Good afternoon your Excellencies, distinguished guests, ladies and gentlemen, thank you all for being here.
Human trafficking and slavery are serious crimes that cause untold damage to millions of lives.
Men and women and boys and girls are trafficked for a wide range of exploitative purposes, such as forced labour, sexual exploitation or domestic servitude.
Every country in the world is affected by human trafficking as points of origin, transit or destination for trafficking victims.
It's a sad truth that a significant number of trafficking and slavery victims originate from our neighbourhood.
The Walk Free Foundation's Global Slavery Index estimates that, globally, when you include trafficking and forced labour, there are 45.8 million people in modern slavery.
Two-thirds of these are in the Asia Pacific region.
The International Labour Organization has estimated 21 million people worldwide are subject to forced labour.
Again, over 50 per cent of these are in our region, amounting to 12 million people.
Preventing and combating trafficking and slavery is a complex challenge, but one to which Australia is committed.
On Sunday, UK Prime Minister Theresa May declared modern slavery "the great human rights issue of our time".
Today's event is the first Australian Government event of its kind – a unique opportunity for us to inspire more effective collaboration to prevent and combat human trafficking and slavery.
While the root causes and drivers of human trafficking and slavery are diverse, they are often underpinned by common factors including poverty, lack of economic opportunity, unemployment and under-employment, low rates of education or literacy.
In many cases these risks are intensified for women and girls.
Human trafficking is often a cause as well as a consequence of gender inequality.
Australia's aid program works to address these underlying causes and vulnerabilities.
Safe migration is a core part of our preventative approach in the region, most notably through a new ten-year program called ILO TRIANGLE II [Tripartite Action to Enhance the Contribution of Labour Migration to Growth and Development in ASEAN].
TRIANGLE II works to improve access to safe and legal migration, and reduce the vulnerability of migrant workers to trafficking and exploitation, at the same time enhancing the contribution of labour migration to the growth and development of ASEAN countries.
Our TRIANGLE programs have provided assistance to over 61,000 migrants in countries of origin and destination with advice that reduces the chance that they fall victim to traffickers.
TRIANGLE also assisted exploited migrants to secure orders for around US$2 million in compensation.
Australia is also active in strengthening criminal justice responses to human trafficking and slavery in our region, drawing on our experience in implementing strong legal systems to prevent these crimes domestically.
We continue to build legal and law enforcement capacity in our region, including through our flagship criminal justice program, the Australia-Asia Program to Combat Trafficking in Persons (or AAPTIP).
AAPTIP is Southeast Asia's largest single dedicated anti-trafficking investment.
Since 2013, AAPTIP has supported almost 4,000 criminal justice sector professionals in the fight against trafficking with training and capacity building, including training more than 1,200 investigators, prosecutors and judges from South East Asia.
AAPTIP has also connected investigators and prosecutors from Indonesia, Thailand, Myanmar and Cambodia to find and convict the exploiters of trafficked fishers stranded far from home in Indonesia's Maluku Province.
The Australian Government will continue to advocate for victim support and protection.
We support NGOs which are best-placed to provide these services in-country, drawing on their expertise and networks to reach the most vulnerable communities.
We thank all our NGO partners for their grass-roots support to trafficked persons and the valuable role they play in reaching at-risk vulnerable populations before they face exploitation.
Finally, robust and consistent advocacy is vital.
The moderator of today's panel, Australia's Ambassador for People Smuggling Issues and Human Trafficking, Andrew Goledzinowski, continues to lead Australia's international advocacy under our International Strategy to Combat Human Trafficking and Slavery, alongside our Ambassador for Women and Girls, Ms Natasha Stott-Despoja, our incoming Ambassador to ASEAN, Ms Jane Duke, and our diplomatic networks in the Indo-Pacific and in key multilateral missions.
In September, the Prime Minister will attend the UN General Assembly High Level Meeting on large movements of refugees and migrants, and President Obama's Leaders' Summit on Refugees.
We recognise that people who are forcibly displaced, including refugees, experience heightened vulnerabilities to human trafficking and exploitation.
This afternoon we bring together our collective expertise to address the theme: 'how government, business and civil society can work together more effectively to combat human trafficking.'
We all acknowledge that no single response can end human trafficking.
We know that governments need to engage closely with all stakeholders: across government; in partnership with NGOs and communities, the business community and academia; and through our regional programs and international advocacy.
More effective collaboration between each of our sectors is not only vital to expanding awareness and understanding of these serious issues - we need to further leverage our expertise and collective efforts to prevent and address these serious crimes.
I would like to acknowledge the efforts of all stakeholders gathered here today.
I now hand over to Ambassador for People Smuggling and Human Trafficking, Andrew Goledzinowski, who will moderate the distinguished panel discussion.
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