Tourism

Australian government cracks down on orphanage tourism

Daisy Doctor

The issue of orphanage tourism has been floating around for a while now, with many tour operators cutting the practice from their brochures entirely.

Now, the Australian federal government is following suit, announcing its own plans to deter Aussie tourists from taking part in orphanage tourism.

The subject is a tricky one, as, for the most part, any tourist wishing to spend time at an orphanage are doing so for the greater good.

However, as recent reports would indicate, orphanages are often hoaxes, where men and women exploit both tourists and children for economic gain.

Recently, there have been stories of children being taken away from their family to add numbers to a local orphanage.

See also: Rethink orphanage tourism, travellers told

As well as this, many psychologists and tourism operators warn against continually reintroducing caretakers to these vulnerable children who form bonds with volunteers and then feel abandoned when they abruptly leave after the program finishes.

According to The Guardian, foreign minister Julie Bishop has announced a new campaign run by the government to divert volunteers from orphanages that exploit “fake orphans” for profit.

In a statement, Bishop and the education minister, Simon Birmingham, detailed the reasoning for the campaign as a means of protecting both Aussie volunteers and vulnerable children.

“The Australian government will work with states and territories and universities to ensure school groups and students are not unwittingly visiting or volunteering in programs that exploit children,” it said.

“This work will help to ensure the good intentions of so many Australians are fulfilled through positive actions that protect them and vulnerable children overseas.”

The issue runs deep globally, however, is particularly bad in South-East Asian countries.

As per The Guardian, in Cambodia, 80 per cent of the children in orphanages still have living parents.

As well as that, since 2005, the number of orphanages in the country has increased by 60 per cent.

‘In the worst cases, children are beaten, forced into labour, starved or sexually abused,’ The Guardian added.

Travel Weekly recently sat down with World Expeditions’ Michele Eckersley to discuss orphanage tourism and the damage it is doing to tourists and children alike.

“Firstly, there can be emotional damage due to children forming attachments with people who then move on (repeatedly), leading to abandonment issues; there is also the danger that children – not necessarily orphans – are procured from their families, in order for unscrupulous operators to profit from tourism dollars; there is also the danger of abuse at the hands of criminals posing as volunteers,” she said.

“The decision was made by World Expeditions to cut the programs when research revealed a direct relationship between the increase in the number of orphanages in developing nations and the increase in tourism numbers.”

In terms of how much children are negatively affected by orphanage tourism, Eckersley said it depends on the individual circumstances.

“World Expeditions recognises that there are operations offering marginalised children a better life, but we also acknowledge that we are travel specialists and not qualified to carry out due diligence to determine a good orphanage from a bad orphanage.”


Do you have something to say on this? Get in touch with Travel Weekly Editor Daisy Doctor here to share your thoughts. 


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