Generic photo of an escort in Sydney. brothel prostitute sex worker
Generic photo of an escort in Sydney. brothel prostitute sex worker

Gladstone sex workers campaign to change laws

AFTER being choked by a client, Bella felt she had no one to turn to because of Queensland laws surrounding her industry of work.

The incident happened about a year ago.

This was a few months after she relocated to Gladstone from Sydney and was still navigating the state's rules for sex work.

In Queensland, private sex workers must work alone.

They cannot text another sex worker, for safety, before or after a booking, or drive for each other.

Campaigners say these restrictions mean Queensland sex workers have to choose between working safely or legally.

Like many incidents involving sex workers, Bella said she was not taken seriously by authorities.

She went to Gladstone Hospital the night of the attack to be treated for a sprained neck and returned two days later because the pain continued.

"In Queensland I have to work on my own, I'm isolated, I don't have friends or family, and I can't talk to other sex workers to let them know I'm OK," Bella said.

"If I'd had another person working with me or even just living with me I would've been a lot safer.

"That's what is wrong with the system. There's no protection.

"We should be safe in our workplace just like anyone else."

Respect Queensland's Janelle Fawkes is campaigning for legislative changes to allow Queensland sex workers to communicate with each other and work in co-ops.

Ms Fawkes, also a sex worker and campaign leader of #DecrimQld, said despite the Attorney-General announcing her intention to refer the regulations to the Queensland Law Reform Commission for review, no action had been taken by the government.

Ms Fawkes said it was difficult for independent sex workers to work legally.

She said this was particularly the case in regional areas given that most of the state's 20 brothels were located in the South East.

"In the meantime the Northern Territory has actually decriminalised sex work and we're still waiting," Ms Fawkes said.

She said there had been a spike in police raids during the past two months and more than 30 sex workers charged.

Touring sex worker, Addison, 30, said she was not surprised to hear a fellow worker had been strangled by a client in Gladstone.

Addison said she had a "buddy system" with other sex workers, including some from interstate, so she felt safe while working.

"It's not foolproof but it's all we can do," Addison said.

"All of our safety measures have essentially been made illegal in Queensland."

In 2016-2017 the Queensland Police statistical review showed overall charges for sex work-related offences were up 57 per cent, "knowingly participate in the provision of prostitution" offences were up by 126 per cent, and most offenders were women over age 30.

Ms Fawkes helped organise a rally in Brisbane on Tuesday night - coinciding with the international day to end violence against sex workers - to call on the Queensland Government to make the legislative changes.

Queensland Police Minister Mark Ryan acknowledged some people in the sex industry were seeking social and legislative changes.

"Queensland's regulations around prostitution were drafted with the safety of workers first and foremost," Mr Ryan said.

"This government will continue to consult with the industry to ensure the safety of workers now and into the future."