Australian construction and property industries tackle modern slavery
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Australian construction and property industries tackle modern slavery

On the international day of remembrance of victims of slavery, new research reveals the lengths Australian property and construction businesses are going to to end the scourge

Mon, Mar 25, 2024 11:44amGrey Clock 3 min

Concerns about modern slavery usually focus on the garment and technology sectors but new research in Australia has focused on ways of identifying and dealing with the scourge in construction supply chains.

The Property Sector’s Modern Slavery Act Response Research Project is a joint project between Bond University, Better Sydney and Informed 365, an Australian tech company focused on monitoring compliance and supply chain transparency under the Australian Modern Slavery Act 2018. 

The Act mandates annual reporting for companies with revenues of more than $100 million. The Global Slavery Index 2022 estimates that modern slavery accounts for nearly 50 million worldwide. Since the Act was introduced, company boards have been held responsible for public statements made by their companies on their abilities to assess and manage the risk of modern slavery in supply chains. The construction industry is considered to be particularly vulnerable thanks to the lack of visibility over long and complex supply chains, as well as the high demand for a low-skill labour force.

The research project, released to coincide with the International Day of Remembrance for the Victims of Slavery, was tasked with examining the Australian industry’s ability to cope with assessing and managing reports of slavery in the supply chain. It follows on from the launch of the Property Council Supplier Platform in 2019 by the Property Council of Australia and Informed 365 to provide a digital platform for the local property and construction sector to collect, compare and understand supply chain data on human rights and modern slavery. 

Supply chain slavery issues are notoriously complex to identify but Property Council national policy director Francesca Muskovic said modern slavery in construction impacts millions of people in Australia and abroad and needed to be addressed at a national level.

“Our industry provides jobs for more than 1.4 million Australians – more than mining and manufacturing combined. This extensive influence places us in a unique position to address the social impacts of our activities and improve people’s lives,” Ms Muskovic said.

She said despite the challenges, the Australian construction and property industry sought to improve human rights outcomes both here and overseas.  

Property Council national policy director Francesca Muskovic

“Our supply chains are geographically diverse, multi-tiered and complex. Understanding the human rights and modern slavery risks within them is essential in helping the industry make their supply chains more ethical and sustainable,” Ms Muskovic said. 

“The property sector has forged a world-leading position on environmental sustainability, and it is pleasing to see leaders continue to step up their efforts on social sustainability.”

The research revealed that while 88 percent of suppliers to Australia’s leading construction and property firms understand what modern slavery is and 44 percent reported they had processes in place if a human rights incident or modern slavery was identified, smaller firms were less prepared.

“Many smaller firms were not aware of supply chain issues due to a lack of engagement, resources or audits, so there were mixed results in terms of supply chain mapping and risk assessment,” said Robin Mellon, CEO of Better Sydney, Board member for the UN Global Compact Network Australia, and Project Manager for the Property Council’s Human Rights and Modern Slavery Working Group.

CEO of Better Sydney Robin Mellon

“The report found 56 percent of suppliers who assessed their supply chains beyond their own immediate suppliers found some human rights issues or concerns, showing how important it is to investigate all levels of supply chains.”

Designed to better understand the challenges, strengths and opportunities for the property sector to improve its response to slavery, the research is part of Australia’s ongoing contribution to eradicating it worldwide. 

Mr Mellon said access to resource materials are key to helping property and construction businesses stay informed.

“There are now excellent learning materials available through the Property Council, the UN Global Compact Network Australia, and anti-slavery organisations to help engage, educate and support suppliers towards continuous improvement,” he said.


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There are 10 local council areas scattered along the East Coast of Australia that offer both affordability and solid fundamentals for sustainable future growth, according to the research team at residential property network, PRD. The areas have been selected based on five criterion. They are affordability – defined as a median house price below $600,000, rising house values, strong rental yields to encourage investment, a strong pipeline of residential, commercial and infrastructure projects to facilitate local economic development, and low unemployment.

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Mackay, QLD

Mackay is a tropical coastal area located in north Queensland. It’s known for its closeconnection to the Great Barrier Reef. The median house price is $462,750, up 8.9 percent in 2023. Mackay attracts a lot of interstate migrants and is home to more than 120,000 people. It has a healthy economy with an unemployment rate of 3.7 percent and $1.7 billion worth of projects due to commence this year.

Toowoomba, QLD

The Toowoomba median house price was up 10.9 percent in 2023.

Toowoomba is located west of Brisbane and is known for its Victorian buildings, street artand surrounding national parks. The median house price is $560,000, up 10.9 percent in 2023. The city has a population of more than 180,000. The unemployment rate is 4 percentand there is $6.1 billion in projects commencing in 2024.

Townsville, QLD

Townsville is a coastal city in north-eastern Queensland. The median house price is $420,000, up 5 percent in 2023. It is home to more than 200,000 people. Unemployment is very low at 2.5 percent and there is $3.2 billion of projects commencing this year.

Dubbo, NSW

Dubbo is located west of Newcastle in the Orana Region and is home to the Western Plains Zoo. The median house price is $530,000, up 11.6 percent in 2023. The population has exploded in recent years to more than 56,000 people. The unemployment rate is just 2.2percent and the economy is thriving. There is a pipeline of $4.7 billion in projects commencing this year.

Tamworth, NSW

Located in north-east NSW, Tamworth is known for its popular annual Country Music Festival. It’s also the largest retail centre for the New England and Northwest Slopes regions. The median house price is $490,000, up 14 percent in 2023. With a population of more than 65,000 people, the economy is strong with unemployment of just 2 percent and $112.4million worth of projects commencing this year.

Griffith, NSW

Located west of Sydney and northwest of Canberra, Griffith is known for its prime produce production and wine cultivation. The median house price is $531,000, up 2.1 percent in 2023. Griffith’s population is about 27,000 people. The city boasts high economic resilience with a 2 percent unemployment rate and $258.7 million in projects in the pipeline.

Ballarat, VIC

Ballarat, Victoria

Ballarat is a 1.5hour drive west of Melbourne. It’s popular with city commuters who move here for housing affordability and a relaxed lifestyle with easy access to the city via train. The median house price is $570,000, down 4.2 percent in 2023 but up 92.9 percent over the past decade. The city has the third highest population in Victoria at about 118,000. Ballarat has an unemployment rate of 3 percent and a total projects pipeline worth $2.3 billion for 2024.

Shepparton, VIC

Shepparton is a rural area about two hours north of Melbourne. It is popularly referred to as the food bowl of Australia. The median house price is $475,000, up 4.4 percent in 2023. The population is about 70,000. The unemployment rate is just 2 percent and there is $1.8 billion in projects for 2024.

Wodonga, VIC

Wodonga is located on the border of NSW on the southern side of the Murray River. It is approximately 320km from Melbourne and 345km from Canberra. The median house price is $567,250, up 4.7 percent in 2023. With a population of about 44,000, the city’s jobless rate is 3 percent and there is $388.2 million in development set to commence in 2024, primarily new infrastructure.

Burnie, TAS

Burnie is a bustling port city located in Emu Bay in Tasmania’s north-west. Overlooking beaches and parklands, the area is known for its rich agriculture and mining projects. The median house price is $435,000, up 3.6 percent. Despite a rising population, the unemployment rate is falling and is currently 5.6 percent. In 2024, Burnie’s project pipeline is valued at approximately $1.6 billion. A significant portion is commercial development, primarily renewable energy projects.


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