While Catholic social teaching is fundamental, McCarthy, who also served as Australia’s ambassador to the Vatican from 2012 to 2016, said the document is more than a position paper. Signatory organizations, such as the Sydney Archdiocese’s Catholic schools, identify areas of risk and the measures they will take to eradicate supplies tainted by slavery. The compendium is a work in progress, said attorney John McCarthy, chair of the Sydney Archdiocese’s Anti-Slavery Taskforce and a driving force in its compilation. The idea for a compendium emerged from the task force, which Sydney Archbishop Anthony Fisher established in 2017. At that time — and before federal legislation was introduced — Fisher committed the archdiocese to work toward eradicating modern-day slavery from its operations and supply chains.
Australian Catholic institutions, including extensive education and health care networks, generate an estimated AU$22.3 billion (US$16.5 billion) in annual revenue, spend an estimated AU$6.3 billion (US$4.6 billion) in procurement of supplies and services and employ more than 156,000 workers. The compendium includes statements from 33 Catholic entities, such as hospitals and school systems, outlining measures they are taking to become slavery-free in areas such as procurement and employment. More statements will be solicited as other Catholic organizations join the network, known as ACAN.
The International Labor Organization estimates that more than 40 million people globally live in modern-day slavery, with children thought to make up about a quarter of those being victimized. Modern-day slavery represents AU$202.5 billion (US$150 billion) in annual business. The Australian Border Force uploaded the Compendium of Modern Slavery Statements 2020, developed by the Australian Catholic Anti-Slavery Network, to the National Public Register June 26, effectively making the document a model for businesses and organizations in complying with the 2018 Modern Slavery Act.
A key achievement of the compendium, McCarthy said, has been the extensive identification of areas of risk for organizations to consider. “We don’t rely on anecdotal evidence anymore,” he said. “We now know where our major risks are and what to do about them.” ACAN participants concur that eradicating slavery in all its forms is an expression of fundamental Catholic social teaching.
While addressing areas of potential cooperation with slavery by the archdiocese, the task force also proposed a national network of Catholic agencies and institutions, which became ACAN. The archbishop has spearheaded anti-slavery efforts since his appointment by Pope Francis in 2014. The pope has decried slavery as “an open wound on modern society” and a “crime against humanity.”
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