like animals at the zoo.

Orphanages in countries like Nepal and Cambodia have kids that are handed over in hopes they can be provided with a better life. Orphanages are supposed to help children become better educated and get access to food. But the U.S. State Department says otherwise, claiming orphanages force the children to perform or interact with the donors to get funds.

Thankfully, numerous groups are campaigning to put an end to it and support the new bill. “Intrepid welcomes the Modern Slavery bill passing today,” CEO James Thornton said. “We removed any visits to orphanages from our Intrepid trips in 2016 and are pleased to see the Australian government legislate that this is a form of modern slavery.” Lumos is an anti-trafficking and voluntourism charity that is at the forefront of working to end this growing problem. “Australia’s legislation will help to take orphanage trafficking out of the shadows and put it in the spotlight on the global stage,” Lumos senior adviser Chloe Setter said. “We now need other countries to adopt similar measures and ensure their own anti-slavery legislation protects against this heinous type of child trafficking.

Setter is hoping that other countries follow in Australia’s footsteps to stop it. “We welcome this important first step from the Australian government to tackle orphanage trafficking, and we look forward to working with other countries to follow their lead.”

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