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Australia: Fighting Against Orphan Trafficking

Updated: Mar 21, 2019

In Australia, it is considered a “rite of passage” to partake in orphanage volunteering. With a rise in orphanages across the world, Australia passed The Modern Slavery Bill at the end of 2018.

The bill requires any business that makes over $100 million to report how it is preventing orphan slavery. With voluntourism becoming a $173 billion dollar industry, this disclosure of funds is all too important.

The inspiration for this bill stems from the amount of orphanages abroad that have become proponents of child abuse. In fact, 80-90 percent of children in orphanages around the world have at least one living parent. Coined ‘Paper Orphans,’ these children are given false identities after being taken away from their families with the purpose of encouraging donations from foreigners. This has lead to exponential growth in orphanages abroad.

With ReThink Orphanages reporting that 57% of Australian universities advertise orphan tourism, and 14% of schools visit, volunteer or fundraise for these problematic organizations, it is clear that the country needs to take a stand. The organization also reports that 75% of Australian charities work with children abroad. Thus, The Modern Slavery Bill was passed to end the encouragement of college and high school students to attend these voluntourist trips.

World Challenge, the world’s biggest school-based volunteer travel company, no longer offers participants the option to attend trips to orphanages in the developing world. The organization sent students to orphanages for 30 years. Moreover, World Challenge is dedicated to changing its ways after research of orphan abuse has surfaced.  

These ‘orphans’ are often abused, trafficked and raised in horrendous conditions. One survivor stated, “It was terrible. We had to do a lot of work to get food. If we failed, then we were denied food as punishment.”

The industry is built on tourists and volunteers visiting the orphanages for a fee. The facility then takes the money or gifts for their personal profit, instead of actually helping the children in its care. The Australian bill forces organizations who are working with orphans to disclose where their money is going to. This marks Australia as the first company to acknowledge orphan tourism as a form of slavery and encourages travel companies to end this act. With the act encouraging transparency of funds, it will help discourage orphan tourism and hopefully will bring justice to the children being affected everyday.

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