Article in Interface: a journal for and about social movements, Volume 3(2): 271 – 287 (November 2011).
Despite the massive achievements of the Prostitutes Collective of Victoria and the historic significance of this important organisation, sex workers as a community and the funds we had attracted drew an unhealthy level of interest from the health and community sector, stemming from a perception that sex workers were politically unable to run their own collective, and that the funds we had lobbied for could be better spent by people who were not sex workers.
This perception was not helped by the very public failures sex workers were facing within the formal union structures in Victoria at this time, and the new complexities that the licensing system had introduced into sex workers lives generally. The collective was taken over and is now managed by a community health service. This was a political compromise that meant health services to sex workers continue to be delivered, but without the organising focus that the Prostitutes Collective of Victoria had embodied. The new project, called Resourcing for Health and Education (RhED), has elements of peer education but falls short of implementing affirmative action cross the other staff positions. This reflects a general positioning of professional “helpers” within sex worker health services, a trend Scarlet Alliance rails against. By employing professional “helpers” within sex worker projects we are portrayed as hapless victims in need of rescue and assistance in order to justify the government funding flowing our way.
This is not how or why sex worker organisations were established in Australia, but continues to be the trend in Australia; “organising” is being replaced with “helping”.
(abstract abridged from article)
Elena Jeffreys, Audry Autonomy, Jane Green, Christian Vega