UQ Trafficking in Persons Working Group
Government Agencies

Multiple government agencies implement, execute, and administer Australia’s policies on trafficking in persons. This website outlines the key roles of these government agencies and how they cooperate to meet the government’s objectives of preventing human trafficking, detecting and prosecuting offenders, and providing support for victims.

Attorney-General’s Department

The Commonwealth Attorney-General’s Department leads and coordinates Australia’s whole-of-government approach to combatting trafficking in persons.

In this role, the Attorney-General’s Department chairs the Interdepartmental Committee on Human Trafficking and Slavery (IDC). Established in March 2003, this Committee brings together federal agencies tasked with preventing and suppressing trafficking in persons in Australia. Together with its subcommittee, the Operational Working Group on Human Trafficking and Slavery, and a National Roundtable that serves as a consultative body between government, non-governmental organisations (NGOs), business, industry, academia, and unions, the IDC governs and monitors the government’s National Action Plan to Combat Human Trafficking and Slavery 2015–2019.

The Attorney-General’s Department also develops and monitors relevant anti-trafficking laws and certain processes under the Human Trafficking Visa Framework, administers the Proceeds of Crime Act 2002 (Cth), funds NGOs working to combat trafficking; supports victims, including minors, and raises community awareness on the systems and support mechanisms in place.

Australian Border Force

The Australian Border Force (ABF) was created in July 2015 and is the ‘front-line operational agency’ for the Department of Immigration and Border Protection (DIBP). The ABF has ‘significant service and enforcement functions’ to fulfil its mandate of protecting and securing Australia’s border.

In the context of trafficking in persons, the ABF enforces customs and immigration laws and maintains ‘the integrity of Australia’s visa programme’. In addition, ABF officers stationed overseas are tasked with the detection and deterrence of human trafficking to Australia.

Australian Institute of Criminology

The Australian Institute of Criminology (AIC), a statutory government agency based in Canberra, has a mandate from the Australian government to monitor national and regional trafficking in persons and to conduct extensive research in this field.

In 2015–16 the AIC piloted the Human Trafficking, Slavery and Slavery-Like Practices Monitoring Program ‘to improve and standardise’ the collation, preparation, and analysis of statistical and qualitative data on the trafficking of persons and slavery, as provided by Australian government and non-government agencies.

Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade

The Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade (DFAT) has three roles pertaining to trafficking in persons: operational roles pertaining to passports and to the provision of consular assistance to victims or perpetrators of trafficking; and an advisory role pertaining to the application of bilateral and multilateral agreements.

Australia aims to be a ‘regional leader’ and to foster both regional and international cooperation in preventing the trafficking in persons. Prominent among Australia’s efforts to meet these goals are:

The Office of the Ambassador for Women and Girls, established in 2011 within DFAT, attempts to eradicate the trafficking of women and girls through international advocacy.

Department of Immigration and Border Protection

In July 2015 the Australian Department of Immigration and Border Protection (DIBP) and its ‘operational enforcement arm’, the Australian Border Force, were established following the integration of the Australian Customs and Border Protection Service and the Department of Immigration and Border Protection.

The DIBP is the principal agency involved in monitoring and controlling the cross-border movement of goods and people, providing frontline immigration control services at border-control points at Australia’s airports and seaports. The DIBP controls and manages Australia’s immigration and visa systems. Under the Human Trafficking Visa Framework, established in 2004, the department can grant visas to victims of trafficking, which then enables these individuals to access the Support for Trafficked People Program.

The department has immigration compliance teams in every Australian capital city as well as compliance officers overseas. DIBP officials are trained to recognise ‘the indicators of human trafficking’ and refer suspected cases to the Australian Federal Police (AFP). A referral protocol between the department and the AFP specifies the procedures to be followed in these instances.

Australian Criminal Intelligence Commission

The Australian Criminal Intelligence Commission (ACIC) was established on 1 July 2016, when the Australian Crime Commission (ACC) joined CrimTrac, a national information service utilised by the Australian police, to form a cross-jurisdictional statutory authority to combat serious and organised crime.

In the context of trafficking in persons, ACIC provides intelligence, investigation, and criminal database services, and will continue the ACC’s role of assessing human trafficking and related crime.

Australian Federal Police

The Australian Federal Police (AFP) is Australia’s premier federal law enforcement agency and as such is the main authority responsible for the investigation of trafficking in persons.  In 2004 the AFP established dedicated anti-trafficking investigation teams in several state capitals, called Transnational Sexual Exploitation and Trafficking Teams (TSETTs). The TSETTs united investigators and specialist analysts to target human trafficking. 

In 2011 the AFP developed a specialist investigations and training program covering legislation, investigation, trafficking trends, intelligence targeting, and victim liaison. On 1 June 2011, the TSETTs became the Human Trafficking Teams (HTTs) ‘to better reflect the full spectrum of people trafficking offences.’

The AFP also trains all AFP investigators ‘to identify and investigate human-trafficking related offences’, and like the DIBP, it posts officers overseas for detection and deterrence purposes.

Commonwealth Director of Public Prosecutions

The Commonwealth Director of Public Prosecutions (CDPP) is responsible for prosecuting federal offences, including those relating to trafficking in persons under Divisions 270 and 271 of the Criminal Code (Cth). In this role, the CDPP liaises with a variety of Australian government agencies, such as the Department of Social Services.

Department of Social Services

The Department of Social Services administers the Support for Trafficked People Program, which assists victims of human trafficking, slavery, and slavery-like practices and is delivered by the Australian Red Cross.

Clients receive an individual case manager who facilitates the provision of required support services, such as accommodation, financial assistance, counselling, and referrals for legal and migration advice.

Fair Work Ombudsman

The Fair Work Ombudsman (FWO) provides ‘education, assistance, and advice’ regarding Australia’s workplace relations system and investigates non-compliance with Australian law, including the underpayment or non-payment of wages and entitlements. The FWO has an enforcement function that brings it in contact with cases of trafficking in persons, which are then referred to the AFP for further investigation.