• Ellie Chadwick

The day I dressed as a slave on parliament lawns

The year was 2011, our purpose? Campaigning for a Minister for Trafficking in Persons.

We were 30 young activists unafraid of being loud because we were speaking up for those who couldn't speak for themselves. Pressuring government to implement policies which scrutinise supply chains and ensure that goods entering Australia were free from exploitation.

In an attempt to get on Kevin Rudd's good side we sang his favourite song as he walked down parliament lawns to meet us. Pathetic, I know but we knew what we wanted and we did anything we could to get it.

I didn't know the words to 'Saving Grace' so I copied what everybody else was doing. Kevin wouldn't want to hear my voice any way, it would have ruined the whole thing.

For three days we trained with World Vision's advocacy team on the Don’t Trade Lives campaign. We bought the issues of human trafficking and labour exploitation to Canberra, in parliament and on the streets.

Asking politicians and businesses to give child labour the sack.

Modern day slavery comes in many forms and sadly Australia is not immune from it.

Children are taken against their will, some are sold by their parents or by other family members. Many are falsely promised good work, little do they know they've fallen in the traps of their bosses bound by unlawful conditions to pay off a debt they didn't ask for.

The truth is, goods we purchase from supermarket shelves or department stores are riddled with exploitation and it's not easy to detect.

Whether it is frozen prawns hauled by boys and men on fishing boats off the coast of Thailand who haven't eaten or slept in days let alone been given a wage for their labour.

Or a pair of jeans sewn by a girl in a garment factory in Bangladesh working in unsafe conditions, without an award for her time and no workers rights.

It's the kind of knowledge that you can't turn you back on, once you see it, it can't be unseen.

At that stage, I was already switching my tea, coffee and chocolate brands for Fair Trade certified ones and I continue to commit to buying ethically today.

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