Australia Takes Steps to Halt Child Exploitation Overseas
Projects Abroad, a major Australia-based voluntourism company, announced its initiative to cut all links with foreign orphanages. The company is one of the many that allow vacationers to volunteer in less developed countries around the world. Its care projects had included orphanage tourism, in which visitors would have the chance to volunteer and interact with children in foreign orphanages.
This initiative to cut ties with orphanages comes as the Australian Parliament is moving to implement a Modern Slavery Act, which would include restrictions on visits and donations to overseas orphanages.
Critics have argued that while they are well-intentioned, these visits and donations to orphanages result in institutionalization of children and child exploitation.
According to Lumos, a charity group founded by J.K. Rowling, the author of Harry Potter, ninety percent of the eight million children in residential institutions around the world are not orphans. Many are drafted from poor families, with promises of education. Some are separated from their parents in order to pay for the family’s generational debt.
According to the Guardian, children in these orphanages are oftentimes dressed to look poor in order to attract pity, and to draw donations. The director of the residence would later sell these donations in the market to make personal gain. Sinet Chan, a former resident of an orphanage in Cambodia, recalls hunting mice to survive, while dancing for tourists who visited them.
In Australia, a large number of high schools, universities, and religious institutions promote donation and visits to foreign orphanages. This includes fifty-one percent of all religious church attendees in Australia who contribute to institutional care overseas.
New measures are taken to combat institutionalization of children. Project Abroad announced it would be focusing on community-based care. Their programs include providing parents legal access to prevent separation of families.
Furthermore, Australian advocacy groups are putting effort to raise awareness of the issue regarding donations to orphanages. ReThink Orphanages, a group of NGOs and travel companies, is trying to redirect public attention towards reunification of separated families.
The Modern Slavery Act would force major companies located in Australia to disclose their engagement against modern slavery. In addition to banning domestic slavery, Senator Linda Reynolds is campaigning to include restrictions that ban orphanage tourism in the legislation.