Review | Addressing Modern Slavery

Title: Addressing Modern Slavery
Author: Justine Nolan and Martijn Boersma
Published: September 2019
Publisher: New South Books
Category: Non-fiction



Addressing Modern Slavery by Justine Nolan and Marijn Boersma offers a birds-eye view of modern slavery. The work exposes the flaws in global supply chains and speaks on how societies and individuals can quit being complicit.

Addressing Modern Slavery_The Garret_Review

In Australia, we often view access to globally sourced goods as an enhancement to our quality of life.

However, the people making these goods don’t always have the same experience. Nolan and Boersma, both academics, take this reality and contextualise how unconscious consumer behaviours are linked to, and indeed drive, modern slavery.

Addressing Modern Slavery explores the pervasiveness of exploitation. For example, the expensive tech products so often bought, replaced and upgraded in Australia contain rare earth elements mined by children in the Democratic Republic of Congo (and elsewhere). However, a lack of transparency and accountability means that many consumers – even socially conscious consumers – remain unaware.

Addressing Modern Slavery outlines the roles civil society, business and consumers can play in bring modern slavery to an end. Each of the five chapters examines an aspect of modern slavery – its global nature, the implications of lengthening global supply chains, the emergence of corporate social conscience, the place of law and regulation in tackling modern slavery and the parts of society at the front of the fight against it.

The point of the book is that knowing more about modern slavery will help to stifle it. Readers are prompted to reconsider their brand loyalties and policy preferences regarding ethical accountability of supply chains. What the reader chooses to do next is up to them, be it on a smaller scale through company boycott or on a larger political scale of activism or regulatory changes within business.

The research is grounded by statistics and brought to life by case studies, and despite the academic nature of the work it has an emotional impact. The case studies of modern slavery personalise what could otherwise seem too abstract for an Australian audience. For example, the reader is asked to consider a car wash service. If you are getting your car washed and the number of people washing the car on minimum wage is not what you pay for that car wash, you can be sure exploitation is occurring.

While the work does not provide a step by step guide for how-to-end modern-slavery, it demonstrates the enormity of the problem and indicates the need for reform.

If you are not already concerned by global inequality and opaque supply chains, you should be. Addressing Modern Slavery provides all the evidence you need.

Reviewed by Violette Bagot, a student in RMIT University’s Bachelor of Arts (Creative Writing) as part of the RMIT Reviews series.