Grace Forrest from Walk Free Foundation talks to Fashion Revolution Australia about the Australian Modern Slavery Act

By Melinda Tually

6 months ago

Words and photo by Nicole Wong.

Modern slavery is a complex reality that is deeply embedded within the operations and supply chain of companies across the world. However, a significant step in the right direction was taken when an inquiry into establishing a Modern Slavery Act in Australia was put forward in parliament in February lastyear. Such political movement is critical to the ongoing conversation regarding the implications on human rights as a result of the fashion industry.

Grace Forrest, co-director and founder of the Walk Free Foundation and UN Association of Australia goodwill ambassador for anti-slavery, calls for corporations and consumers alike to face the enmeshed reality of modern slavery within fashion. In an interview with Vogue Australia, Forrest speaks of her experience in Delhi to emphasise the enmeshed reality of modern slavery in fashion, “I was in Delhi two years ago interviewing children who’d been in situations of forced labour and modern slavery in factories,” says Forrest. “One of the children I interviewed was nine years old, lured there under the pretext of being able to go to school, he was held in a garment factory for two years. He was stitching clothes for a manufacturer that can be found on every second block in New York City.”

The need for legislation is magnified by the 2018 Global Slavery Index findings. The report, developed by the Walk Free Foundation and Minderoo, features comprehensive statistics and country by country rankings of the number of people in modern slavery. In this year’s index, it was revealed that Australia imports more than $US4 billion worth of clothes and accessories at risk of modern slavery.

Just yesterday on November 28, the Modern Slavery bill has passed the Senate and is now on its way to becoming law. The Act will require companies that generate more than $100 million to report annually on their operations and supply chains in regards to risks of modern slavery and the actions they will take to mitigate such risks.

Ultimately, Forrest makes a pretty compelling call to action:

In the 21st century how is there any other kind of fashion week than an ethical one? In our generation, how has it become normalised that we can purchase something that has potentially stripped another person of their human rights in the process. Unless we want to continue with the Hunger games style paradox we need to draw a line in the sand. We need to continue to push and move the dial until fairness becomes the only thing any of us are willing to put our money behind.

Check out more of Grace flying the flag for responsible fashion here:

The 2018 GQ Men of the Year Awards :

“Ethical production should not be a choice, it should be a standard. A rule, not the exception.”

At the Young One World summit taking a stand against Modern Slavery in all its forms.