Be Careful What You Pay For

On June 1, 2011, the UQ Trafficking in Persons Working Group launched the ‘Be Careful What You Pay For’ campaign to raise awareness about the reality of trafficking in persons in Australia. This campaign, produced in conjunction with Changing Directions Films LLC, involves a short film, posters and postcards, social media , and a series of campaign events around Australia and overseas. The campaign is proudly supported by the Australian Federal Police and the Queensland Law Society .

Director: Courtney Campbell, Changing Directions LLC , Portland, OR
Cinematography: David R Jones , Los Angeles, CA
Executive Producer: Andreas Schloenhardt, TC Beirne School of Law, UQ
© The University of Queensland, 2011.

Download a complete outline of the campaign concept and background (PDF, 846KB).


Education and awareness raising play an important role in preventing trafficking in persons, recognising instances of trafficking in persons by law enforcement agencies and the wider public, enabling and facilitating the reporting of cases, and in outlining relevant government initiatives, support systems, helplines and the like. Accordingly, awareness and education campaigns feature prominently in domestic anti-trafficking strategies and in international law and best practice guidelines.

Article 9(1) of the Protocol to Prevent, Suppress, and Punish Trafficking in Persons, especially Women and Children (the ‘Trafficking in Persons Protocol’) requires Signatories to establish policies, programs, and other measures to prevent and combat trafficking in persons and protect victims from re-victimization. This should also include legislative, educational, social and other measures to discourage the demand that fosters all forms of exploitation of persons that leads to trafficking. The Protocol specifically encourages State Parties to instigate mass media campaigns and collaborate broadly with non-government organisations and other elements of civil society in creating and conducting awareness and education campaigns.

The need for a new campaign

In 2010, the UQ Trafficking in Persons Working Group critically analysed over forty international and Australian awareness campaigns on the issue. This research confirmed that the lack of reliable data and comprehensive accounts of the true extent and nature of trafficking in persons in Australia has been a major impediment to awareness raising attempts by a variety of government and non-government entities. Anecdotal evidence, media reports, and statistical estimates without proper evidentiary bases have often constituted the main sources of information on which previous awareness campaigns were built. This has led, in some instances, to misinformation and exaggerations, much to the detriment of the fight against trafficking in persons. The content of this campaign revolves around the commodification of human beings, many past Australian campaigns superimpose information from foreign and international sources onto the domestic setting, thus failing to recognise local dimensions and characteristics of the problem.

Moreover, many campaigns are driven by political, religious, or ideological agendas or are motivated by the need to raise funds for certain organisations and their activities. Existing campaigns also focus almost exclusively on trafficking in persons into the commercial sex industry and do not adequately reflect the full spectrum of the phenomenon as recognised in the Trafficking in Persons Protocol.

Other research also confirms that the Australian public has a comparatively poor understanding of the characteristics of trafficking in persons and that many perceptions of the issue are based on myths and anecdotes rather than fact. There is also evidence that a large portion of the public is unaware of the proper reporting mechanisms to use if they encounter trafficking in persons.[1] In addition, studies have shown that the public’s perception of trafficking in persons is largely restricted to portrayals of a particular archetypal of victim. Some members of the public also remain suspicious as to the immigration motives of victims.[2] These attitudes towards trafficking in persons are symptomatic of the prevalence of depictions of the issue in the media — and in many awareness campaigns — that rely on myth and stereotype.

How does this campaign differ?

The ‘Be Careful What You Pay For’ campaign distinguishes itself from previous campaigns by referring consistently to verifiable open-source documentation in order to maximise its effectiveness and truthfulness. Based on extensive research and consultation with key stakeholders and experts, this campaign develops a set of informed, balanced, and evidence-based awareness and education tools. Furthermore, this campaign is not led by ideology or by a desire to raise funds or revenue. It also explores the full spectrum of trafficking in persons in Australia as manifested in documented cases.

This campaign:

  1. Demystifies the issue by relying on actual, document cases of trafficking in persons in Australia
  2. Corrects public perceptions held towards the issue by exploring the full spectrum of trafficking in persons in Australia
  3. Changes consumer behaviour by better informing the public of the demand aspect that drives trafficking in person.


The content of this campaign revolves around the commodification of human beings. The fundamental message of the ‘Be Careful What You Pay For’ campaign is that trafficking in persons is a crime that is demand driven; consumer decisions are the principal factor determining the extent of trafficking in persons in Australia.

To that end, the campaign depicts persons as products, using images of every day household items to reflect or insinuate cases of trafficking in persons and the exploitation of human beings for sexual purposes, forced labour, domestic servitude, illegal adoptions, et cetera.

Each ‘product’ displayed in the campaign is based on a real (and reported) case of trafficking in persons in Australia (and is referenced accordingly, thus avoiding unverifiable statements).

Get Involved

We welcome opportunities to present our campaign and provide further background about the campaign and the topic of trafficking in persons to audiences across Australia and overseas. Please contact us with further queries.

If you suspect a person in you neighbourhood may be a victim of trafficking in persons, you can report this matter to the Australian Federal Police at or by calling 131AFP.

[1]   The Body Shop and Child Wise, Community Attitudes on Sex Trafficking of Children and Young People (2010) 14.
[2]   Erica Kotnik et al, ‘Human Trafficking in Australia: The Challenge of Responding to Suspicious Activities’ (2007) 42 Australian Journal of Social Issues 370, 376.