In October 2007, sex workers around Australia gathered in Kalgoorlie to hear presentations from migrant sex worker colleagues, including Empower Foundation in Thailand. Sex workers at that meeting resolved to take migrant sex worker rights to Canberra. 12 months later, Canberra is listening, and has granted $250,000 to Scarlet Alliance to extend peer education to migrant sex workers in Australia, with the aim of improving working conditions.
"Migrant sex workers are working in legalised, decriminalised and tolerated workplaces in Australia," Elena Jeffreys, President of Scarlet Alliance, said today. "Trafficking is not characteristic of sex work, but it may be characteristic of workplaces that don't have access to the same rights as other people. Prevention is better than prosecution. By improving working conditions, we can prevent trafficking."
The funding was announced by the Hon. Bob Debus, Minister for Home Affairs, on the 23rd of October 2008. Scarlet Alliance acknowledges Mr Debus' long standing support of the sex worker community response to HIV, and welcomes his office as a new funding partner on the issue of trafficking.
"Scarlet Alliance is looking forward to using the announced funds to improve workplace conditions for migrant sex workers in Australia, to co-ordinate policy work that has previously been unresourced, and to assist our diverse membership in Australia to better meet the needs of migrant sex workers through peer education."
"This money by no means will solve all issues for migrant sex workers in Australia," Elena Jeffreys reminded supporters today.
"Scarlet Alliance will continue to lobby for adequate resoucing and policy, but in the mean time are celebrating what a succeful year we have had in 2008. The Rudd Government has done considerably more for trafficking prevention and migrant sex worker rights in 12 short months than the Howard Government achieved in 12 years."
Another new initiative by Mr Debus is a policy roundtable to better inform the Government on trafficking issues. Scarlet Alliance is a member of the roundtable, and has participated in the roundtable sub-committee that has prepared a new set of Guidelines for Non-Government Organisations who work with people who may have been trafficked.
"Scarlet Alliance is committed to working from reliable evidence to promote migrant sex worker rights and prevent trafficking of sex workers," Elena Jeffreys concluded today. "The next step is to deliver a more equitable, accessible and transparent visa framework for sex workers wishing to travel to Australia, and we are confident that with broad community support, the Rudd Government will deliver."