Nottingham academic appointed as inaugural anti-slavery commissioner in Australia

Monday, 04 July 2022

James Cockayne, an international lawyer and Professor of Global Politics and Anti-Slavery in the university’s Rights Lab research beacon, will begin his new position on 1 August. His five-year appointment by the Governor of New South Wales comes after it became the first state or territory in Australia to introduce standalone legislation to tackle modern slavery.

Professor Cockayne said: “While I am sad to leave the University of Nottingham, I am honoured to be asked to serve as NSW Anti-slavery Commissioner."

The role will offer a unique opportunity to strengthen efforts to combat modern slavery and to support survivors. I am excited to put the insights we have developed at the Rights Lab into practice, and look forward to learning and benefiting from the Lab’s continuing scholarship in years ahead.
Professor of Global Politics and Anti-Slavery, Rights Lab

The new laws, which came into the effect at the beginning of the year, require NSW government agencies and local councils to take reasonable steps to ensure that the goods and services they procure are not the product of modern slavery. State-owned corporations are also required to monitor the risks of modern slavery in their supply chains.

As Anti-Slavery Commissioner, Professor Cockayne will have oversight over Government policies addressing modern slavery, issue codes of practice and maintain a public register identifying government agencies which do not comply. The Commissioner will also help identify and support victims of modern slavery, advocate for action to combat modern slavery and cooperate with business and non-governmental organisations combatting modern slavery.

Impactful research

Director of the Rights Lab, Professor Zoe Trodd, said: “We are really proud of James’ new role, and excited to see him lead anti-slavery work in this important new way in Australia – which has one of only two Anti-Slavery Commissioners in the world, along with the UK.“James had led across a range of truly impactful research projects here in the Rights Lab, and I know his deeply rigorous approach to modern slavery data, evidence and policy will be as powerfully deployed in his new role as it’s been during his years with us as a Professor of Global Politics and Anti-Slavery. We look forward to continuing to collaborate to help tackle modern slavery globally in the years to come.”

Professor Cockayne is a member of the World Economic Forum Global Futures Council for Equity and Social Justice, and former chair of the US Council on Foreign Relations Study Group on Trafficking in Persons. In 2018, working with Prime Minister of Liechtenstein, the Foreign Ministers of Australia and the Netherlands and Nobel laureate Muhamad Yunus, he founded Finance Against Slavery and Trafficking, a global finance sector initiative to tackle modern slavery risks.

Eliminating modern slavery

Professor Cockayne joined Nottingham in 2020, after serving as the Director of the Centre for Policy Research at United Nations University, in New York, where he led work on modern slavery, development policy, cyber-governance, drug policy and migration. He was previously Co-Director of the Centre for Global Counterterrorism Cooperation, directing work on the UN and Africa; Senior Fellow at the International Peace Institute; and Principal Legal Officer in the Transnational Crime Unit of the Australian Attorney-General's Department.

At the Rights Lab, Professor Cockayne’s research has included modern slavery risks in the solar industry, the treatment of modern slavery in trade and investment agreements. and work to help develop a new forced labour risk estimation tool for businesses.

Professor Todd Landman, Pro-Vice-Chancellor for the Faculty of Social Sciences, said: “Professor Cockayne is a leading modern slavery scholar and practitioner, having led in this area at the United Nations University and then with us here in the Rights Lab at the University of Nottingham. His work on finance against trafficking, the comprehensive report Developing Freedom, and his work in leading teams and externally funded projects in the Rights Lab have been invaluable to advance our understanding of the root causes of modern slavery and how to eliminate them in line with the United Nations Sustainable Development Goal 8.7 which is dedicated to ending modern slavery by 2030.”

Emma Thorne - Head of News
Phone: 0115 846 8092

Notes to editors:

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