U.S. Department of State 2006 Trafficking in Persons Report - Australia

Australia (Tier 1)

Australia is a destination country for women from Southeast Asia, South Korea, and the People's Republic of China (P.R.C.) trafficked for the purposes of sexual exploitation. The majority of trafficking victims are women who travel to Australia voluntarily to work in both legal and illegal brothels but are deceived or coerced into debt bondage or sexual servitude. The Australian Crime Commission reports that deceptive practices in contract terms and conditions, which often mask debt bondage, appear to be increasing among women in prostitution, while deceptive recruiting practices appear to be decreasing. There were also some reports of internal trafficking in Australia.

The Government of the Australia fully complies with the minimum standards for the elimination of trafficking. Over the reporting period, Australia passed important criminal code reforms that strengthened its domestic trafficking laws, namely defining the crime of debt bondage. Additionally, the government continues to be a regional leader in the Bali Process on People Smuggling, Trafficking in Persons, and Related Transnational Organized Crime. The government provides adequate resources to anti-trafficking efforts and works regionally to train officials and law enforcement on prevention and detection of trafficking-related crimes. Despite important gains, over the past three years there have been no convictions or punishment of traffickers, a key deterrent to trafficking crimes.


The Government of Australia continued to pursue trafficking prosecutions during the year. Government law enforcement agencies consolidated their trafficking detection and prosecution efforts during the year, despite setbacks in the courts. Five prosecutions are underway in the country, one of which commenced during the reporting period. Two other cases were dismissed because the juries could not reach verdicts. The government plans to retry one case; the main government witness in the other case declined to make herself available for a re-trial. Nonetheless, the Australian Federal Police's Transnational Sexual Exploitation and Trafficking (TSET) team reported 14 trafficking investigations during the last year. Australian authorities investigated 11 child sex tourism cases: three persons were prosecuted and convicted and five are still under investigation. Of the three convicted pedophiles, two received short custodial sentences – one of three years – and one was released on conditional court order.


The Government of Australia provides a comprehensive package of care for trafficking victims, their immediate family members or witnesses who are able and willing to aid in a criminal investigation, though application of this program has been criticized by anti-trafficking NGOs in the country. There are three types of visas available to trafficking victims: Bridging F Visas; Criminal Justice Stay Visas; and Witness Protection Visas (temporary) and (permanent). Bridging F Visas permit a person otherwise ineligible to remain in Australia for up to 30 days as long as the person is deemed by law enforcement authorities as important to a criminal investigation. Criminal Justice Stay Visas are granted to victims for longer terms of residency if police decide that their presence is required for an investigation or prosecution; however, in practice, this means they must make themselves available to serve as a witness in a prosecution. Witness Protection Visas (temporary) and (permanent) are granted if a victim provides a "significant contribution" to a criminal investigation or prosecution, and in order to qualify for a permanent Witness Protection Visa a person must have held a Witness Protection (temporary) Visa for at least two years. The Witness Protection (permanent) Visa is designed to protect victims from retribution they would face if they had to return to their country of origin. To date, no Witness Protection (Trafficking) Visas have been issued to victims of trafficking; however, four victims are currently under consideration. Individuals granted status under these special visa classes are entitled to a package of benefits, including shelter, counseling, and food and living allowances. The benefit program is administered by the government's trafficking care program (VOTCare). Thirteen new persons, including eight recipients of bridging F visas, received assistance during the reporting period and a total of 54 potential victims, including 42 holders of Bridging F Visas have received assistance since the VOTC are program began on January 1, 2004. No witness protection visas have thus far been granted in cases where victims have participated in a criminal prosecution. The result is that some victims may be asked to participate in a criminal prosecution of their trafficker without assurances of their immigration status at the end of the case.


Australia supports strong prevention efforts in the country as well as in source countries. Australia is a prominent leader in many regional projects aimed to detect, prevent, and raise awareness on matters relating to trafficking in persons. The government provides regular, systematic, and specialized training for law enforcement officials on the identification of trafficking. It continues to work through its interdepartmental committee to implement its 2003 action plan to eradicate trafficking in persons, which received substantial funding for its implementation. Additionally, the government regularly provides funding to NGOs and service providers to care for and assist trafficking victims.


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