Documentary Australia Foundation

Next submission deadline is
16 May 2014


Luigi Acquisto
Luigi Acquisto & Stella Zammataro
Film Australia, Australian Film Commission, Film Victoria, SBS Independent
AUD 340,000
52 minutes


Haunted by a decade-old case, a former police officer investigates how a young Thai girl was sold as a sex slave to a Sydney brothel. Trafficked is the first film to explore modern day slavery in Australia and tells the harrowing story of two young Thai girls, one aged 13, who were sold to Sydney brothels.

Former Australian Federal Police officer, Chris Payne, and director, Luigi Acquisto, collaborated for over ten years on the making of this groundbreaking documentary. The trafficking of women and children for prostitution is a global problem. The United Nations estimates that more than one million children are forced into sexual slavery each year. Some of them are trafficked into Australia. The documentary follows former police officer turned private investigator, Chris Payne, as he investigates this shocking crime. Payne wonders if the Australian authorities are squandering an opportunity to do something positive in order to put an end to the illegal sex-slave trafficking. “It's a lot harder for the Thais and the Cambodians to do it but we can do it,” he says. “I mean the bottom line is that it's slavery. It's as simple as that.”

As a member of the Australian Federal Police, Payne headed Paper Tiger, a special operation aimed at combating sex trafficking in the mid-1990s. For a decade he has been haunted by the case of “Nikkie”, a young Thai girl found working in a Sydney brothel. Her rapid deportation stopped the police investigation in its tracks. Now Payne is back looking for answers – and “Nikkie”. How did she end up in that brothel? What happened to her afterwards? Payne follows the trail of evidence from Australia to Asia. Along the way, he meets the parents of Phuongtong (Noi) Simpalee, another Thai “sex slave” whose death in an immigration detention centre in Sydney made headlines. Through these stories and Payne's own experiences, Trafficked provides a disturbing insight into the international sex trade.


The Director's Statement

"TRAFFICKED is the first documentary about sex slavery in Australia. It aired on SBS in July 2006 and set a new ratings record for Storyline Australia, a total of 539,000 viewers. The film has resulted in very real change. The record ratings demonstrate that Australians have a very strong interest in social justice issues. Most Australians do not know that slavery exists in this country or the nature of that slavery when it is linked to sex work. The documentary helped to inform the Australian public about this critical issue. The response during the web-chat that followed the SBS screening was astounding. Hundreds of people logged in and many others were unable to do so because of the demand. The feedback was positive, with many people sharing the outrage that motivated the filmmakers to tell Ning and Noi's stories.

However, the film did more than raise awareness about an important issue. It made history by acting as a catalyst for the first compensation claims to be made in this country by trafficking victims.

Following a screening at ACMI in 2005 a Senior Counsel (QC) approached Stella Zammataro, producer, and I and stated that she believed that Ning would be entitled to victim of crime compensation in NSW. We were told that the claim would need to be lodged with the Victims Services, Attorney General's Department of NSW.

The crime in question would be statutory rape. Ning was only 13 at the time she was trafficked to a brothel in Sydney. She was forced to sleep with over 100 men during the ten days she spent in the brothel before being apprehended by immigration and deported. We contacted Ning and she agreed, in writing, for us to act on her behalf in the matter. I then lodged the application and it was accepted as a valid claim. A decision will be made in about 6-8 months. Ning is currently completing a psychiatric evaluation in Thailand to determine the psychological and emotional damages in question. This needs to be submitted in support of her damages claim. Stella and I have returned to Thailand twice to assist Ning in organising this assessment. We arranged for her to be admitted to the local psychiatric hospital for the assessment. This was the only option as there are very few private psychologists or psychiatrists working in Thailand, and even fewer in the north-east where Ning lives. She has also received some counseling, which has made a significant difference to her life and well being.

The family of the young woman who died in custody at Villawood is also lodging a civil compensation claim. They were assisted in this application by Chris Payne and again lawyers are acting pro bono on their behalf.

Trafficked has resulted in some very real changes: people are more aware of the existence of slavery in Australia, and justice is being sought through our courts for the victims of slavery. This is making legal history and will set precedents for future victims."