A Sydney couple has been given jail terms and ordered to pay reparations totalling $70,000 to their victim after being convicted of slavery-like offences for keeping a woman in forced labour at their Sydney home and business for over three years.
The 39-year-old woman was sentenced to serve three years and three months in prison with a non-parole period of 14 months and ordered to pay $45,000 in reparations to the victim. The man was sentenced to serve two years and six months in prison and pay $25,000 in reparations to the victim.
His sentencing has been held over after the judge ordered a home detention assessment to determine whether his sentence would be served in prison or as an Intensive Corrections Order (ICO).
The Australian Federal Police (AFP) began investigating the matter in July 2017 after receiving a referral from Anti-Slavery Australia regarding a woman from the Philippines who travelled to Australia in May 2013 on a tourist visa.
Woman came to country to care for newborn child
Police alleged that the female victim was invited to Australia by the 39-year-old woman to provide assistance following the birth of a child. After three months when her visa expired, the couple told the victim she would not be allowed to return to the Philippines. She was instructed not to leave the premises on her own, or talk to people outside of the family.
The victim was directed to care for three children, prepare meals and clean the house. From 2014, the victim was also forced to work in a local business owned by the couple, in addition to her household and nanny duties. During this time, the victim was allegedly subject to significant hours of work with minimal pay.
Additionally, police alleged that the victim attended a local hospital for a medical procedure and was instructed by the couple to give a misleading statement to hospital staff in order to receive free public healthcare under the Medicare system. Upon her release, the victim was made to commence her duties the next day.
The couple exerted significant psychological control over the victim by engaging in repeated coercive and deceptive behaviour, forcing the woman to obey their instructions for fear that any refusal would lead to punishment. The couple constantly attempted to make the victim feel indebted to them by reminding her of the expenses they had paid to keep her in Australia.
Couple entered guilty pleas for a range of offences
In October 2020, the couple both entered guilty pleas for a range of offences, including the modern slavery charge of forced labour.
“It is apparent that there is a perception that human trafficking, slavery and slavery-like practices is not an Australian issue and that it does not occur in Australia,” said Detective Superintendent Paula Hudson of the AFP’s Human Trafficking specialist command.
“Nothing could be further from the truth. Human trafficking is occurring in Australia and it is everyone’s responsibility to identify and report [it].”
For the financial year 2019/2020, the AFP received 223 reports of human trafficking, slavery and slavery-like offences. So far this financial year the AFP has received 208 reports.