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Launch of Anti-Slavery Housing Project, Potts Point, Sydney


I acknowledge the traditional owners of the land on which we meet, the Gadigal People of the Eora Nation, and pay my respects to their elders, past and present, emerging leaders and all Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders gathered here today.

Good afternoon, everyone. Linda and I are delighted to be with you, especially in the foundation’s 20th anniversary year. We’ve had a long and rewarding association with the Sisters of Charity Foundation. It goes back to 2014 and my patronage when Governor of New South Wales. I’m pleased to continue that patronage as Governor-General.

And, as Patron, I could not be more proud. That is because the Sisters of Charity Foundation — and its partner on the housing program, The Salvation Army — do such wonderful and important work in the community.

Quantifying the extent of human trafficking and slavery victimisation in Australia is not easy. For many reasons, there is a lack of transparency.

The Global Slavery Index 2018 estimates that on any given day in 2016 there were 15,000 people living in conditions of modern slavery in Australia — in Australia. That’s thousands of people in our cities and towns who are victims of human trafficking, slavery, forced labour, forced marriage — people whose freedoms have been taken away.

For a country that prides itself on compassion, respect and inclusion, this figure is both alarming and unacceptable. That is why you are here. Many of you have dedicated your working lives to putting others first — developing and implementing programs to rid our society of the scourge of modern slavery.

For 20 years the Sisters of Charity Foundation has recognised the value of entering into partnerships that deliver practical help to marginalised people in the community. And its partnership with The Salvation Army has produced a wonderful outcome — the Anti-Slavery Housing Program that we are launching today.

The Anti-Slavery Housing Program is significant because it represents a new way of delivering safe and stable accommodation to marginalised and traumatised people. Instead of offering safe house-type accommodation only, the foundation, The Salvation Army and Salvos Housing will work one-on-one with individuals via a lease arrangement to identify the best location for them in terms of job opportunities, transport and community connections.

A safe house, of course, is needed for obvious reasons. But stable accommodation will increase an individual’s chance of entering the housing market and setting up a home.

What I like about this program is that it is designed from the ground up. The individuals concerned are vulnerable. This is case management at its most delicate and sensitive, which can help change lives.

I congratulate the foundation and The Salvation Army for developing a program that puts these people first.

A final word about partnerships.

Linda and I have visited many fire-affected communities in recent months. We’ve witnessed firsthand the positive outcomes that can be achieved when people come together. We see another example of it here today.

The Anti-Slavery Housing Program is the result of a partnership between the Sisters of Charity Foundation and The Salvation Army. It’s a unique program that reflects the foundation and Salvos shared history of compassion and social justice. The partnership also reflects the philosophy of Mary Aikenhead, the foundress of the Congregation of the Religious Sisters of Charity, who believed in creative solutions to alleviate the suffering of those who need hope, allowing them to rebuild their lives with dignity.

Congratulations to everyone involved.

It is now my great pleasure to launch the Anti-Slavery Housing Program.