Philippines national allegedly unlawfully detained for three years

Rockdale couple face court following allegations of forced labour

A Rockdale couple who allegedly detained a Philippines national for three years forcing her to do unpaid work as a carer ad cleaner will appear before Downing Centre Local Court today, Tuesday.

The 37-year-old woman and 46-year-old man from Rockdale were served with court attendance notices by Australian Federal Police (AFP)on October 24 following an investigation into allegations of forced labour.

In July 2017 the AFP received a referral from Anti-Slavery Australia regarding a Philippines national who travelled to Australia in May 2013 on a tourist visa valid for three months.

The female victim was allegedly invited to Australia by the 37-year-old woman to provide assistance following the birth of a child.

Police will allege in court that after three months the victim was told by the couple she would not be allowed to return to the Philippines.

Her passport was taken and she was unable to leave the premises un-accompanied.

It will be further alleged the victim was forced to be a carer and cleaner for the couple, and from 2015 the victim was also forced to work in a local business owned by the couple.

During this time the victim was allegedly subject to significant hours of work with no pay.

Police will also allege the victim attended Sutherland Hospital for a medical procedure and was instructed by the couple to give a misleading statement to hospital staff. Upon her release the victim was told she owed a debt for medical expenses to the couple and she would have to repay it by working for the family.

In October 2016 the victim fled the Rockdale residence but remained in the local community.

The matter was brought to the attention of the AFP following an alleged assault against the victim by the 37-year-old woman.

She has now been charged with:

  • Cause a person to enter into or remain in forced labour (maximum penalty 12 years imprisonment).
  • Deceive another person about entry involving exploitation (maximum penalty 12 years imprisonment).
  • Harbouring an unlawful non-citizen (maximum penalty 10 years imprisonment)
  • Make or authorise a false statement for benefits (maximum penalty 5 years imprisonment).

The 46-year-old man has been charged with:

  • Conduct a business involving forced labour (maximum penalty 12 years imprisonment).
  • Harbouring an unlawful non-citizen
  • Make or authorise a false statement for benefits

AFP Manager National Response Operations, Commander Jason Williams, said investigators remain committed to prosecuting perpetrators of forced labour and slavery.

"Investigations like this take a long time to get to prosecution and at every stage of the investigation, the health and wellbeing of the victim is of utmost importance," Commander Williams said.

"These victims have often been abused and forced to work in reprehensible conditions. Successful human trafficking and slavery prosecutions rely heavily on the victim and their courage to speak up about the horrors they have faced."