WA Senator addresses UN Committee

WA Senator Linda Reynolds has addressed the United Nations Committee on the Rights of the Child, highlighting the risks of unwittingly encouraging child slavery and trafficking through volunteering in for profit orphanages and foreign funding.

Senator Reynolds said that activities such as so-called orphanage tourism and ‘voluntourism’ could result in some Australians supporting child slavery without realising it.

As Assistant Minister for Home Affairs, in 2018, Senator Reynolds supported the passage of The Modern Slavery Act through Parliament, having sponsored a parliamentary inquiry into establishing the Act, a year earlier.

Australia became the first nation to formally recognise orphanage trafficking as a form of modern slavery.

On Friday, Senator Reynolds told the UN Committee on the Rights of the Child – 2021 Day of General Discussion that The Australian Charities and Not-for-profits Commission had strengthened the administration and oversight of charities operating overseas and had classified residential care for children, orphanage tourism and child sponsorship as ‘high risk’ activities.

“Effectively, this means that Australian charities - including churches - can no longer provide funding, or volunteer, for unregistered overseas institutions,” Senator Reynolds told the committee.  

“Through the Smart Volunteering initiative, Australians are encouraged to avoid short-term, unskilled volunteering in orphanages or in activities where children are promoted as tourist attractions. Instead, I encourage Australians to support programs that support children and their families to remain in their communities.

“I urge all Australians to do their homework, to ensure that they are making a positive impact in the local communities,” the Senator told the committee.

“We all have a duty to recognise and combat the key drivers of the institutionalisation and trafficking of children worldwide, especially those deprived of parental care.”