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Sex workers in Victoria celebrate industry reform, but say more needs to be done in regional areas

Victorian sex workers and industry advocacy groups say the state’s new reforms for the industry are “a win”, but are not a panacea for workers, especially those in regional areas.

Introduced on Tuesday, the suite of reforms includes removing penalties for people participating in street-based work, and repeating a register that contains details of independent workers.

Free legal support for sex workers will also be available through Melbourne’s St Kilda Legal Service from July 1.

The changes form part of the state government’s two-phase, $11.3 million commitment to decriminalize sex work in Victoria.

The reforms still include restrictions on where sex workers can legally work, including restrictions near places of worship.

Consumer Affairs Minister Melissa Horne described the most recent reforms as “an important milestone for sex work decriminalisation”.

An advocate says the reforms are a huge achievement but are not a “magic bullet”.(ABC News: Chris Gillette)

Sex-worker friendly services ‘need to expand to regions’

Victoria’s Vixen Collective has been run by volunteers since 2005, “by sex workers, for sex workers.”

Peaches Smith, a sex worker and co-ordinator of Vixen’s outreach and education team, said Tuesday’s announcements were a huge achievement.

“But obviously this isn’t a magic bullet,” she said.

Vixen Collective
The Vixen Collective has begun a drop-in program for people in need of information or support.(Supplied: Vixen Collective)

Ms Smith said she grew up in a small town in the state’s north-east before moving to Melbourne to begin working in the industry.

She said a lack of equipped, non-stigmatised sexual health centers were just one of the challenges she was presented with when working in regional Victoria.

MP calls for reforms to go further

Reason Party MP and former sex worker Fiona Patten said the reforms were a win for sex workers, but the changes did not fully legalize the industry.

“You still can’t legally work at or near places of worship, schools, children’s services, education, and care services,” Ms Patten said.

The MP would like to see the reforms go even further.

“Without the changes … it doesn’t remove the barriers to justice and barriers to services, because of the partial criminalization that is in place,” she said.

A group of women holding a large banner smile in the sun on the steps of parliament.
The changes form part of the state government’s two-phase, $11.3 million commitment to decriminalizing sex work in Victoria.(ABC News: Oliver Gordon)

Jules Kim, chief executive of the Scarlet Alliance, an Australian association working to advance sex worker rights, said there was more to be done for Victoria’s sex industry.

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