Modern slavery impacts

A message from the Vice-Chancellor Professor Zlatko Skrbis:

ACU’s strong commitment and approach to sustainability acknowledges the indivisible link between social, economic, and environmental sustainability and our university’s future. This commitment extends beyond our campuses. As a community, we prioritise these important areas not only because they are deeply embedded in our Catholic mission to honour the dignity of each being and to care for our common home, but simply because it is the right thing to do.

Our second annual Sustainability Week, from 3-9 October, will focus on ‘Modern slavery impacts’ and ACU’s commitment to preventing and ultimately eliminating the impact of modern slavery. It also acknowledges the clear, but not immediately obvious, link between modern slavery and what we commonly call ‘sustainability’: when ecosystems break down, those who depend on them become vulnerable to modern slavery.

You may think that this issue plays out in poorer regions of the world and is far-removed from Australian shores, but according to the 2018 Global Slavery Index an estimated 15,000 people are enslaved in Australia right now, with the Asia Pacific region accounting for the highest numbers globally – of whom 70 per cent are women and girls.

At ACU we draw inspiration from Saint Josephine Bakhita, patron saint of our Blacktown Campus and patron saint of modern slavery victims and human trafficking, as we work to address the injustices inflicted upon the most vulnerable members of our communities.

As a recently appointed member of the Domus 8.7 committee, I am personally committed to promoting awareness of modern slavery practices and acting to support those affected. Our university has also committed to submitting an annual Modern Slavery Statement that will report on the risks of modern slavery in our operations and supply chains, and the actions we have taken to address those risks.

Part of this commitment was introducing the modern slavery training modules developed by the Australian Catholic Anti-Slavery Network and the Catholic Archdiocese of Sydney. I encourage anyone interested to register for these modules and to raise their awareness on how the impact of modern slavery plays out in everyday life and business. We have also taken the further step in our procurement processes to hold our partners, suppliers, vendors, and tenderers to the same standard by making these modules available to anyone who wishes to engage with ACU commercially. These small but important measures contribute to the collective action we take every day as a university community in supporting Pope Francis’s call to action in Laudato Si’ (LS 146): “Purchasing is always a moral – and not simply economic – act”.

I invite you all to engage with Sustainability Week next week by attending online and in-person events that focus on the impacts of modern slavery, climate change, ethical investment, sustainable travel and more. While face-to-face events are again not possible on all campuses, there are still many ways you can participate online. Events and resources include a panel on sustainable investing with expert guests, social media competitions, and a list of worthwhile films and books for you to enjoy.

Please look out for details of scheduled events and ways you can get involved, and join the Sustainability@ACU Workplace group to engage with our initiatives.

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