Teachers and classmates are often best placed to spot human trafficking, according to Australian Federal Police.

A family history of leaving education early, being uneasy about an upcoming family holiday, concerns about marrying at a young age and being worried about physical or psychological violence are common signs to look out for, the force said.

Red flags also include control outside the home, such as surveillance, having limited control over finances or life decisions and restricted communications.

Commander Helen Schneider said most reported victims are young women and girls but it can also affect men and boys.

"Forced marriage is not limited to any cultural group, religion or ethnicity," Schneider said.

"Anyone can be a victim of forced marriage, regardless of their age, gender or sexual orientation."

Police define the crime as person entering marriage due to coercion, threats, deception or without fully consenting due to factors like mental capacity or age.

It's been a crime in Australia since 2013 and applies to legal, cultural or religious ceremonies here and overseas.

Federal police received 340 reports of human trafficking, including forced marriage and sexual servitude, in 2022/23.

That's a 15.6 per cent increase on the previous 12 months, with Schneider describing the rise as encouraging considering it's thought to be under reported.

"Disrupting human trafficking represents an excellent outcome, unlike other crime types where we focus on prosecution," she explained.

"Instead of prosecuting a forced marriage, if we can prevent it from occurring in the first place, then it's a positive outcome for would-be victims and investigators."

Anyone with concerns or suspicions about forced marriage has been asked to contact police.

Help is also available through the Red Cross.


1800 RESPECT (1800 737 732)
National Sexual Abuse and Redress Support Service 1800 211 028
Lifeline 13 11 14
Kids Helpline 1800 55 1800 (for people aged 5 to 25)