Unlawful workers: Exploitation and regulation

This project examines the experiences of migrant workers, employers, NGOs and other key stakeholders in regional Australia with a specific focus on the impact of migration and labour regulation enforcement.


The interim report – Exploited and Illegal: Unlawful migrant workers in Australia  – seeks to draw attention primarily to the issue of unlawful migrant work in Australia; to debunk some key myths around this population; and to raise a challenge to policy makers and legislators to look towards a future that will enable impact labour reform to be achieved – reform that will reduce the levels of exploitation and modern slavery occurring within Australia.

You can download the interim report here.

See also Assoc. Prof. Marie Segrave’s piece in The Conversation, July 2017

This is an emerging area of research in Australia and will be part of the focus of Marie Segrave’s forthcoming book, Trafficking, Migration and Labour Exploitation (Routledge).

Marie Segrave’s current ARC DECRA research is investigating experiences, knowledge and understandings of labour exploitation of unlawful migrant workers in Australia.

Unlawful migrant labour has been identified as a significant issue for Australia, with estimates that between 50-100,000 non citizens are working illegally in Australia (Howell 2011). While increasingly immigration and labour regulatory responses are merging to respond to this issue, the impact of these practices upon the level and nature of victimisation and conditions of exploitation requires investigation.

Through examining experiences across the agricultural, construction and hospitality industries this research will identify whether and how regulatory systems impact on exploitative conditions experienced by unlawful migration labourers. The proposed program of research will investigate, map and analyse exploitation and regulation as experienced by unlawful migrant labourers.

The three applied aims of the research are:

(1) Map the regulatory framework and identify regulatory practice;

(2) Identify unlawful migrant labour experiences, including experiences of exploitation and awareness of regulatory practices, and;

(3) Analyse the connection between regulatory practices and exploitative experiences.


How to be involved in this research

The only way for migrant workers to be better protected in Australia is to understand your experience.

Would you like to tell your story in confidence? See survey and more information here.


Project updates

  • Associate Professor Marie Segrave launched her report Temporary migration and family violence: An analysis of victimisation, vulnerability and support on Thursday 12 October, at Monash Law Chambers. The research was conducted in partnership with InTouch Multicultural Centre Against Family Violence, and is the first major study examining the intersection of temporary migration status and family violence. The ... Read more
  • Marie Segrave with Sanja Milivojevic and Sharon Pickering have a new book publication through Routledge titled Sex Trafficking and Modern Slavery: The absence of evidence debunking myths and examining contemporary counter trafficking strategies across Australia, Thailand and Serbia. This is the second volume following  Sex Trafficking: International context and response from the authors published in 2009.  Providing ... Read more
  • In June, Assoc.Prof. Marie Segrave, with Dr Laurie Berg (UTS) and Dr Stephen Clibborn (University of Sydney) prepared a list of recommendations for the Working Group on Migrant Labour Exploitation, as part of the Roundtable on Human Trafficking and Slavery. Their seven recommendations draw on their collective research with migrant workers in Australia and point to critical issues for ... Read more
  • BOb researchers Associate Professor Marie Segrave (Monash), Professor Sharon Pickering (Monash) and Dr Sanja Milivojevic (LaTrobe) have recently drafted a submission to the NSW Legislative Council Select Committee on Human Trafficking’s inquiry into human trafficking in NSW. They have presented a series of six recommendations to the Committee for consideration which include a national consolidation ... Read more
  • Dr Marie Segrave, whose DECRA research is focused on irregular migrant labour, has co-edited, with Professor Nicola Piper, and Rebecca Napier-Moore (GAATW) a Special Issue of Anti-Trafficking Review, focused on forced labour and human trafficking. The issue includes papers that examine human trafficking, forced labour and slavery, as separate, and overlapping issues, drawing on research and analysis from ... Read more
  • Marie Segrave was invited to present at the 15th Annual conference focused this year on Human Trafficking, Forced Labour and Exploitation, held at the University of Connecticut on October 21, 2015. Other invited speakers included Dr. Aidan McQuade, CEO of Anti-Slavery International and Ms. Gaynel Curry, Gender and Women’s Rights Advisor, United Nations Office of ... Read more
  • A big congratulations to BOb’s Dr Marie Segrave on the announcement of her win of an Australian Research Council, Discovery Early Career Research Award (DECRA) for 2014-16 to build on her research investigating labour exploitation in Australia hosted by BOb. Unlawful migrant labour has been identified as a significant issue for Australia, with estimates that between ... Read more