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Sex worker community raising funds for workers affected by pandemic

Sex worker rights organisation Scarlet Alliance and its community of member organisations have joined to support sex workers through income insecurity during the COVID-19 pandemic and the new Delta variant–related lockdowns around Australia. 

Launched in partnership with community platform Chuffed.org, the ongoing mutual aid fund aims to raise $100,000, which will be made directly available as weekly payments to sex workers struggling with income loss.

The pandemic has had an unprecedented impact on sex workers, continuing to cause snap lockdowns and other restrictions that impact incomes, including the recent restrictions for regional and urban sex workers in New South Wales, South Australia, and Victoria. 

Sex workers have no access to sick pay or holiday pay, and many have no superannuation or savings to fall back on, Scarlet Alliance said. 

The stigma and discrimination workers face can lead to difficulty accessing government support, and the nature of sex work can make it impossible to prove lost earnings.

Dr Elena Jeffreys, State Coordinator of Queensland’s Respect Inc and member of the National Cabinet of Whores overseeing the national response for sex workers, said that sex workers are treated as sub-contractors without entitlements.

“Without payslips or documentation from workplaces, financial support from government is extremely difficult to access,” said Dr Jeffreys.

“For the many migrant workers in Australia, a slow down in visa and Permanent Residency processing means thousands of sex workers lives are on hold, and government financial support is out of reach in the meantime.”

While Scarlet Alliance said it supports health guidance and lockdown regulations, government restrictions have left many sex workers without income. 

This loss directly impacts workers’ ability to maintain housing, buy food and essential items, support their dependents, and access healthcare and prescriptions.

The fundraiser provides emergency relief for sex workers currently unable to work under COVID-19 restrictions who do not meet government or other financial support eligibility criteria. 

Scarlet Alliance aims to make donations directly available to sex workers who need emergency financial relief to support them to stay safe, housed, and fed during the COVID-19 pandemic. 

“Every week, we have to make an evaluation on how much we can pay out from the mutual aid fund, but based on an indefinite timeframe for sex workers to be able to return to work across the country,” said Gala Vanting, National Programs Manager of Scarlet Alliance.

“With the donation fatigue that’s come from so much hardship spread across such huge populations, it’s more important now than it’s ever been for us to be able to continue to reach out to new supporters.”

The fund is overseen by sex worker organisations and run by sex worker organisation staff and volunteers across Australia. 

Relief applications are assessed regularly, and payments are administered weekly through a transparent sex worker–led organisation structure. 

Allocation is dependent on funds donated at that time.

More than $38,000 has been donated so far.

“Sex workers have been left behind, but with your support, we can all make sure we are looking after each other,” said Dr Jeffreys.

If you need support during the pandemic, check our list of community contacts for sex workers and the LGBTIQ+ community.

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