Dr Susan Carland: Welcome to what happens next. I'm Dr Susan Carland. In this episode, we meet a remarkable group of young women working to improve the lot of those affected by modern slavery. The Trio are part of the Modern Slavery Law Clinic, which runs out of the Monash Law School and it aims to help people caught up in modern slavery by providing legal assistance to those who might not otherwise be able to afford it. It helps students, like the ones who will speak to you today, learn how they can apply the laws in different countries with a focus on Southeast Asia, and the students learn how to help those impacted by this complex issue to seek redress. It also aims to boost the legal capacity of non government organisations in the region.
Phoebe Naylor: Hey, I'm Phoebe. I'm fifth year law/arts student, majored in journalism, and got involved in the Modern Slavery Clinic at the start of this year, actually when Professor Jean Allain kind of sent an open invite.
Evthoxia Apokis: Hi, I'm Evthoxia, and, like Phoebe, I joined at the beginning of the year. I joined, particularly because I have done a major in Indonesian. And so I've been researching on Malaysia and Indonesia.
Peggy Sakwa: I’m Peggy, I’m a 4th year law student. I joined the Modern Slavery Law Clinic through doing the modern slavery unit in Malaysia, which was amazing and so that's how I got into the clinic
Susan: Welcome, Peggy Phoebe and Evthoxia to the podcast. Thanks for coming in. You're all part of the Modern Slavery Law Centre. Tell us about that. Tell us about the projects that you've been working on - I might start with you Peggy.
Peggy: Yeah so Evthoxia and I were working in the Victim Compensation group and essentially what we looked at was six particular countries and the legal frameworks around them in terms of whether they provide victims of modern slavery and human trafficking victim compensation.
Susan: And were you all, Phoebe I might ask you this, were you surprised at the extent of modern slavery when you got involved in the centre?
Phoebe: Personally, no, actually, I think because I'd been aware of it for a longer period of time, and that was what made me initially want to be involved in it. For me it actually started back when I was in high school doing a trip around Cambodia and seeing it in situations there, yeah, and so that kind of actually pushed me into law and then pushed me into the slavery clinic. So personally, no. But I think a lot of people would be surprised at the extent. Yeah.
Susan: Evthoxia would you say that the average person has a fair grasp of the extent of modern slavery?
Evthoxia: I think there's awareness around that. But also, a certain amount of complacency as to, like, how complicit in that we are. At the beginning of the clinic on our first day we did a thing was called a slavery footprint metric where we sort of answered a bunch of questions and the end, we were told how many, sort of, slaves were involved in maintaining our lifestyles, and I think, sort of it was about 40 to 50 per person in the room and like while you kind of might be aware of, like, sort of how slaves, are kind of supporting your lifestyle, that kind of hit home.
Pheobe: The average person would probably be aware that slavery exists, but it's somewhere out there, it's somewhere out in the world, whereas actually, particularly doing slavery footprint thing, it brings it home. It's like, oh, that many slaves contribute to my lifestyle and what I'm doing actually affect them as well, rather than being something out there.
Susan: Do you ever feel despondent when you do the work and you realise the enormity of the task?
Phoebe: Absolutely, absolutely.
Peggy: One hundred per cent. Every couple of weeks, we just took a break from, well, not took a break, but took a step back and looked at much I guess we had to consider, because modern slavery just comes into effect in everyone's life and from different perspectives and from every aspect and so little things, like the things that you buy on holidays, just, it's just so ingrained in our lifestyles that we don't even notice it. Yes, it could be a little bit overwhelming and confronting, especially when doing the footprint.
Evthoxia: Yeah, I remember asking Gina, the supervisor of the clinic, sort of how, given her work in the field, how she kind of lives her life, knowing that kind of complicity. And she just said, yes, it's like it's hard. It's hard to be pure in that way.
Susan: But I suppose what, I guess, what is the alternative? You can find out about the ubiquity of slavery and think, Well, I'm a terrible person and everything’s stuffed. Or you could do what you guys are doing, which is trying to participate in trying to create some positive change. Tell us about some of the successes or good things that have happened in the work that you've been doing. Maybe Phoebe, we'll start with you.
Phoebe: It's easy to look at the size of the task and go oh there's there's nothing I can do, why bother? But then, actually, we heard talk from Kevin Bales, and he mentioned statistic wise that it would, they estimate it would cost maybe 20 to $30 billion to eradicate or at least get slavery down to a really low, minimal level over the next several years. And that's actually the same amount that it would cost to put a person on the moon. So it is actuall doable. And when you look at it like that, it's, it seems a little bit less, even though that would be such a, it's such a huge amount it seems insane, but on a global scale, it's actually not. And so putting it into perspective a little bit like that actually helps a little bit go, okay, what I'm doing might be just a drop in the ocean, but it's contributing towards something that is actually able to be made better, in a way - I'm looking for a word that I'm not finding I think.
Susan: Do you think society has the will to move in that direction? Do you think we do want to try to change things?
Evthoxia: I think we do, particularly as our worlds are becoming more globalised and we're seeing vision of people getting affected. And I think change needs to come from the top in a legislative capacity, but also consumers and people like you and me sort of demanding change, often through our buying power. I don't think that should be overestimated. I think that, sort of, policy makers and like States themselves need to make big changes. And we're seeing in Australia the beginnings of that process with the 2018 Anti Slavery Act and that now requires businesses earning a certain amount to start reporting their supply chains. While I don't know too much detail the nature of that reporting, I don't think it's too onerous. But it's kind of, we’re seeing a move towards accountability for people at the top, being expected to know, like their process is kind of, if they’re sort of far removed in other countries, yeah.
SWusan: What else do you think we need to do? You said we can't really put too much emphasis on the individual consumer, a lot of it does have to be policy. If you could wave a magic wand, apart from just removing all modern slavery, how would, what policy would you want to see put in place?
Evthoxia: Our research was in victim compensation, so looking at the other end where victims have gone through the criminal process of maybe trying to put the perpetrator through the justice system. Seeing victims supported in a really complete way would be really wonderful through like monetary funds and also sort of housing and social rehabilitation because I think, often victims can go by the wayside and aren’t fully supported.
Peggy: And kind of following on from that, one of the contributing factors of that is, with globalisation as well, a lot of huge corporations are seeking human resources from other countries. Oftentimes they're vulnerable people. And so if there's a responsibility on corporations not to engage services from people who are either known or suspected of engaging in modern slavery, that would also make a huge difference because we can't know what every corporation is doing and where they're sourcing all of their work from. However, if we put pressure on organisations to be aware of it and to prevent that, that would also make a big difference.
Phoebe: It sounds great that, you know Australia's doing all of this like Modern Slavery Act, whoo, but ultimately the Modern Slavery Act doesn't really have a lot of teeth in terms of any repercussions for companies that do find slavery in their supply chains. They could just report it and that's everything fulfilled. I think the onus does still fall on us as consumers to actually still be active about what choices we’re making, look at companies and see what their supply chains are like and make our decisions from there. It's still really yes, it really does fall on us as consumers, rather than just a company has reported that it has found slavery and that is kind of them fulfilling the obligations under the Modern Slavery Act
Susan: Has anything changed for you guys while you've been involved in the clinic? Have you noticed any changes in your own behaviour may be things that you buy or anything else in connection to what you've learned
Peggy: On one level, you know, as Phoebe said, we'd kind of had some sort of awareness beforehand. So things like not buying fast fashion, buying from op shops or secondhand or fair trade organisations, that's one change that can be made or has been made, yeah.
Evthoxia: Also having some awareness that the fishing industries in Southeast Asia quite problematic, particularly out of Thailand, but they are making changes to regulate so I think now when I buy fish, I'm very aware of where the origin country
Phoebe: Yeah, I think particularly fast fashion for me as well. Becoming more aware of that has meant that I avoid certain stores, or you know, just because as student previously, it can be like, oh, it's cheap, I’ll go for that.
Susan: That's one of the hard things about, isn’t it, and especially a lot of these sites - these online shops - it's easy as well. How do you think we convince people to get over that convenience?
Peggy: I think it's difficult to convince people because the fact of the matter is, if you can't afford something, you can't afford something. And so I think it's up to organisations and even above that, governments and states, to ensure that things can be affordable and yet still be not products of modern slavery, because you may want to buy something that is not and you're not too aware of it. But then the fact of the matter is your budget is so much and so convenience is unfortunate, but it's some people's reality, and so that has to be taken into account.
Evthoxia: And maybe this is a bit pious, but because things are so cheap, I think sort of we consume much more and I think sort of taking away that need from people to just keeping on buying things. And yeah.
Phoebe: We could spend more on, yeah, fewer items, which again is a pretty privileged position to be able to do that. But also there is op-shopping, I think Peggy you mentioned. It's a hard barrier to overcome, the convenience, honestly. Maybe there could be that little voice in the back of your mind that’s the guilts going ‘you bought a cheap item, but was it made by child slaves?’ And then every time you pick that up you go, ‘I don't know if it was made by child slaves’. Is that enough to get over the convenience issue? Maybe.
Susan: Have you seen a change in people, your generation, your friends? Are they aware of this sort of thing? Is that part of the conversation? Is there a move away from, say, fast fashion because they're starting to be conscious of modern slavery?
Evthoxia: I would think in some cases, yes, but we're probably in a bit of a bubble with fairly like, well off…
Peggy: I Think about when I was in high school, one of the biggest movements to op-shopping was it was a trend as opposed to social awareness, you know. And so sometimes, even though a trend may not come from a point of awareness, it can actually benefit.
Phoebe: Like, it would be nice to say that just being aware of the issues with certain clothes would actually bring a change. But it's probably more likely to come from fashion-setters, to be honest, at the end of the day.
Susan: Right. You need that influencer on Instagram with three million follower to make this his or her issue. So you really need Kim Kardashian to start talking about this. She’s doing a law degree - ask her to join the clinic! So, again, I am asking you to speak for your generation - would there be much overlap with people your age with not just the modern slavery aspect of it, but also the environmental aspect? Do you think there's any? Would that even be more of a consideration?
Evthoxia: I do wonder if that is more of a consideration, given the effects of climate change are more visible. We’re seeing in New South Wales like fires kind of ravaging the state like people are probably feeling that more and I think, you see the waste, as well, of, like, clothes is like really high.
Peggy: I think this is one of the powerful things with social media can shed light and awareness and put pressure on people to act more consciously, which is a good thing.
Susan: Anything surprising you learned while working at the clinic?
Peggy: The complete absence of, well not complete absence, but the significant absence of legislation that protects victims and then also that I guess, compensates them for their loss because it's kind of an intersection where are they the state's responsibility or are they their perpetrators responsibility? Who was responsible for restoring the person back to the position prior to being affected by modern slavery, human trafficking? And so the absence of legislation just made a huge difference because it was having to look at the law from different angles and trying to intertwine different legislation to try and potentially use that as a strategy to compensate a victim as opposed to there just being a blanket provision or there just being a specific provision.
Evthoxia: And I wonder if that is because the victim isn’t a very important stakeholder. They're probably people from another country in a low socio economic bracket. Yeah, their voice is not going to be strongly heard. I think.
Susan: Has the work that you've done at the modern slavery law clinic influenced what you want to do in the future? Let's start with you, Peggy.
Peggy: I think it has. I kind of have been between which area of what I wanted to focus on, and I think being a part of this clinic has really shed light on the power and, not just the power but I guess the effect, the positive changes you can make in people's lives and on a bigger scale because we'll be dealing with organisations that are high stakeholders and so they can make a bigger difference than on an individual basis. So that was really encouraging.
Susan: What about you, Phoebe?
Phoebe: I think it has affected the way I go - whatever I end up doing, I'm still figuring that out - I think it has affected the way I’ll go about it because it permeates so many different spheres, it doesn't really matter, you don't have to be doing law to make an impact is because it permeates so many different spheres. It could be whatever I end up doing, I'll have this in mind, and so, and able to use that and adjust that into yeah, whatever I end up doing.
Evthoxia: Having studied the employment law aspects, when we were looking for compensation, I kind of realised the value that employment law has to serve people given, like, how employment is, or, sort of, using people as workers is often a significant reason why they're being trafficked. So I’ve kind of now got a bit of an interest in, like, sort of pursuing employment law and yeah, seeing where that might take me.
Susan: Do you feel hopeful about the future of modern slavery? Or has what you learned made you feel a bit more despondent?
Peggy: We've kind of come to a point where we have definitions, we have understandings of the different types of modern slavery and how that is different to humans, sorry to people smuggling and how that's different to human trafficking, which is still a part of modern slavery to some extent, so conceptualising it in its different components we've gotten to that point. That's great. We've gotten to a point where we can identify circumstances that are circumstances of modern slavery as opposed to de jure slavery. So that was the Pacific slave trade type of slavery So we've kind of gotten understanding of modern slavery. And now it's a matter of like, I guess, making sure that legislation can be implemented to counteract modern slavery and to address it, and so we're still … still working that out. And I think that's one thing that all of our projects we all noticed that it's still a work in progress, which I guess the law always is because it reflects society and society bounces back on it, but yes, so it's an exciting time. I think. I think there's hop.
Susan. So that’s one for hope. What about you Phoebe?
Phoebe: I think doing the clinic there’s been highs and lowa, you know, there's those times when you read a case and go well, this is a huge issue, how can we possibly do anything about it? But there's also a lot of hope in that, actually, we're coming together and there is something that can be done about it. Kevin Bales was talking about how it's becoming professionalised -anti slavery movements, as such, are becoming more professionalised. So there's actually people working against it as a profession and so I think there's hope in that in that as more people become aware you can get more more resources and more people invested. But he also talked about redefining the way that we look at an issue. So rather than looking at an issue and going and being overwhelmed, because our identity is kind of in being a consumer, and in being a consumer, you can look at something and go oh, that's a problem or buy my way out of it. But actually, at the end of the day, buying our way out of it, it would take a mass consumer movement to do something about it.
So Kevin Bales talked about readjusting our thinking and looking at a problem rather than looking at it as a consumer we look at it as a as an activist and go okay, what can be done about it? And so I think, in shifting perspective, it almost brings hope in a way because there is something that can be done about it and so that can bring hope to the situation. Yeah I think there’s hope.
Susan: Ok, two for hope. Evthoxia, which way are you going to fall?
I feel overwhelmed by how systematic, how systemic, sorry, the problem is and just the number of people that are affected. But as ladies have pointed out, like, there are sort of these avenues for redress that I think, I think we'll get there. But it will take time. And I think a lot more people will suffer before, yeah, we can reach that point.
Susan: Well, it's a unified bench anyway. Thank you so much Peggy. Phoebe, thank you. You're giving me hope for the future.
Susan: After hearing from those inspiring young women, you might be wondering, what can I do? Well, good news. In the next episode, our expert will have tips, strategies, and resources for reducing your own slavery footprint and information on what to do If you're seeing potential examples of modern slavery in society. Special thanks to our guests today, Peggy, Evthoxia and Phoebe. Thanks for listening, and I’ll see you on the next episode of what happens next.
According to the Global Slavery Index, 45.8 million people in 167 countries are involved in some form of slavery today. International legislation is still catching up with this reality.
In today's episode, we'll meet the law students who want to change it.