Human trafficking & slavery indicators

The below indicators relate to Human Trafficking, Slavery and Slavery-like practices which are comprehensively criminalised under Divisions 270 and 271 of the Criminal Code.

This list is not exhaustive. The indicators listed below are NOT present in all situations involving human trafficking and/or slavery. The presence or absence of any of the indicators neither proves nor disproves that human trafficking and/or slavery is taking place, their presence should lead to investigation.

General indicators

  • Be subjected to violence or threats of violence against themselves or against their family members and loved ones
  • Have no access or control of their earnings
  • Provided limited or substandard food
  • Be disciplined through punishment
  • 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 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; no key to own address
  • Unexpected financial pressures within the family unit
  • 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 cease work
  • Be under psychological or physical control of or surveillance by another person
  • Allow others to speak for them when addressed directly
  • Be forced to work under certain conditions/unable to negotiate working conditions
  • Transported between accommodation and work by organisers
  • Evidence of economic abuse, dowry abuse or financial gain from the arrangement
  • Noticeable deterioration in a person’s self-esteem and appearance
  • Be distrustful of the authorities
  • Have limited or no social interaction
  • Be unfamiliar with the local language
  • Have poor social awareness
  • Have limited or no contact with their families or with people outside of their immediate environment
  • Received little or no payment for employment
  • Have no access to medical care
  • 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 or are at risk of forced marriage 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 or early pregnancy
  • Exhibit signs of depression,  self–harm, attempted suicide, panic attacks, social isolation or substance abuse
  • Have high level of control and restrictions exercised by family / community members over all aspects of life in and outside of the home e.g. 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/circumcision
  • Express feelings of shame or dishonour on the family if family / 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 / engagement
  • Have intergenerational and cultural conflict within the home
  • Express concern of physical or psychological violence for not fulfilling family/community expectations

Sexual servitude (commercial)

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 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 coercing a person into 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 rest of 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 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/guardian
  • Have an instilled fear of engaging with persons 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


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 behaviour typical 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

Labour exploitation

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

  • Work in unskilled manual labour for little or no pay
  • Be forced to work
  • 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 were notices have been posted in languages other than the local language
  • Be disciplined through fines
  • Have to pay for tools, food or accommodation or that those costs are being 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, they may lack protective equipment or warm clothing
  • Forced to open bank accounts controlled by the employer
  • Have their passport and other personal documents kept by the employer and the worker is 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

If it doesn't add up, speak up. Call the National Security Hotline - 1800 123 400.

Read the AFP Annual Report 2021-22

Australian Centre to Counter Child Exploitation - visit website

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