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Human trafficking and slavery

Leading a policing response to disrupt, investigate and prosecute perpetrators of human trafficking and slavery

About this crime

Human trafficking and slavery come in many forms, but every form violates human rights and involves the exploitation of people. Human trafficking comprises 2 key elements – movement and control. Human trafficking is illegal under Divisions 207 and 271 of the Criminal Code Act 1995 (Cth).

People who have been trafficked have been moved from their locations, sometimes internationally. The control their abusers have over them takes many forms and can be difficult to identify. It could look like:

  • abduction
  • deception
  • abuse of power or a position of leadership
  • fraud
  • paying other people to gain 'consent'
  • taking advantage of vulnerability.

This control means ongoing exploitation, which could look like:

  • slavery
  • servitude
  • deceptive recruiting
  • debt bondage
  • forced labour
  • forced marriage
  • domestic child trafficking
  • trafficking of persons between countries and within Australia
  • organ trafficking.

Victims of trafficking

The abuser benefits from human trafficking and sometimes profits from these crimes go to transnational organised crime networks.

It's hard to say how many people are trafficked to Australia. Research from the Australian Institute of Criminology suggests that for every victim of human trafficking and slavery detected, 4 are undetected.

Australia is a known destination and source country for victims of trafficking.

How we help

We're working towards an Australia that's free from all forms of human trafficking and slavery offences. We do this by leading a coordinated and connected policing response in line with our Human Trafficking and Slavery Strategic Plan.

Australia has a National Action Plan to Combat Modern Slavery. A key priority of the Plan is to disrupt, investigate and prosecute perpetrators.

Our Human Trafficking teams do exactly that. We also cooperate with all state and territory police agencies to combat human trafficking and slavery. A National Policing Protocol (NPP) is in place to support these efforts.

We investigate human trafficking allegations, with teams in Brisbane, Sydney and Melbourne. We also have experts in human trafficking investigations in other state and territory offices.

Strategy and policy for Human Trafficking is managed by the Brisbane-based National Human Trafficking Coordination Team, based at the Australian Centre to Counter Child Exploitation. We also work internationally with our partners to combat human trafficking and slavery.

    Indicators of trafficking

    These indicators were developed by UN Office on Drugs and Crime to help people identify and report suspicious activities.

    General indicators

    Someone who is a victim of human trafficking or modern slavery may:

    • be subjected to violence or threats of violence against themselves or against their family members and loved ones
    • have no access to or control over their earnings
    • be provided limited or substandard food
    • be disciplined through punishment
    • show evidence of existing but untreated physical injuries/illnesses, or application of control measures
    • show signs their movements are being controlled
    • show fear, anxiety, distress or nervousness
    • be threatened with being handed over to the authorities or threatened with deportation
    • be afraid of revealing their immigration status
    • not be in possession of their passports or other travel or identity documents, as those documents are being held by someone else
    • not know their home or work address
    • not have a key to their own house
    • face unexpected financial pressures within the family unit
    • be deceived about the nature of their job, location, migration status or employer
    • believe they must work against their will
    • feel they cannot leave their work environment or accommodation
    • have false identity or travel documents
    • be unable to communicate freely with others
    • respond as though coached by a third party
    • be under the perception that they are bonded by debt and not free to stop work
    • be under psychological or physical control of another person
    • be under near-constant or constant surveillance by another person
    • allow others to speak for them when addressed directly
    • be forced to work under certain conditions or unable to negotiate their working conditions
    • be transported between accommodation and work by organisers
    • show evidence of economic abuse, dowry abuse or financial gain from the arrangement
    • have noticeably low self-esteem and appearance
    • be distrustful of the authorities
    • have limited or no social interaction
    • not speak English or be unfamiliar with the local environment
    • have poor social awareness
    • have limited or no contact with their families or with people outside of their immediate environment
    • receive little or no payment for employment
    • have no access to medical care
    • have excessive cost charged for accommodation or living expenses
    • be in a situation of dependence
    • have had their travel costs paid for by facilitators, whom they must payback by working or providing services
    • work excessively long hours over long periods
    • not have any days off or adequate breaks
    • live in poor or substandard accommodation
    • have acted on the basis of false promises.
    Forced marriage

    In addition to the general indicators, people who are in a forced marriage or at risk of one may:

    • have a family history of elder siblings leaving education early, marrying early or indicating concerns of an early marriage
    • have personal or family history of unwanted pregnancy
    • exhibit signs of depression, self-harm, attempted suicide, panic attacks, social isolation or substance abuse
    • be highly controlled by family or community members in and outside of the home, including:
      • surveillance
      • always accompanied
      • limited or no control of finances
      • limited or no control over life decisions, education and career choices
    • have communications monitored or restricted
    • have participated in an engagement or commitment ceremony (religious or cultural)
    • have extended or increased absence from education, a drop in performance or low motivation
    • exhibit poor or decreasing attendance or performance in the workplace
    • show evidence of family or domestic violence within the family unit
    • show evidence of running away from home or isolation from the community
    • have family with strong cultural or religious expectations
    • express concern regarding an upcoming family holiday or overseas travel
    • make a sudden announcement they are engaged
    • have been pressured to support their partner’s visa to Australia
    • have a history of female genital mutilation or circumcision
    • express feelings of shame or dishonour on the family if family or community expectations are not met
    • show evidence of economic or dowry abuse, including:
      • family members or others seeking to gain financially from a proposed marriage or engagement
      • ongoing demands for cash or material goods
      • threats made when financial obligations or arrangements are not met
    • demonstrate feelings of conflict or concern for the ramifications if they do not go ahead with an agreed marriage or engagement
    • have intergenerational and cultural conflict within the home
    • express concern of physical or psychological violence for not fulfilling family or community expectations.
    Sexual servitude

    In addition to the general indicators, people who have been trafficked for sexual servitude may:

    • move from one brothel to the next or work in various locations
    • be escorted to and from work and other outside activities
    • be unable to refuse unprotected and/or violent sex
    • show evidence they have been bought and sold
    • have injuries from unprotected and/or violent sex
    • sleep where they work
    • live or travel in a group, sometimes with other women who do not speak the same language
    • have very few items of clothing or do not own ‘seasonal’ clothing
    • have no cash of their own or control of their earnings
    • be with groups of women who are under the control of others
    • appear in advertisements for brothels or similar places offering the services of women from a particular ethnicity or nationality or provide services to a clientele of a particular ethnicity or nationality
    • be coerced into decisions regarding their sexual or reproductive health, such as undergoing an abortion.

    In addition to the general indicators, people who have been trafficked for servitude may:

    • live with a family
    • not eat with the family
    • have no private space
    • have few or no personal possessions or inappropriate clothing for the environment
    • sleep in a shared or inappropriate space
    • be forced to take drugs or alcohol to allow for greater control
    • have experienced sexual assault with a partner or others
    • be subjected to insults, abuse, threats or violence
    • never or rarely leave the house for social reasons
    • never leave the house without their employer or guardian
    • have an instilled fear of engaging with people outside the household
    • show signs of domestic or family violence
    • make excuses for physical injuries incurred at home
    • be forced to undertake free or low-paid domestic or other labour.
    Labour exploitation

    In addition to the general indicators, people who have been trafficked for labour exploitation may:

    • be forced to work
    • work in unskilled manual labour for little or no pay
    • have little to no understanding of work rights and entitlements
    • receive threats against joining a union
    • work in environment where labour laws are being breached
    • be subjected to security measures designed to keep them on the work premises
    • lack basic training and professional licences
    • work where notices have been posted in languages other than the local language
    • be disciplined through fines
    • have to pay for tools, food or accommodation or have these costs deducted from their wages
    • have no choice of accommodation or accommodation is poor quality, multi-occupancy accommodation
    • live in groups in the same place where they work and leave those premises infrequently, if at all
    • work in unsanitary and/or unsafe conditions
    • not be dressed adequately for the work they do, for example, lacking personal protective equipment (PPE) or warm clothing
    • be forced to open bank accounts controlled by the employer
    • have their passport and other personal documents kept by the employer, with the worker not allowed to have them when they want them
    • depend on their employer for a number of services, including work, transportation and accommodation
    • be in an environment where there are no health and safety notices
    • have no labour contract
    • have their movements and accessibility to transport tightly controlled
    • have an employer or manager who is unable to show the documents required for employing workers from other countries or records of wages paid to employees.
    Child exploitation

    In addition to the general indicators, children (under the age of 18 years) who have been trafficked may:

    • have no access to their parents or guardians
    • look intimidated and behave in a way that does not correspond with typical behaviour of children their age
    • have no friends of their own age
    • have no access to education
    • have no time for playing
    • live apart from other children and in substandard accommodation
    • eat apart from other members of the 'family'
    • be engaged in work that is not suitable for children
    • travel unaccompanied by adults, with telephone numbers for calling taxis
    • travel in groups with persons who are not relatives, who may claim to have 'found' the child
    • possess child-sized clothing typically worn for doing manual or sex work
    • possess toys, beds and clothing in inappropriate places, such as brothels and factories
    • be in an environment where the health and safety equipment is of poor quality, missing or modified so that it can be operated by children.

    More information

    For more information on human trafficking and slavery, visit:

    How to report

    Before submitting a report read our human trafficking and people smuggling-related information to report accurately

    We want to know if you have information about human trafficking, slavery or people smuggling. If someone's life is in immediate danger, call000

    Human trafficking and slavery

    Report trafficking or slavery-like information to us by filling out our

    Human trafficking and slavery report form

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