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International Whores Day Sydney 2007, Sex Workers take over Sydney Harbour with Red Umbrellas, Costumes and Masks

Link to Photo spread Pages: 1 >> 2 >> 3 >> 4 >> 5

International Whores’ Day Celebration



3 June, Sydney 2007





Article By Kate Holden, from RED Magazine, reprinted with permission, Photos by Domino


Tart: pie, pastry, turnover, puff, Danish Pastry, French Pastry, Patisserie; Quiche, strudel, baklava, blintz, éclaire. Also a saucy whore.(18th century vernacular)

Prostitutes, or ‘doxies’ or ‘blowens’ or ‘biters’ or ‘strumpets’ as they might have been called by the marines and convicts of the 18th century, were among the very first white women ever to step onto the continent of Australia when they arrived at Sydney Cove with the First Fleet in 1788.

Two hundred and nineteen and a half years later, their daughters in profession are gathering at Circular Quay, only metres away from that spot, to celebrate International Whores’ Day as loudly and proudly as they can.


Link to International Committee for the Rights of Sex Workers, Europe, to see photos of Red Umbrella Events in Europe.


"Good God what a Seen of Whordome", exclaimed the aghast naval lieutenant Ralph Clark of the women convicts in 1788; what face the starchy Clark might have made of the bold women assembling in public on June 3 one cannot imagine.

Some are in jeans and jackets, their faces unmade-up, but others have gone to town.

The music is "Hey Big Spender", the eyelashes are fake, the gowns are unapologetic red velvet on a Sunday afternoon, and the defiantly "out whores" of Sydney gather in a small but intensely scarlet procession to make their presence known.

NSW Laws were recently amended: Brothels with more than 1 worker, including massage parlours, or premises where sex services are advertised to be available or provided, may be closed after one amenity complaint, or if found to be unauthorised or illegal.

Local councils may make an application for an order if one or more complaints are made by persons who work, or use facilities in the vicinity, or their children use facilities in the vicinity.

Brothels closure orders can be given without Natural Justice requirements, so there is no notice period required for a proposed order, and no opportunity to defend oneself against the reasons for closure before the order is issued. Any defence can only be made through an appeal at Court after the order has been given, and lodged within the 5 working days before the order commences.

Link to more information about law reform in NSW




A few kilometres west on the other side of the Rocks, the Sydney Writers’ Festival is in full swing. I have briefly escaped the throng there to join my former sorority.

I worked as a prostitute in Melbourne for several years in the 1990s, but in my day, although sex workers’ rights have been championed for years, it was still something to announce to an acquaintance that I was a working lady.

In fact it’s the writing of that experience I have been discussing in panels at the festival.

Link to the Prologue of Kate's book "In My Skin"


Carmen (pictured left), high profile sex worker celebrity of New South Wales and New Zealand.

Carmen is of Maori background and has been honoured by the Maori Queen of New Zealand for her important work in the community.

Now here before me are the women I’ve been praising in public as invaluable members of society. They are unmissable as they proceed along the waterfront of Circular Quay: a bobble of red umbrellas (international symbol of protection against the elements and the risks of prostitution) and, just in case no one understands who, or what they are, plenty of fishnet stockinged legs in classy heels.


Link to further photos and more of Kate Holdens article.

All photos © Scarlet Alliance, The Australian Sex Workers Association, 2007. Kate Holden article reprinted from RED Magazine, with permission.

Link to Photo spread Pages: 1 >> 2 >> 3 >> 4 >> 5