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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:

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.
  4. 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.
  5. 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.
  6.  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.
  7.  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.
  8. 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.
  9. 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: