Who We Are
Sex Workers’ Voices Victoria is a project created by The Michael Kirby Centre for Public Health and Human Rights at Monash University Melboune in the run up to the Victorian Government’s Sex Work Decriminalisation Review, which is being chaired by Fiona Patten MP. The aim of the project is to support sex workers to develop and describe their vision of how decriminalised sex work should look in Victoria.
Kirby Centre Director & Associate Professor Bebe Loff and Adjunct Research Fellow Cheryl Overs are working alongside sex work representatives from Red Files. Inc, Sex Work Law Reform Victoria, RhED and other sex workers’ rights advocates. Both Bebe and Cheryl are have been sex work advocates since the 1970s.
Bebe Loff formed the first sex worker organisation in Australia during the 1970s. She was a founding member of the Prostitutes Collective of Victoria and a member of the first board of the Network of Sex Work Projects. She was also a member of the Ministerial Advisory Committee on Sex Work in Victoria. Bebe is a lawyer who was a policy adviser in the Victorian Attorney General’s Department, directed the legislative programs of health ministers, was the human rights officer responsible for AIDS policy at the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights in Geneva and has been a member of several ethics committees including that of the World Health Organisation. Bebe’s expertise as a professor of law and 40 years of experience in sex work law reform provide a nuanced understanding and unique skill set for navigating the complexities of law and regulatory systems in Victoria.
Cheryl Overs is a founder of Australian sex worker rights organisations the Prostitutes Collective of Victoria (PCV) and the Scarlet Alliance as well as the Global Network of Sex Worker Projects (NSWP). She has worked with sex workers in more than twenty countries from posts within global health and UN agencies and has written extensively about sex workers rights in the context of health policy and programming. Cheryl was a member of the Global Commission on HIV and the Law and in 2012 she delivered a keynote address on sex work at the International Aids Conference. Since 2011 she has held academic positions at Monash University in Australia and the Institute of Development Studies in the UK where she has researched sex work and law in Cambodia; Myanmar, Ethiopia, Malaysia, and Fiji and produced a global map of sex work law.
What is the Sex Workers’ Voices Project doing?
Like all of Victoria’s sex work organisations this project will be raising awareness of the Review among sex workers because it has the potential to drastically change their working lives. We will also be gathering information to influence the Review, facilitating dialogue among sex workers and working with any sex workers who want support to put their ideas to the government. To do this we have a central website for our documentation, information and activities which includes,
- A video of Fiona Pattten speaking directly to sex workers about the Review.
- A paper that summarises complex information about the law and ideas about decriminalisation to provide the background you need without spending hours researching. It also gives you most of the information needed to get up to date with what the review will be looking at.
- An FAQ for some of the more common questions about the project and the Review process.
- Social media accounts to keep sex workers online up to date.
- A survey for sex workers to have an easy and quick access point to engage with the Review. ( in English or by translation)
- In July we will host an online community meetup or webinar for sex workers to discuss decriminalisation and some online workshops for sex workers to self-advocate and work on submissions.
- If requested, we can assist sex workers to provide personal feedback and make informed submissions for full decriminalisation grounded in experience and evidence.
So if you are a current or former sex worker and you have an opinion on any aspect of decriminalisation, please explore our website to access our materials and see how you can be involved.
What do you need to do?
To get the most out of the Sex Workers’ Voices project, follow our social media contacts or our website and engage with each of the materials as we put them out. Join our webinar, even if its only to listen to others. Write a submission for yourself or with a group of friends and send it to Fiona Patten and the review team at firstname.lastname@example.org.
We want the Victorian version of full decriminalisation to benefit all sex workers and this won’t be possible unless all sex workers engage with the Review process. Sex workers from regional Victoria, migrants and street based workers in particular can take the opportunity to put their points of view to the government.
When must this all be done?
The closing date for written submissions is 17th July and the Review is due to give its report and recommendations to the Government in September.
The consultation period is obviously very short for the sex worker community. This Project will join with Victorian sex worker organisations in calling for the government to commit to a meaningful, ongoing process of listening to sex workers after the Review.
Who is contributing to the Sex Workers’ Voices Project and how?
Red Files Inc.
Red Files is a national online resource and information centre for sex workers with an aim at harm-minimisation and violence prevention. Sex workers from Red Files Inc. have helped to ensure the material is user friendly and accessible to sex workers online. Red Files sex workers have also built the Sex Workers’ Voices Victoria website. Having online material is especially important given the COVID-19 pandemic.
Sex Work Law Reform Victoria
Sex Work Law Reform Victoria is an independent non-partisan volunteer group led by sex workers which has been lobbying for the full decriminalisation of consensual adult sex work in Victoria for the past two years. Sex workers from SWLRV have used their expertise in navigating and understanding the Victorian legal and political landscape.
Victorian health organisation RhED
RhED is a program of Star Health that provides a range of health, safety and legal information for sex workers in Victoria. Sex workers who work for RhED have over 30 years experience in the sex industry and a unique, first hand understanding into the history of legalities and how policy effects sex workers.
Other sex worker advocates
Individual sex workers whose names are not here for privacy reasons also contributed to the project.