Australian conferences and incentives travelling overseas incorporating Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) visiting orphanages in a bid to ‘do good’ is allowing modern slavery in their supply chains.

New Australian laws enacted in August 2017 established the Modern Slavery Act banning tourists from visiting orphanages. The Federal enquiry into modern slavery aims to cut the supply of Australian money to institutions and redirect it to help reintegrate children into their home communities.

Coined, ‘volunteerism’, well meaning, unskilled tourists paying to help at orphanages inadvertently do more harm than good. The practice has fuelled a complex supply and demand chain creating a Global Orphanage Crisis with the number of orphanages doubling in the past 5 years, where an estimated eight million children live. Multiple studies show that more than 80% of children in orphanages around the world have at least one living parent and almost all have families who should be caring for them.

In Cambodia, research shows that institutions like orphanages harm children and having strong family bonds is crucial for the child’s psychological and cultural wellbeing. The Convention on the Rights of the Child state that, ‘any child who is temporality or permanently deprived of his or her biological family, has the right to grow up in another family or in a family-like environment.’ In Australia family based care and foster families are standard children’s welfare practice.

Tara Winkler, Co-founder of CCT, Managing Director and TEDx speaker, who submitted to the parliamentary enquiry into Modern Slavery, experienced this first hand when she volunteered at an orphanage in Cambodia in 2007 and upon her return to Australia realised that the Director was abusive to the children and returned to Cambodia to rescue the children to start her own orphanage. As she developed the Cambodian language and trust of the children, she understood the majority of the orphans had families therefore, making them ‘economic’ orphans. Tara chose to close the original orphanage and develop a Family-Based Care Model and is now a passionate advocate of banning orphanages.

Long-time supporter of CCT, Ron Anderson, Managing Director of Unicorn Group, Australian based conference organiser, says, many Australian delegates travelling overseas, “all want to make a difference in the world, however sometimes the best intentions actually cause harm. For an incentive CSR, the supply chain must be educated in how to adopt ‘Advocacy Tourism’ not Volunteerism’ from CEO’s, PCOs, Destination Management Companies (DMCs), hotels, local charities & NGOs.”

Another donor to CCT, Mary-Jane Devine, Director of Fusion Marketing, a sales representation agency for conference & incentive suppliers says, ‘for conference and incentives, all stakeholders need to understand how to be part of the solution and what they can do good. For example, groups can still have a team building activity to donate money to NGOs, support women’s cottage industries or support family-based community programs however, do not visit orphanages as part of your program.

Further information can be sourced at Born to Belong Foundation