Students in Catholic schools across Melbourne are joining the battle to beat slavery and human trafficking, with the official launch of the ‘Make your school slavery-free’ resource at Academy of Mary Immaculate this morning.
Developed by Catholic Education Melbourne, in collaboration with ACRATH (Australian Catholic Religious Against Trafficking in Humans) and the Catholic Archdiocese of Melbourne, this resource is designed to help schools begin the transition to a slavery-free environment by creating a slavery-free staffroom.
The resource is a guide to introduce fair trade tea, coffee and chocolate in workplaces, parishes and homes and help the transition to a slavery-free environment become more widespread. The kit contains resources like: ‘How to create a slavery-free classroom’; ‘Catholic social teaching – why we should be slavery-free’; product sourcing guides, posters, school testimonials and case studies.
Launching the kit was Archbishop Peter A Comensoli and ACRATH co-founder Sr Louise Cleary CSB.
In his gospel reflection during Mass, the Archbishop made a clear link between social justice initiatives like the launch of the resource kit and Christ bringing the good news to the poor. ‘How do we make this good news real, here and now? That’s what you’re doing with launching this resource. It’s really about what can we do to bring the good news to those who are enslaved.’
‘There are slaves in our city. People who are in bonded employment.’ The Archbishop emphasised the importance of looking at supply chains not just in food products but also in the fashion industry.
After Mass, students from Aquinas, St Pius X and Academy along with guests including Archbishop Peter, Associate Vice-Chancellor of ACU John Ballard and others from the Archdiocese of Melbourne, Catholic Education Melbourne, ACRATH and Caritas, made their way into the Academy library.
Mark Clarke from the Archdiocesan Office for Justice and Peace introduced Sr Louise Cleary to officially launch the kit with Archbishop Peter.
‘Today, sadly, slavery exists and is flourishing,’ Sr Louise said. ‘There are an estimated 40.5 million people who are enslaved. Two-thirds of those are in the Indo-Pacific region. 80 per cent are women and children. 10 million children are involved in some way in trafficked labour when they should be at school.’
‘People are being sold and traded, not just the coffee beans or the cocoa beans or the tea leaves. 70 per cent of cocoa comes from the ivory coast and largely comes from the enslaved trafficked labour of children who are sold in markets in West Africa. We really need to take action.’
‘Today, we’re conscious that education can help eliminate slavery. We can become informed consumers and ask the difficult questions: where did the cocoa beans come from in my chocolate? Did the workers get a living wage to produce it? Were children exploited?’
‘In launching the making your school slavery-free resource kit, we’re taking a first step in the Archdiocese and across Catholic schools in Melbourne.’
By starting with tangible products like tea, coffee, chocolate, Sr Louise expressed the hope that students will become more aware of addressing exploitation in supply chains.
And by examining these supply chains, Sr Louise stressed, we should see the need to have workers paid a fair wage in every step along the way. ‘People still need these things like coffee, chocolate, and workers supplying them need the work and need to be paid well.’
‘This kit is about trying to get us all to become more informed consumers.’
‘It’s about the respect for the God-given dignity of every human person. Every human being matters, no matter where they are. And they shouldn’t be exploited, because the exploitation of any person is simply wrong and runs counter to the Gospel,’ she said.
The kit itself doesn’t exist in hard copy but is accessible online here
. With the assistance of a student, the Archbishop scanned the QR code and the ‘Make your school slavery-free’ resource was officially launched.Download the resource at https://resourcecem.com/slavery-free-resources/ and join the Catholic Archdiocese of Melbourne and the other dioceses of Victoria and Tasmania take the first steps towards eliminating modern slavery.