Sydney tackles forced marriages

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A forced marriage awareness and prevention initiative has been launched at Sydney Airport, Australia’s busiest airport, with the roll-out of ‘Project Skywarp’.

Travelers passing through Sydney Airport over the next six months will see custom-designed posters across bathrooms in the domestic and international terminals, as well as on key digital screens.

The posters encourage readers to learn more about forced marriage, helping them to understand that forcing someone into a non-consensual marriage is against the law in Australia. It also informs them how to report information to the Australian Federal Police (AFP), and encourages referrals to support services available through Anti-Slavery Australia’s My Blue Sky website.

This pilot prevention initiative is a partnership between the AFP and Anti-Slavery Australia (ASA), supported by Sydney Airport.

The project aims to raise awareness of forced marriage in the Australian community and to highlight where victims can get help, while bringing together government, advocacy and advice services, and corporate supporters with the aim of eliminating all forms of human trafficking and modern slavery.

Forced marriage was introduced as an offense into the Commonwealth Criminal Code in 2013. The number of forced marriage referrals to the AFP has been increasing as awareness of the issue grows and becomes reported: In the 2018/2019 financial year, there were 91 reports across Australia, compared with 11 in 2013/2014 when the offense was first introduced.

Sydney Airport is Australia’s busiest airport, with over 44.4 million passengers passing through each year, and was selected as the launch site to ensure the maximum level of effectiveness for the awareness initiative.

Washroom advertising was chosen, as bathrooms are often the only places in an airport that passengers at risk of being taken overseas for forced marriage may be on their own and able to access information in a private space.

AFP assistant commissioner Debbie Platz, national manager Crime Operations, hopes the initiative will brings an often unspoken practice into the spotlight.

“This project highlights the importance of joining with private industry partners and sharing in the understanding that complex issues such as forced marriage cannot be simply prosecution-focused.

“Supporting people in Australia who are at risk of forced marriages – particularly vulnerable teenagers – is crucial, as we recognize that disruption and deterrence can have a far-reaching and lasting impact in our communities,” she said.

Sydney Airport CEO Geoff Culbert said he was proud to play a role in helping shine a light on this complex issue.

He added, “Project Skywarp is an initiative that we are proud to support. We applaud the focus that the AFP is bringing to the important and difficult issue of forced marriage and we look forward to supporting their efforts to create lasting change.”

Project Skywarp will run its first phase over the next six months at Sydney Airport, with further opportunities for collaboration revisited in 2020.

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Tara has worked for UKi Media & Events since 2013, initially as a freelancer. She has been a journalist for over a decade and has worked for a range of publications, including Personnel Today, Management Today and The Grocer.

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