Australia officially recognises orphanage tourism as modern slavery

An American woman holding two African girls.

Australia just became the first country in the world to recognise orphanage trafficking as a type of modern-day slavery.

The Modern Slavery Bill, which finally became law yesterday, will require businesses with turnovers of more than $100 million to report what they are doing to prevent slavery in supply chains.

The legislation is part of a wider push to stop Australians from taking part in “voluntourism” schemes which do more harm than good.

According to the BBC, 80 per cent of children living in the world’s orphanages have at least one living parent and have been lured to the orphanages to attract volunteers.

Plus, more than 57 per cent of Australian universities advertise orphanage placements, and 14 per cent of our schools visit, volunteer or fundraise for these institutions, ReThink Orphanages found.

Earlier this year Australian Senator Linda Reynolds said the demand for such trips has created a big problem in South East Asia, calling orphan tourism the “perfect 21st-century scam”, as per the BBC.

Reynolds said foreign visitors are often left with a “sugar rush” from doing something they believe is making a difference, when in fact their “good deed” is fuelling an industry based on child exploitation.

Intrepid Group, which has been advocating for the bills passing, provided recommendations to the government for reporting requirements for Aussie businesses that profit from orphanage tourism.

“Intrepid welcomes the Modern Slavery bill passing today,” said CEO James Thornton.

“As a steering committee member of Rethink Orphanages Australia, this is something we have advocated for since the Bill was proposed in 2017.

“We hope this will bring more awareness to the damaging impacts of orphanage tourism.

“We removed any visits to orphanages from our Intrepid trips in 2016 and are pleased to see the Australian government legislate that this is a form of modern slavery.”

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    Latest comments
    1. Please take care when making blanket statements. I have been part time involved with children’s homes in Southern Africa for more than 10 years, and full time staff at one for the past three.

      While it is true that many of the kids still have living relatives, the motivation for the kids being placed in a home include all the following:
      One or both parents have died or are unwilling to care for the child.
      One or both parents are physically, emotionally or sexually abusing the child.
      The parents are not providing adequate protection from abusive family members.
      Family members are unwilling or unable to care for the child.

      Short term volunteers make a huge difference for the kids and the permanent staff, the task of caring for the thousands of orphans is Southern Africa is a massive task that takes a toll on the well being of those who have given their lives to care for them. Most of the kids come from abusive backgrounds, and need constant guidance and counselling as well as help with schoolwork and teaching of life skills.

      A well organized short term volunteer program allows for outsiders to come in, after a vetting process, and support the full time staff. This is a big encouragement to us, and it serves to broaden the horizons of the volunteers so that they grow up more socially aware.

      Most orphanages in this area are funded by donations from abroad, without which, about 70% of the kids in the home where I work would be on the street, and the remaining kids would be in hostile home environments.

      I am not saying that the flipside is not true, that there aren’t kids who are being exploited, but the answer to that is to hold the leaders of the organizations responsible, and then to assist in the setting up of ethically sound homes to protect these kids, or even better, get the children in caring foster homes or adopted.

    2. I have always had my reservations about orphanages especially in Africa where I know the tradition is that orphans are taken care of by their close families since it is an extended family system. It’s rather important to improve the quality of life of host families to sustainably manage the orphans than create orphanages. That’s a model I have tried and it’s working.

modern slavery act Orphanage Tourism

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