We are committed to combatting all aspects of human trafficking, slavery and unlawful exploitation of persons, including forced marriage. Crimes of these types exploit the weak and vulnerable for personal gain or profit. The AFP works as part of a comprehensive multi-agency strategy to ensure an effective approach is taken to prevent further instances of trafficking, protecting and supporting victims as well as prosecuting perpetrators.
Mark Weber, Justine Lea, Joanne Mooney, Daniel Thorne and Pitch Tangvisethpat are all members of the AFP’s Human Trafficking Team (HTT). They are based in Sydney but are responsible for investigating human trafficking allegations throughout Australia, working together with regional teams in Sydney and Melbourne, and other AFP members in Brisbane, Darwin, Perth and Adelaide.
Since 2003, the Australian government has taken a comprehensive, whole-of-government approach, implementing a strategy to eradicate all forms of human trafficking. In response, the AFP has appointed specialist teams to investigate trafficking or sexual exploitation offences.
Trafficking in persons means the recruitment, transportation, transfer and harbouring or receipt of persons by means of threat or the use of force or other forms of coercion (including abduction, deception, abuse of power, abuse of a position, fraud, vulnerability, giving or receiving of payments or benefits to achieve the consent of a person, or having control over another person), for the purpose of ongoing exploitation. AFP initiatives reflect the four central pillars of Australia’s anti-human trafficking strategy:
- detection and investigation
- criminal prosecution, and
- victim support and rehabilitation.
Mark Weber has been a Police Officer for over 15 years with the AFP and Victoria Police. For the past year he has been attached to the AFP’s Human Trafficking Team in Sydney and is passionate about his work in the area of victim-based crime. He has attained several qualifications including an Advanced Diploma of Public Safety (Police Investigations) and has developed strong specialist skills that include interviewing vulnerable witnesses as well as investigating victim-based crime such as human trafficking, sexual violence and child abuse. Mark constantly strives to strengthen relationships with local and international law enforcement agencies, non-government organisations and other stakeholders within this area to provide better response, support and awareness to all victims. He says, ‘We often see people at the worst times of their lives. It’s nice to know that by just being there, listening, regardless of all else, we can help.’
Justine Lea has been a police officer for over 11 years with the AFP, with experience across a wide variety of portfolios including Serious and Organised Crime and Professional Standards. For the past two years she has been attached to the HTT in Sydney. Justine finds that the opportunity to work in an area such as human trafficking brings with it unique challenges. As a team, she and her colleagues endeavour to raise awareness of this form of crime amongst law enforcement agencies and also in the community.
Joanne Mooney has been with the AFP for ten years, working in both General Duties policing at Sydney Airport, and also in an investigatory role in People Smuggling before joining the HTT. Joanne says, ‘Trafficking was always an area I was interested in working in.The way you handle each job is unique and requires a certain amount of compassion and empathy, whilst still keeping professional and not letting emotions cloud judgement. Even when it feels like all hope is lost and there is nothing we (the AFP) can do, it is rewarding to know that we can point people in the right direction to commence their healing process. Sometimes, when the victim feels like they have nowhere to go, it gives me great satisfaction to know that I have still helped them in some way.’
Daniel Thorne has been attached to the AFP since 2001, until recently working as an Aviation Police Officer at Sydney Airport. Daniel believes that the most noticeable aspect of his new role with the HTT is dealing with victims on a personal level. He finds that with each victim and each case there is a unique challenge, trying to protect and care for the victim, while at the same time achieving a conviction.
Pitch Tangvisethpat has been attached to the AFP for 26 years and has been working with the HTT in Sydney for the past eight years as an Intelligence Officer. Pitch provides extensive intelligence support to the entire team across all investigations. As he is fluent in five Asian languages, he also provides invaluable linguistic support to Investigators.
The team’s vision is a future where no one is subjected to human trafficking or slavery. In striving for this, they and the AFP are committed to addressing the full cycle of human trafficking, both domestically and internationally. They will continue to forge strong partnerships and alliances to stop trafficking. They will also continue to build awareness-raising initiatives and develop educational strategies for vulnerable groups, frontline responders and the general community – to combat crimes that try to curtail any person’s fundamental human right to freedom.