A child trafficking awareness programme could be the next step in tackling the global issue, a new report from the Child Exploitation and Online Protection Centre (CEOP) has warned.
The organisation said it was “surprised” that Australia had not taken more measures to combat child slavery in the past five years.
CEOP said it had received more than 20,000 submissions on the issue since the publication of its 2016 report Child Slavery: A Global Challenge, which also highlighted Australia’s child slavery situation.
“We have received more submissions since that report was published than we have in the previous five years combined,” CEOP senior manager of child protection and protection, Dr David Hallett, told AAP.
“This is a very serious issue that we’re dealing with on a very large scale and the response to it is so different to what we would have seen in the last five years.”
The report also highlighted how the issue was still “unsolved”, with the vast majority of child victims in the US, Canada and Mexico having never reported their crime to authorities.
In 2016, the US had reported over 3,000 child trafficking-related cases, which represented a 20 per cent increase over 2015.
Child trafficking is a crime against humanity and a criminal offence in all countries.
Australia was “a global leader” when it came to addressing the issue, Dr Halleitt said.
As a result of the report, DrHallett said it would be important for the federal government to increase funding for child protection services.
“If you’re talking about a huge global problem like child slavery, there’s always a concern that the funding could be cut off if there’s a significant decline in cases,” he said.
“It’s not an issue that can be solved by just having a single centre in the country, but that would be a good start.”
Child abuse, exploitation and child sexual exploitation (CSE) are often referred to as “child slavery” because the exploitation is carried out through child labour.
There is also a “cultural” component to child exploitation, with some victims living in rural areas and others in cities.
The problem of child trafficking in Australia is not new, but CEOP’s report points to an “unprecedented level of institutionalised child abuse in Australia”.
“We’re seeing these trends in the number of victims and the number who are being trafficked into commercial sex work and the exploitation of children in particular,” Dr Halsett said.
“The number of trafficking cases that we are seeing in Australia are not just the case of people living in remote areas but also people in cities.”
Child slavery can occur in many different forms, including through domestic servitude, sexual exploitation and commercial sexual exploitation.
Children are trafficked for their labour, which is considered a crime under Australian law.
According to the National Crime Agency, there were 3,053 child trafficking cases in Australia in 2016.
Domestic servitude and sexual exploitation can also be seen as child slavery.