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Prison time for perpetrators but justice eludes victim of modern slavery in Australia

  • 02 August 2021
Last month, a man and a woman were sentenced to between six and eight years in jail for intentionally possessing and exercising the right of ownership over a slave between 2007 and 2015 in Mount Waverley, Victoria. After arriving in Australia from the Tamil Nadu province in India on a 30-day tourist visa, the woman’s passport was taken from her and she was forced to cook, clean and care for the couple’s three children on an average $3 per day. 

During her enslavement, the woman was beaten, hit with a frozen chicken, cut, had boiling water poured on her and allowed an hour’s rest every night. Upon finding the victim on the bathroom floor lying in urine in 2015, one of the perpetrators took her children to a school concert before returning and calling paramedics. The victim weighed 40kg, had no teeth, was suffering from diabetes and septicaemia, and spent two months in hospital.

While news reports last week extoled the sentence and judgment of the Victorian Supreme Court, there was little media attention given to what happens next for the victim.

And that is because nothing is likely to happen next for the victim.

Yet again we have seen the successful prosecution of perpetrators of modern slavery, and a victim left with nothing but a future in aged care in Melbourne with a catheter, diabetes and the memory of her treatment as a slave for 8 years.

There is no national compensation scheme available to victims of modern slavery in Australia. Each state and territory within Australia operate their own victims of crime ‘financial assistance’ scheme. These schemes award money to eligible victims of crime who have injuries caused by acts of violence that have occurred within the relevant state or territory, and can be linked to a relevant state or territory law. 

One objective of such schemes, as specified in the Victorian legislation, is to provide assistance ‘as a symbolic expression by the State of the community’s sympathy and condolence for, and recognition of, significant adverse effects experienced or suffered by them as victims of crime’.

As modern slavery matters are prosecuted under commonwealth laws rather than state or territory laws, there is no customised scheme available and no easy fit for victims. 

Our courts may try to ensure that the punishment fits the crime but there is nothing to ensure that the compensation fits the crime.

‘If we are serious about wanting to identify the risks of modern