Law and human trafficking expert Kate van Doore has welcomed Foreign Minister Julie Bishop’s announcement of a new campaign to prevent Australians from inadvertently contributing to child exploitation through the practice of orphanage tourism.
Griffith Law School lecturer Ms van Doore, who has worked tirelessly over the past decade to stop orphanage tourism, said it was fantastic to see the Australian Government take an international lead on this largely hidden issue.
“This campaign encourages Australians to be smart volunteers and to consider how their help can impact negatively on vulnerable children despite very good intentions,” she said.
Ms van Doore, who was recognised at last year’s Anti-Slavery Australia Freedom Awards, is at the forefront of the campaign into whether Australia should have a Modern Slavery Act.
Last week, Senator Linda Reynolds, Chris Crewther MP and the Assistant Minister for Home Affairs, Alex Hawke MP, announced that Australia will be the first country to include orphanage trafficking as a form of modern slavery in the anticipated Modern Slavery legislation.
The inclusion of orphanage trafficking is based upon Ms van Doore’s research published in the International Journal of Children’s Rights, and supported by expert testimony given to a Parliamentary Inquiry by Ms van Doore along with several non-government organisations.
“Until 2016, the recruitment of children into orphanages for the purpose of exploitation was not recognised as a form of human trafficking,” she said. “Australia is leading the world in both raising awareness of and aiming to legislate for this issue.”
Senator Reynolds said the new campaign was a wonderful example of politicians from all sides and civil society working together.
“As a result we have become the first nation to recognise and take action against this form of modern slavery. It is estimated that more than eight million children living in orphanages are not actually orphans – it is time for them to be reunited with their families and communities. No longer should any be a tourist attraction.”
Ms van Doore’s part in the ongoing fight against orphanage trafficking had its origins with Forget Me Not, a non-governmental organisation she co-founded originally establishing orphanages in Nepal and Uganda.
Upon discovering children had been recruited into their orphanages to pose as orphans for international funding, Forget Me Not transitioned to focus on rescue and reunification of children from orphanages.
In 2016, she found 57.5% of Australian universities were advertising orphanage placements through international volunteering programs and 22 Australian-based and 61 overseas-based travel agencies or organisations sending Australian volunteers to residential care centres.
“I am encouraged by the smart volunteer campaign and I am looking forward to continuing to work with government and civil society to ensure the protection of vulnerable children,” Ms van Doore said.