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Hundreds of sex workers ineligible for COVID19 government payments rely on donations

Sex worker rights organisation Scarlet Alliance has launched a fund donating weekly payments to sex workers struggling with income insecurity caused by COVID19. Photo: nastya_gepp


Sex worker rights organisation Scarlet Alliance and their community of state and territory member organisations have been supporting hundreds of sex workers ineligible for government support payments.

“What is unique for sex workers is that many of us are self-employed or sole traders and don’t have access to any kind of employee benefits, or don’t have access to holiday pay or any super or savings,” CEO of Scarlet Alliance Jules Kim told City Hub.

“For a large number of migrant sex workers, they’re not eligible for government financial support, so in a lot of ways a number of sex workers are finding they fall through the gaps in the available financial support that exists during lockdown.”

The fund launched in partnership with community platform targets $100,000 and donations are given directly to sex workers as weekly payments.

The mutual aid fund was first created for the initial emergence of COVID19 last year and in the two months it has been reopened, approximately 465 sex workers have been assisted with over $50,000.

“Unfortunately, each week the demand far outweighs the availability of funds,” said Kim.

“We try and support as many sex workers as we can, but it really is dependent on the donations.”

For the week starting the 5th to the 12th of this month, Ethical Jobs is matching donations of up to $5000 to the fund as part of their ‘double your impact’ service.

Inconsistent protections

Although on a federal basis sex work is not considered unlawful, in some states and territories sex work is criminalised.

The inconsistency of laws around Australia and the lack of any anti-discrimination protections in NSW means there is a gap.

A spokesperson for Scarlet Alliance told City Hub there’s always room for the government to reassess the way it treats sex workers, to recognise sex work as work and make sure that there are proper protections in place and that COVID payments and worker support payments in the restrictions and lockdowns are made available.

Each week, sex worker representatives from Scarlet Alliance’s state and territory organisations assess the applications in English and the three main languages besides English in the sex worker community, simplified Chinese, Korean and Thai.

100% of those payments are distributed back out to sex workers with referrals provided to workers unable to be assisted.

The fundraiser will continue to operate as long as the lockdown lasts.

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