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Reflections on the Australian Modern Slavery Act and Beyond

The Australian Modern Slavery Act 2018 is a big step towards putting human rights at the heart of business. It represents an important advancement for business and human rights, both regionally and further afield. The Act requires more than 3000 businesses and other entities to publish annual statements on actions to address modern slavery in their operations and supply chains on a Government-administered public register. The impacts of this new law are being felt not only in Australia but across the wider Asia-Pacific region, as well as in Europe and the Americas where similar legislative developments have either commenced, or are planned. In late November 2018, the Australian Modern Slavery Bill reached the final stages of the legislative process, being passed by the Australian Senate on 28 November, with the Government's amendments approved. Following a repeat passage through the House of Representatives on 29 November the Bill became law on 1 January 2019. Coinciding with the Bill's passage, three significant events were convened in Australia each examining, through a different lens, the role the Australian Modern Slavery Act will play in addressing breaches of human rights by business, and potential additional tools: (1) Australian Dialogue on Business and Human Rights; (2) UN Consultation on business and human rights, ‘through the gender lens’; and (3) Beyond Guidelines: Future Directions for Business & Human Rights in Australia. The Australian Dialogue is primarily a business orientated event, the Gender Lens event brought a specifically gendered analysis to the impacts of business and Beyond Guidelines was convened to advance civil society interests. In this curated blog series, we draw on these different perspectives to reflect broadly on Australia's new Modern Slavery Act and its implications for Australian businesses and investors, civil society and supply chain workers harmed by corporate practices. Collaborating partner: RMIT University Series guest editor: Ben Debney

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