As part of the latest event in the Kiah Consulting Elevating Excellence program, Kiah Consulting managing director John Glenn introduced a member of the program who he said reflected the culture and behaviour of his organisation – Mechelle Moore, CEO of not-for-profit organisation Global Alms Inc.
Based on the Thai-Myanmar border, Global Alms is focused on tackling the challenge of human trafficking, sexual exploitation and the physical abuse of men, women and children. And for Moore, it’s a long way from her previous life in the Australian public service.
Moore joins an Olympian and early childhood development specialist as people of excellence Kiah Consulting has introduced to their audience. As part of a webinar hosted in Canberra on March 25, Moore explained why her work matters.
Human trafficking is everywhere
In 2011, Moore first heard statistics on the number of people trafficked annually – a number she called “staggering”.
“It’s in the millions,” Moore said. “It’s a global problem – not just an Australian or an Asian problem. Globally it affects everyone. For example, in 2007 the trafficking industry generated $32 billion. That’s more than Nike, Google and Starbucks combined.”
In the past 13 years, Moore said, that number would have grown. In Australia, she said, the problem is hidden in cafes, restaurants, retailers, manufacturing and more. But as most people are uneducated on what to look for, the problem continues.
“Trafficking happens, 24/7, 365 days a year and it’s in every postcode,” Moore said. “When I first heard that, I thought ‘is it really?’ But personally I think it is and there are statistics to prove it.”
Moore believes modern slavery acts, including federal and state legislation, are “a great start” and will make a big difference when they are put into practice. But she said that in the interim, it can make a bad situation worse.
“It will work, in the long term, for the Western world, but on the other side of it where international communities are impacted, there are no safeguards in place to protect those people that end up losing their jobs, and there is no protection from exploitation. When a factory is shut down because they are not meeting requirements [under modern slavery legislation], you have hundreds or thousands of people out of work.”
This, Moore said, then leads to a higher crime rate as people become desperate to survive, and they are at higher risk of further exploitation.
“It is very rare to go from one bad situation into a better situation. So there is an on flow that is going to happen – and is potentially starting to happen now.”
Creating a safety net
The work of Global Alms is designed to create a safety net while modern slavery acts seek to make an impact. Global Alms supports people to protect themselves from exploitation through reality based self-defence classes, as well as working directly with the Royal Thai Police to support investigations of trafficking and exploitation. Being an advocate for those who have been exploited and facilitate access to services that will help them escape a downward cycle is an important service required today.
And it is a service that requires Moore and her team to build a strong reputation for an ethical approach that puts the needs of local communities first.
“It’s takes a long time to build a reputation in Thailand – you have to be consistent and put in the time,” Moore said. “We were warned not to break any laws or do anything corrupt, and to follow the law. When we come across corruption, we stand our ground and challenge the people involved to do the right thing. We don’t give in or pay, just to make it easier.”
The impact of this strategy has seen Global Alms and Moore gain a reputation of excellence – so much so that Moore received the Thai Citizen Volunteer Excellence Award from the Thai Government in November last year.
Stopping human trafficking at home
While Global Alms is fighting trafficking and human exploitation on the Thai-Myanmar border, Moore said there was important action to take at home and be aware that low conviction rates of trafficking does not mean it does not exist.
“There are low conviction rates in Australia, but if you look at the 2018 UNODC Global Report on Trafficking in Persons there are also low conviction rates in Thailand,” she said. “These are only the reported cases with convictions, not all cases. They can come to Australia under legal visas and then be taken advantage of within our own country.”
Simple things you can do include changing your personal attitude towards exploitation of workers and to use your voice.
“The question that I am asking people now is are you participating?” Moore asked of the audience. “Always donate towards people working on the ground if you can, but when you see corruption in front of you, gender-based violence or someone at risk, speak up and say something. You can change the world, right here, right now.”