Friday, 27 April 2012

Media Release


A group of Melbourne sex workers have organised Australia's first ever Festival of Sex Work.

Beginning on Saturday 26 May concluding with International Whores Day, Saturday 2 June 2012, the festival is a celebration of the lives, skills, culture and community of sex workers, and will include a number of different events.  Some of these events will be for sex workers only, whilst others will be open to the public.

The Festival of Sex Work is being organised by Vixen, a group run by and for sex-workers in Victoria, and the festival organising committee is 100% comprised of current and former sex workers.  Vixen member, Tabitha, says: “We are a diverse group of workers who share one common goal – we want to speak out against the stigma associated with sex work.  We're tired of other people thinking they have the right to speak for us, or thinking they know what we think or feel.  We hope this festival will provide sex workers with a safe space to meet and share ideas, and we will also be sending a strong message out to the wider community – let us speak for ourselves because we know what is best for us!”

Despite the fact that Melbourne was the first place in the world to fund a sex worker organisation, the current situation in Victoria is that the government only gives money to services that have a vested interest in portraying sex workers as a health issue or exploited victims that need rescuing.  “And they are loath to employ sex workers, making it rare that the community or government listen to voices at the centre of sex work.” Vixen member, Christian Vega, added. “The Festival is our opportunity to challenge this. We want to show that we are organised and that it is a blatant injustice that we are relegated to the sidelines when it comes to the discourse and decision making about sex work in our state.”

The Festival of Sex Work is created solely by the volunteer efforts and resources of sex workers themselves, working with no corporate sponsorship or government funding. 

The Festival of Sex Work strives to challenge stereotypes.  It aims to be a safe space for sex workers and their allies, one that protects human rights and respects the diverse perspectives and experiences of sex workers.  The festival will be held over a number of different locations and will include public forums, an art exhibition and a screening of Walkley award nominated documentary 'Scarlet Road'. 

For more information please visit our website:

For further media information or interviews, please contact:
Tabitha:  0404 401 118
Christian:  0403 941 185

Tuesday, 24 April 2012

Festival of Sex Work Video

Here's the full version of the Festival of Sex Work Video.

Visit our website

NB: The content of this video was accurate at the time its making and circumstances may have changed.  Specifically, the statement "Vixen is the only organisation made 100% of sex workers in Victoria" does not account for the creation of any new sex worker organisation that may have been created since.   

Saturday, 21 April 2012

Melbourne Festival of Sex Work Safer Spaces Policy

The Melbourne Festival of Sex Work Safer Spaces Policy is about taking a positive, proactive, preventative step towards making spaces safer in our community. We use the word ‘safer’ to acknowledge that no space can be entirely safe for everyone and not everyone experiences spaces in the same way as others. We want the Melbourne Festival of Sex Work to offer sex worker friendly environments that are welcoming, engaging and supportive: spaces where people take care of one another whilst promoting lively and productive debate. We want people to feel they can be themselves and that different opinions are important and can strengthen our community. We are asking people to be proactive in creating a safer, sex work positive space that is comfortable for everyone attending. We won’t be micro-monitoring behaviour at the Festival, but each event will be facilitated and we expect that everyone attending will respect our safer spaces statement and take responsibility for their behaviour at all times.

Just as we use the word “safer” because no space can be 100% safe for all participants, we also acknowledge that no policy can eliminate 100% of risk and danger for people participating in any event.  With that in mind Festival organisers would like to make clear that this policy is a guiding document, one that is live and can be amended as necessary. Festival organisers are open to feedback regarding the Safer Spaces Policy and this can be given by emailing

Every event is a safer space for all participants. 

Being a safer space for participants means a number of things:
1.    Event content must not discriminate, exclude or perpetuate stigma against its potential participants.  Each event, its facilitators and participants must avoid making judgements and/or promoting prejudice about race, sex, gender, sexuality, ability, drug use, mode of sex work, legal status, and mental health.  If it is necessary to be exempt from this (for example, a workshop’s content may only be relevant for only cisfemale participants), these stipulations and the reasons for them must be made explicit to festival organisers and will be absolutely clear from the beginning in all promotional material.
2.    Privacy and confidentiality of participants is paramount.  It will be made clear to participants that no personal or identifying details are ever required for participation in a workshop; that no contribution made by participants at a workshop will be shared outside of it unless consent is clearly and explicitly given; and no recording devices (including cameras) will be used during workshops. 
3.    Event facilitators must be aware that some content may trigger a negative emotional impact on participants.  Any planned event content that may be at all traumatic (including discussions of violence, abuse, suicide) must be made clear to participants prior to the event.  It must also be made clear to participants that they can leave the event whenever they want and should debriefing be necessary, festival organisers will arrange this in accordance with our Safer Spaces Policy.  
4.    The Festival is made up of events that are either sex worker only or open to the public. In terms of ensuring the safety of event participants, public events will be clearly indicated as such.  (Further discussion of this below)
5.    Festival organisers will ensure that a safer space and team of debriefers will be made available at all events. Participants will be made aware that their involvement is completely voluntary and the right to exit any event plus access to a debriefer will be upheld.
6.    Festival organisers are sex workers. As such we also need to ensure our own safety. While we are responsive to concerns individuals have regarding the operation of our festival we will not tolerate abuse or harassment of individual Festival organisers or the collective. 

This Festival is a celebration of Sex Work.

Events must reflect this.  We want the experience sex workers have at the festival to be a positive one.  We know sex work can be hard at times and festival organisers do not want to make invisible these experiences.  However, the festival is a constructive and positive space; it is not the right place for working through people's personal issues; it is not the space to attack or critique any individual sex worker.

 Each event must...
1.    ...affirm the choice to be a sex worker. 
2.    ...contribute to participants understanding of the diversity of sex work
3.    ...acknowledge the difficulty of being a sex worker but give priority to focussing on the skills, character and strategies that overcome these difficulties. 

Sex Worker Only and Public Events

The Festival organisers acknowledge that negotiating safety in a sex worker only space is different to negotiating safety at a public event. The festival organisers value the contribution of sex workers and recognise that particular goals of promoting sex worker rights, health and well being can only occur in sex worker only spaces. However, Festival organisers would also like create opportunities for the general public to engage with the perspectives of sex workers. With this in mind the following guiding principles are adopted by Festival organisers:
1.    The details of sex worker only events (time and location) will not be publicised in any public document.  
2.    All events that are open to the public will be made explicitly clear to all participants.
3.   Sex worker only events will be promoted in forums that are clearly and explicitly sex worker only networks.
4.    No one has the right to compel an individual to produce evidence of their status as a sex worker. However, Festival organisers recognise the need to engage in strategies that ensure sex worker only events are attended by sex workers only. This will be done through promotional strategies that enable a degree of verification . Festival organisers reserve the right to refuse participants attendance of sex worker only events.

Specific Events:

Generally, all workshops during the day and social events during the festival will be sex worker only spaces. At this stage the exception to this is the Touching Base Professional Disability Awareness Training.  The Touching Base workshop is primarily facilitated by a sex worker but has specific sections that are facilitated by a person with a disability and a qualified occupational therapist, both of whom do not identify as sex workers.

Where a workshop is not sex worker only, this will be made clear in the non-public festival guide. 

The art exhibition, public forums, public action and film nights will be public events. The Safer Spaces Policy will be made available at these events and awareness of this will be stated as part of each events formal process. 

No participant is compelled to attend any public event if they do not wish, and participation in the festival can be entirely at sex worker only events if the participant wishes.  Public events are designed to engage our allies and friends as well as the broader public. 

The end of Festival party will be a strictly invite only event. Participants are primarily sex workers, however, some may also bring partners and family.  It is the responsibility of sex workers who are bringing guests to the event to ensure that they are familiar with the safer spaces policy. This is not an event for clients or the general public. 

Examining our own subtle and not-so-subtle prejudices

If we profess to be concerned about issues such as race, gender and sexuality, we need to live our lives in a way that proactively seeks to subvert prejudice and undermine discrimination. This means treating people equally and acknowledging that everyone has something amazing to contribute. It means not being tokenistic.

We may like to think of the Melbourne Festival of Sex Work as an alternative space where people reject the prejudices associated with ‘mainstream’ anti-sex work values. However, sex worker communities can often carry the same prejudices as the so-called mainstream and we all need to address this. We are part of this broader society. All of us have to challenge our own internalised sex worker stigma. By participating in making the Festival a safer space, we can all learn about how to overcome this stigma.

People attending the Melbourne Festival of Sex Work are asked to be aware of their language and behaviour and to think about whether it might be offensive to others. The Festival is no space for violence, sexual assault, touching people without their consent, being intolerant of someone’s religious beliefs or lack thereof, being creepy, sleazy, racist, ageist, sexist, heterosexist, homophobic, transphobic, cissexist, ableist, classist, sizeist, sex negative or any other behaviour or language that may perpetuate oppression. Please also consider whether anxiety, new environments, being surrounded by new people, drugs, alcohol, etc could blur your ability to gauge how your behaviour is affecting others.

A note to people who aren’t sex workers attending the Melbourne Festival of Sex Work

The Festival strives to create a safer space for sex workers, even at public events. We want people who aren’t sex workers to come along to public events and learn what it takes to support sex workers.  The following are some pointers about how to be an ally to our community.  Festival organisers would like to acknowledge that these pointers have been adapted from a document originally published by the Sex Worker Outreach Project, Chicago.  
1)      Don’t assume anything about anyone you may meet at the festival. Don’t assume you know that a person is in the sex industry and their reasons for being there. Some people make a choice to enter this industry because they enjoy it, others may be struggling for money and may feel they have less of a choice.
2)      Be Discreet and Respect Personal Boundaries. If you know a sex worker, it’s OK to engage in dialogue with them in private, but respect their privacy surrounding their work in public settings.  Don’t ask personal questions such as “does your family know what you do?” If a sex worker is not “out” to their friends, family, or co-workers, it’s not your place to tell everyone what they do.
3)      Don’t Judge. Know your own prejudices and realise that not everyone shares the same opinions as you. Whatever you may think about sex work is irrelevant compared to the actual experiences of the person who works in the industry. It’s not your place to pass judgement on how another person earns the money they need to survive.
4)      Watch Your Language. Cracking jokes or using derogatory terms such as “hooker”, “whore”, “slut”, or “ho” is not acceptable. While some sex workers have reclaimed these words and use them among themselves, they are usually used to demean sex workers when spoken by outsiders.
5)      Address Your Prejudices. If you have a deep bias or underlying fear that all sex workers are bad people and/or full of diseases, then perhaps these are issues within yourself that you need to address.  In fact, the majority of sex workers practice safer sex than their peers and get tested regularly.
6)      Don’t Play Rescuer. Not all sex workers are trying to get out of the industry or in need of help. Ask them what they need, but not everyone is looking for “Captain Save-A-Ho” or the “Pretty Woman” ending.
7)      If you are a client or patron of sex workers, be respectful of boundaries. You’re buying a service, not a person. Don’t ask for real names, call at all hours of the day/night, or think that your favourite sex worker is going to enter into a relationship with you off the clock.
8)      Do Your Own Research. Most mainstream media is biased against sex workers and the statistics you read in the news about the sex industry are usually inaccurate. Be critical of what you read or hear and educate yourself on who exactly is transmitting diseases or being trafficked.
9)      Respect that Sex Work is Real Work. There’s a set of professional skills involved and it’s not necessarily an industry that everyone can enter into. Don’t tell someone to get a “real job” when they already have one that suits them just fine.
10)  Just because someone is a sex worker doesn’t mean they will have sex with you. No matter what area of the sex industry that someone works in, don’t assume that they are promiscuous and willing to have sex with anyone at any time.
11)  Be Supportive and Share Resources. If you know of someone who is new to the industry or in an abusive situation with an employer, by all means offer advice and support without being condescending. Some people do enter into the sex industry without educating themselves about what they are getting into and may need help. Despite the situation, calling the police is usually never a good option. Try to find other organizations that are sensitive to the needs of sex workers by contacting the organizations listed below.
12)  As you learn the above things, stand up for sex workers when conversations happen.  Share your personal stories if you so choose.  Don’t let the stigma, bigotry and shame around sex work continue.  Remember it’s important that sex workers be allowed to speak for themselves and for allies to not speak for sex workers but to speak with sex workers.

Realise that sex work transcends ‘visible’ notions of race, gender, class, sexuality, education, and identities; sex workers are your sisters, brothers, mothers, fathers, lovers, and friends. Respect them!

Grievance Process

1) If you wish to proceed with a grievance, directly approach the person whose behaviour has caused you to feel unsafe to try to resolve the issue. Please do so while maintaining safer spaces yourself – refer to section above.


Walk away if you can’t reach a resolution, we don’t endorse individuals aggravating conflicts that exist over differences of opinion. Acknowledge the difference of opinion. Make your opposition known. Find your friends, go to a quiet space and debrief.

2) If unresolved, approach the designated grievance contacts on the Melbourne Festival of Sex Work Collective (will be identifiable during the festival).

3) The collective member will ask you if you have approached the person involved already. If you have not, see step one.

4) The collective will meet daily during Festival of Sex Work and will hear complex and unresolved grievances if necessary. This is an absolutely last step and we encourage individuals to take responsibility for their one-on-one conflicts maturely if possible PRIOR to needing the collective to intervene.

5) Excluding people from Festival Events is an absolute final resort and will only be done by consensus decision of the collective

If you decide to confront a person you have a grievance with, or ask a third party to do so on your behalf, or you have been asked to approach a person on behalf of another, please keep in mind that YOU ARE RESPONSIBLE FOR YOUR ACTIONS regardless of your grievance with another person. At no time are you acting on behalf of the collective.

The Festival Collective recognises that some people have ongoing conflict/grievances which have originated in a space outside of the Festival. It is not the role of the Festival, its organisers or this policy to resolve such conflict. Please inform Festival organisers if you feel this may impact on your ability to feel safe whilst attending the Festival.  Please be aware that while we will do our best to provide a safer space for all participants, we cannot necessarily mediate all tensions that are brought to our Festival.  Again, Festival organisers would like to reiterate, YOU ARE RESPONSIBLE FOR YOUR ACTIONS.

Distribution of the policy

We want everyone who attends the Melbourne Festival of Sex Work to be aware of this safer spaces policy. This statement will be in the program, reader, website, displayed around the venue and hopefully it will come up in discussions. We will also send this statement to everyone who has contacted us about putting on a workshop and we will put it onto the website. Feel free to alert your friends to the existence of this policy.

We hope that the very existence of this information will assist in the following ways:
  • As a visible/constant reminder of everyone’s need to take responsibility for their own behaviour
  • To keep the issues fresh in everyone’s minds
  • As a reminder that words, body language, actions and behaviour affect other people and make them feel certain ways – a reminder to be aware of other people’s personal boundaries
  • To work preventatively
  • To follow the Grievance Process
  • To take responsibility for your own actions when confronting or addressing a third party with whom you have a grievance.

Thank you for taking the time to read this.

Festival organisers would like to acknowledge and thank Camp Betty, the Scarlet Alliance and SWOP-Chicago, whose own safer spaces policies and publications have been influential in the creation of the Melbourne Festival of Sex Work Safer Spaces Policy. 

Wednesday, 18 April 2012

Sex Work in Melbourne: A historical walking tour

Sex Work may be referred to as the oldest profession but few speak of its timelessness.  

Sex Work has thrived in every major city in every time gone past and Melbourne is certainly no exception.  Our city has had a rich history of sex work.  

Myths and Legendary Characters, Lies and Scandals, Persecution and Resilience- they envelop sex workers 100 years ago as much as they do today.    

This walking tour will visit some key historical sites, highlighting how much things have changed and how much they stay the same.  

Sunday, 27th of May 2pm.  Gather at Tianjin Gardens, Sping St, Melbourne

Sex Work Policy & Law: A Public Forum

Victoria's Sex Work Laws have a major influence on the working conditions, health and human rights of sex workers.  

Yet it is clear to sex workers that these laws have been implemented with little to no consultation with us because they seem so far removed from the reality of our work.

This public forum brings together the voices of sex workers to emphasise the lived experience of stigma, discrimination, heightened risk and undermined agency created by sex work legislation, the need for reform and the lessons we can learn from other jurisdictions 

This is a free public event.  

  • Janelle Fawkes, CEO, Scarlet Alliance , Australian Sex Workers Association
  • Jules Kim, Migration Project Manager, Scarlet Alliance, Australian Sex Workers Association  
  • Christian Vega,Vixen & Organising Committee Member, Melbourne Festival of Sex Work 
Forum Programme: 

1:15pm –  1:30pm
1:30pm –  1:40pm
Welcome & Introductions
1:40pm –  2:00pm
Christian Vega
Overview of Sex Work Legislative Frameworks
2:00pm –  2:30pm
Janelle Fawkes
National Overview of Sex Work Laws
2:30pm –  2:50pm
Question Time
2:50pm –   3:10pm
3:10pm –  3:40pm
Jules Kim
Human Trafficking Laws
3:40pm –   4:10pm
Christian Vega
The Impact of Victorian Sex Work Legislation on the Human Rights of Sex Workers
4:10pm –  4:30pm
Question Time

When: Wednesday, 30th of May, 1:30pm - 4:30pm. 

Where: Melbourne University Building 379- room B120 [Lecture Theatre 2]
 School of Population Health
207 Bouverie Street, Carlton

To register go here  

Tuesday, 17 April 2012

Festival of Sex Work: Workshops

A big part of our festival are the community and educational workshops for sex workers.

These are facilitated by sex workers and only for sex workers. This is our opportunity to share our skills, connect with one another and learn from each other.

To protect the privacy of all participants, neither the time nor location of workshops will be made public.  The venue for these workshops will be different from any venue that accommodates a public festival event.  

This information will only be disseminated through known sex worker only networks.

Also, we still have room for workshops if you are a sex worker and there is an area of expertise you would love to share with other sex workers.  Please get into contact with us if you would like to contribute,   

Please be aware that all workshops must be conducted in accordance with our Safer Spaces Policy.

Thanks and look forward to hearing from you.   

Monday, 16 April 2012

Sex Workers’ Digital Story Telling Screening

Aren't you over the myths and stereotypes about sex workers?

Sex workers certainly are. Overwhelmingly, dramatic performances, research articles and media portrayals make the most of the misery and desperation experienced by some people who do sex work. It’s unsurprisingly rare that these stories are told by actual sex workers. Instead, audiences are fed faceless images, caricatures that perpetuate stereotypes and stigma against sex workers and stymie the progress of our human rights.

But we would like to change that...

If you would like to see real stories told by real sex workers we’d like to invite you to this special event:

Sex Workers’ Digital Story Telling: A screening of short films made by sex workers followed by a panel discussion with the people who made them. Featuring digital stories produced with the assistance of ZERO-ONE-ZERO: Digital Storytelling Collective.

This event is open to the public. 

The Screening will happen on  Monday, the 28th of May, 8pm at 
5 Pitt St, Brunswick, Melbourne, VIC.

$10 Donation 

Find this event on Facebook:

Sex Worker Art Exhibit

As part of the Melbourne Festival of Sex Work, the Sex Worker Art Exhibition will run for the length of the Festival. 

Unlike other portrayals of sex work, our exhibition will only show work created by sex workers themselves.  The art displayed has been submitted from all around Australia. 

A diverse range of mediums will be on show - photography, sculpture, Fashion,  paintings, jewellery... just to name a few.

If you're a current or former sex worker and would like to submit work to this show please contact Alicia at with information about your proposed submission. Submissions close on the 20th of April.  

The exhibition is open to the public. 

It will be launched on Saturday, the 26th of May, 6pm at Discobeans, 236 High St, Northcote.

Statement from 2012 Melbourne Festival of Sex Work Organiser's Collective

We are a group of sex workers in Melbourne who have decided to put together a festival celebrating sex workers, sex work, and sex work culture. We are 100% comprised of sex workers past and present, and we hold a diverse range of ideas and experiences. We carry out our activities using a consensus model of decision-making.

Our peers may be aware that we have previously put out a call-out for contributions for our festival, and we acknowledge that we may have been a bit hasty in doing so. Problems with venue hire has meant that we have been unclear which of our events would be restricted to peer only, and which events would be more public. We apologise for our lack of clarity with you and will make sure that we will contact everyone who has offered contributions to make sure they are fully aware of the peer or non-peer status of each event.

We are not seeking to recreate a Scarlet conference, or a sex worker university – this is a completely unique event that reflects the passions and enthusiasms of those involved. As such we ask for your support and patience. If you give us space to grow, we will continue to build positively on our endeavours and learn from our mistakes.

We are really excited about the festival, and we hope you share that excitement! We will release further information as soon as we can. We welcome your critique and suggestions, and can be contacted at:

We look forward to hearing from you and seeing you at the festival!

Sunday, 15 April 2012

Scarlet Road: A Screening and Q&A

Impassioned about freedom of sexual expression, Australian sex worker Rachel Wotton has become highly specialized in working with clients with disability. 

Rachel’s philosophy, that human touch and sexual intimacy can be some of the most therapeutic aspects to our existence, is making a dramatic impact on the lives of her clients, Mark and John. Both have nothing but praise for her talents. 

Diagnosed with Multiple Sclerosis 26 years ago, John now drives around in a chin-controlled wheelchair, but after ongoing sessions with Rachel, he has regained body movement that he thought was lost forever. His self-esteem and overall improvement have amazed his doctors.

A screening of the director’s cut version of the documentary followed by a Q&A with Rachel Wotton. Part of the Melbourne Festival of Sex Work. 

For more information about the documentary visit 

Thursday, 31st of May, Doors open 7:45pm, Film Starts 8pm at the Australian Centre for the Moving Image (ACMI), Federation Square, Melbourne.  

Tickets on sale here:

Sex Worker Quilt Project

Call out for current or past sex workers to participate in a collaborative art projects for Melbourne’s Festival of Sex Work in May 2012.

What are some of the positive things sex work has brought into your life? 
This is a question I am always so fascinated to hear the answer to. The answers can be so varied and often inspiring.

It is also an opportunity to educate non-sex workers about the positive aspects of sex work, and to give them a better understanding of our lives and culture of sex work. It is also for us as peers to celebrate our culture and our work.

This question is the subject for this art quilt project. You do not need to be able to sew or have artistic experience to participate, you just need to have a willingness to share your thoughts and ideas.

The concept is a blank square with a patchwork frame is to be the canvas for your work. These have been made and can be collected or posted to you. You may choose to draw, sew, applique, collage, use digital photography transfer to decorate your square, with your thoughts about some of the positive things sex work has brought to your life.

You may write poetry and wish to share one of your poems or songs. You may love photography and use transfers and painting to produce your square. You may just have a list of five things that you may just simply write on your square.

I will then collect all the squares and them together to make a larger art quilt, to be displayed at Melbourne’s Festival of Sex Work and with hopes the quilt with be able to be shared at future exhibitions and sex worker events.

For expressions of interest please send an email to or send me an sms at 0468 940 229

Follow the Quilt Project on Facebook:

Welcome to the Festival of Sex Work Blog.

The place where you can get the latest information about the festival starting on the 26th of May for a week.  Keep an eye on this blog for all the latest updates.

Tuesday, 10 April 2012

Professional Disability Awareness Training for Sex Workers

Invites you to a Professional Disability Awareness Training

Melbourne CBD, Victoria, (exact location will be disclosed to participants after registration)

1st June, 2012 (all day workshop, exact time will be disclosed to participants after registration)  


This workshop is reserved for sex workers only. 

Some sessions during the day may be facilitated by a disability service provider and a person with a disability who may be non-sex workers.

Goals and objectives of this workshop:
• Background the sexual rights & diverse sexuality of people with disability
• Understanding how discrimination may create barriers for people with disability
• Inform on how to arrange services through a third party, eg: personal care attendant
• Gain knowledge and skills on how to increase the accessibility of your services
• Gain skills in working with clients with various disabilities
• Increased awareness and skills on a range of Occupational, Health and Safety issues
• Increase the number of sex workers available for referrals through Touching Base
• Increased networking and support for sex workers who see clients with disability

Workshop will be interactive with group activities and plenty of group discussions

You will receive a Certificate of Attendance - in your nominated name

Where: Melbourne, VIC (exact address given after registration)

Cost: $100. (- tax deductible) 

We need a minimum of 10 registrations paid by 22nd May in order to ensure that this training can go ahead. 

Please get in early!! Places limited (max - 20)

Between the 22nd and 24th of May, Rachel - a sex worker on the Touching Base Committee - will telephone everyone who has registered to confirm your attendance. At this time Rachel will give you the exact address of the workshop and answer any final questions you may have about the workshop.

If you would like more information about this workshop, or a copy of this flyer and the registration form: please go to:

Supported by: People with Disability Australia Inc & Vixen

For a registration form,  email Christian Vega on or call 0403 941 185