Archdiocese, CEWA in joint slave-proofing stance

12 Aug 2021

By Matthew Lau

The Catholic Archdiocese of Perth and Catholic Education Western Australia (CEWA) have last month gathered to jointly launch their respective Modern Slavery Statements.

Convening at the Catholic Education Office in Leederville on 30 July, stakeholders and advocates joined Auxiliary Bishop Donald Sproxton and CEWA Director of Finance and Infrastructure Dr Glennda Scully for an informal morning tea on the United Nations World Day against Trafficking in Persons.

Archdiocesan Modern Slavery Liaison Officer Deacon Greg Lowe said the partnership aspect of this co-initiative was essential as it signalled to parishes and schools to work together on slave-proofing their parish centres and staffrooms, particularly in terms of the tea and coffee they purchase.

Archdiocese of Perth and CEWA representatives gathered for an informal morning tea to launch their respective Modern Slavery Statements at the Catholic Education Office in Leederville on the morning of Friday, 30 July. Photo: Matthew Lau.

To support the release of the statement, the West Australian Catholic Migrant & Refugee Office (WACMRO) released a video featuring Archbishop Timothy Costelloe SDB and CEWA Executive Director Dr Debra Sayce.

In the video, Archbishop Costelloe invites the whole Catholic community in WA to slave-proof their procurement and supply chains and further invites “every person to seriously consider ethical purchasing as a behaviour that we should all adopt as another way of putting our faith into action”: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WgUzbP-6T3o

The Perth Archdiocese – with the support of the WA Catholic bishops and their respective Bunbury, Geraldton, and Broome dioceses – has joined more than 30 Catholic entities across Australia in reaching a noteworthy landmark in the Church’s efforts to eradicate modern slavery.

The Archdiocese’s first anti Modern Slavery Statement was submitted to the Commonwealth Department of Home Affairs in a Compendium of statements by members of the Australian Catholic Anti-Slavery Network (ACAN).

In a message to ACAN members, Australian Catholic Bishops’ Conference President Archbishop Mark Coleridge hailed the diocese’s achievement.

“Australia can be a leading force in the Catholic world in seeking to eradicate modern slavery, human trafficking and forced labour,” Archbishop Coleridge said.

“The Modern Slavery Statements of Catholic entities will form a compendium of Catholic principles and action for the advancement of human dignity and the common good.”

By adopting the Pope Francis-inspired UN Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) 8.7, Australia and 190 other nations have pledged to take effective measures and end modern slavery by 2030.

According to the Global Slavery Index, there are an estimated 15,000 modern slavery victims in Australia, and it is estimated that over 40 million people globally are trapped in some form of modern slavery or slavery-like conditions. One in four of them is a child. 

The Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Perth and Catholic Education Western Australia have both released materials in a joint effort to eradicate modern slavery. Photo: Matthew Lau.

In CEWA’s Modern Slavery Statement, Dr Debra Sayce said Catholic schools could play a key role in efforts to eradicate modern slavery, human trafficking, and forced labour.

“This is an important step in prioritising informed purchasing choices and opting for products that are produced in an ethical manner, by companies that support fair labour conditions, fair prices, community development and sustainable practices,” Dr Sayce said.

“By making socially responsible purchasing choices, we can work collaboratively towards the eradication of modern slavery, human trafficking and forced labour.”

The Modern Slavery Statements of Catholic agencies will form a compendium of Catholic principles and action for the advancement of human dignity and the common good.

Addressing the 2020 calendar year, the statements set out the steps taken to assess and address risks of modern slavery in operations and supply chains, and the plans to better manage that risk in 2021 and beyond.

“The shared goal of ending modern slavery needs to be a firm priority for our Catholic community in WA.  With the support of Catholic school communities, we can meaningfully work towards a more equitable society now and for future generations,” Dr Sayce added.

Information about how parishes and schools can start slave-proofing their goods and services procurement (including tea and coffee supply chains) will be released shortly at: http://www.wacmro.perthcatholic.org.au/