A group of Canberran community organisations have formed a network to support local victims of forced marriage and slavery.
The Australian Federal Police received nine referrals linked to human trafficking or slavery-like conditions in the ACT between the 2014 and 2016 financial years. Neither of the two 2015-16 referrals related to forced marriage.
The Freedom Partnership policy and advocacy coordinator Heather Moore, who oversaw the creation of the ACT's anti-slavery network, said official data did not reveal the extent of the issue.
She said there were challenges in gathering figures on the prevalence of early forced marriage because data was not captured in child abuse or family violence statistics.
Another issue was that victims must be willing to work with the AFP to qualify for long-term federal support, but not all young women were willing to have their parents charged with a federal crime, she said.
The network will aim to provide support to those victims who may be unwilling or unable to work with authorities.
"We don't know how big the problem is because it's very hidden," Ms Moore said.
Anti-Slavery Australia director Jennifer Burn agreed police figures only represented part of the story.
The Sydney-based organisation is currently providing legal assistance to about 80 men, women and children affected by slavery – including some from the ACT.
"There's not a lot known about what happens in the ACT," Professor Burn said.
The ACT's new community network is composed of different organisations capable of helping young men or women impacted by forced marriage or other slavery-like offences.
"The main cohort of people impacted [by forced marriage] are women aged between 16 and 18 and they fall in between a lot of the gaps in the child protection system," Ms Moore said.
"They're often highly sheltered as a means to maintain that cultural connection, and choosing this path that we're offering them [through police] means estranging them from their family and community and potentially suffering life-threatening consequences.
"We need to look at the framework and ask ourselves is it putting victims first.
"[The network is] about ensuring communities know what it is, that they're able to respond, and who to call."
All trafficked people referred to the AFP have access to 45 days' support, including secure accommodation, a living allowance and access to healthcare.