UWA Modern Slavery Research Cluster (MSRC)

About us

The UWA Modern Slavery Research Cluster (MSRC) brings together interdisciplinary researchers and students from across UWA and our partners to contribute to tackling Modern Slavery. We adopt a broad approach to modern slavery and as a working definition consider modern slavery to be: ‘… an umbrella term used to describe a number of crimes, including, but not limited to, human trafficking, forced labour, sexual slavery, child labour and trafficking, domestic servitude, forced marriage, bonded labour including debt bondage, slavery and other slavery-like practices’.1



Current projects

MSRC members Fiona McGaughey, Dave Webb, Donella Caspersz, Holly Cullen, and Peta-Jane Hogg are working with partners at the University of Leeds on two research projects, due for completion in late 2020: 

  • Project 1 is a comparative analysis of the UK Modern Slavery Act, Australian Modern Slavery Act and French duty of vigilance law. Using a reflexive law framework, this research maps the scope of the laws in each of the three jurisdictions, identifies companies reporting under all three laws, and positions the laws within a spectrum of stringency.
  • Project 2 explores the role of small and medium size enterprises (SMEs) in respect to the introduction of the Modern Slavery Acts (MSAs) both in the UK in 2015 and Australia in 2018. Although the laws target large companies, SMEs are integral to these companies’ supply chains and the project highlights that more attention should be paid to SMEs in global value chains. Ethics-approved fieldwork (interviews) is underway in Australia and the UK.

In 2019, Professor Jane Lydon (Wesfarmers Chair in Australian History) was awarded an Australian Research Council Discovery Project grant. The project aims to bring Australia into the global history of slavery by exploring the legacies of British slavery in Western Australia.


Future projects

  • Associate Professors Dave Webb (UWA) and Matt Davis (LUBS) are currently conceptualising a project exploring consumer issues and modern slavery.
  • Associate Professors Dave Webb (UWA) and Dr Nin Kirkham (UWA) are developing a project exploring the relationship between values-driven conversations in organisations and modern slavery in supply chains. This work will focus on conceptualisation and the practical implications for business ethics in business.

Community engagement

  • Members of the MSRC are often requested to provide feedback on national policy documents as well as provide interviews and give presentations on various modern slavery topics. 
  • MSRC Co-Convenor Dave Webb was interviewed by the UN PRME Blog host Giselle Weybrecht. The following linked interview was circulated to UN PRME member Business Schools globally.
  • In October 2019 Dave Webb presented at the French-Australian Chamber of Commerce (FACCI) Business Forum in Perth on ‘Modern slavery and supply chain risk’.


Cluster members make regular submissions to government on legislative and policy developments, including the following:

Notable achievements

  • Adjunct Professor John Southalan (UWA Law School) was appointed as the inaugural independent examiner in the Australian National Contact Point on the OCED Guidelines for Multinational Enterprises. 
  • Dr Fiona McGaughey (UWA Law School) was appointed to the Law Council of Australia’s Business and Human Rights Committee.


Upcoming events

  • Internal webinars: From October 2020, the MSRC will be hosting internal UWA staff webinars involving a member of the MSRC who will present their latest research. Presentations will cover a wide range of topics relevant to Modern Slavery. 
  • International webinars: In addition, the MSRC will continue to host international webinars every three – four months. These will involve staff from UWA and the University of Leeds as well as other collaborating partners presenting on a variety of modern slavery topics.
  • Invitation: If you would like to present your work, or simply receive an invitation to attend, please send either Dave Webb or Fiona McGaughey (MSRC Co-Convenors) an expression of interest. Email address provided at the foot of this web site.


Past events

  • The MSRC has hosted an international webinar every 3-4 months since 2017. Each webinar has included a research presentation and discussion, offering the presenter the opportunity to gain feedback from colleagues, as well as promote their work more broadly. Presenters include academics and industry representatives. For example, in October 2019, Marshall PLC’s Chris Harrop OBE, based in the UK presented on ‘Modern slavery, the supply chain and the need for a new business model’.

    The last such webinar on 24th April 2020 was entitled 'Modern slavery and due diligence reporting: a comparative analysis of UK, France and Australia and included attendees from Australia, France, Belgium and the UK'.
  • The MSRC’s inaugural symposium, Perspectives on Modern Slavery, held in September 2019, brought together academic and industry speakers from across Australia and internationally to consider a variety of perspectives on modern slavery. See the Symposium program.

Contact UWA Modern Slavery Research Cluster (MSRC)



Associate Professor David Webb  Currently overseas - please contact by email

+61 8 6488 7380
Parliament of the Commonwealth of Australia, Joint Standing Committee on Foreign Affairs, Defence and Trade, Modern slavery and global supply chains: Interim report of the Joint Standing Committee on Foreign Affairs, Defence and Trade's inquiry into establishing a Modern Slavery Act in Australia (August 2017).