On Tuesday, 28 March, Archbishop Anthony Fisher OP appeared before a NSW Legislative Council Select Committee looking in to human trafficking.
The inquiry was tasked with inquiring into and reporting on human trafficking in NSW, including its prevalence and practical measures which might be put into place in NSW which would address human trafficking.
In his testimony before the Select Committee, Archbishop Fisher addressed the practical measures which might be put into place, not only at a governmental level, but also within the Archdiocese of Sydney itself.
“I take as my starting point that all decent Australians regard as abhorrent human trafficking, slavery and slavery-like practices such as forced labour or forced marriage, domestic, sexual, or other servitude,” Archbishop Fisher began. He went on to say that all would want to know the extent to which such practices are occurring in New South Wales, to see them eradicated here, and to ensure our activities do not contribute.
He went on to describe the long history of Christians working to abolish slavery, even alongside those believers who profited from the practice. He also noted that the Second Vatican Council listed slavery “amongst the worst evils yet to be effectively abolished from human society and the willingness to enslave others amongst the worst evils yet to be eradicated from the human heart.”
To demonstrate the willingness of the Archdiocese of Sydney not only to speak about the evils of human trafficking, but to address them, Archbishop Fisher announced a number of practical measures the Archdiocese would undertake as part of its response. He told the Select Committee:
- We will review and revise all relevant contractual and business practice documentation, including the Archdiocese’s Guide for Business Practice, to highlight the Church’s commitment to eradicating human trafficking.
- We will as far as possible only purchase slavery-proofed products and services, and as far as possible only contract with firms who certify that their goods are not tainted by human trafficking.
- We will maintain a register of suppliers who have given the requested certification about their goods and services and ensure that all Archdiocesan chancery, parishes, schools, agencies and affiliates, as well as our major suppliers, are fully aware of this procurement policy and understand the principles and practices set out in the revised Archdiocesan Guide.
- We will establish an Archdiocesan Anti-slavery Taskforce with a specific mandate: (1) to promote this new ethical procurement policy throughout the Archdiocese; (2) to prepare resources and conduct programmes for the Catholic faithful and other people of good will about eradicating human trafficking; (3) to devote some part of the energies of the Archdiocesan Office of Justice and Peace, parishes, schools and other agencies to educating about and campaigning to end human trafficking; (4) to partner with and support the work of Australian Catholic Religious Against Human Trafficking and other organisations, particularly in their mission to assist victims of human trafficking.
- As Metropolitan Archbishop I will seek: to work with the other bishops of my own province of New South Wales, as a member of the Permanent Committee of the Australian Catholic Bishops’ Conference to work with other bishops in Australia, and as a religious leader to work with major superiors and leaders of Catholic education, health and aged care and welfare services, to establish regional policies and other efforts to eradicate human trafficking.
- I will also seek through contacts with the Holy Father and the Vatican departments to strengthen and expand international initiatives by the Church to campaign to eradicate human trafficking.
- As Archbishop of Sydney I will also work with the leaders of other churches and faith communities, members of the Catholic Business Network, as well as other organisations, about ways they too might contribute to the eradication of human trafficking.
- I will also ask my priests to preach and faithful to pray, do penance, educate themselves and their peers, and lobby and vote for justice in this domain.
- I also undertake to cooperate with our civic leaders to assist in every way we can to address this major social justice issue.
During questioning from the panel, Archbishop Fisher told his own story of encountering and assisting a victim of human trafficking while serving as Parish Priest of Our Lady Star of the Sea, Watsons Bay.
Archbishop Fisher’s full address to the Select Committee can be read here:
The submission from the Archdiocese of Sydney’s Life, Marriage and Family Centre to the Select Committee can be read here: