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"Highest Stigma For Sex Workers" Maria Rae, Mercury, 22 August 2008, pg 10

Tasmanian sex workers face the highest levels of stigma in the country.

As a community forum today the Australian Sex Workers Association will be pushing for less discrimination and more services.

Chief Executive Officer Janelle Fawkes said workers struggled to get home loans, child care and non-judgemental health services because of the stigma attached to their job.

"On paper, it looks like they have no income," she said.

Ms Fawkes blamed a morally charged assumption that all sex workers were forced into the industry or were exploited.

"It seems a lot of decisions made about what sex workers need have been based on these assumptions rather than evidence," she said.

"I think the Tasmanian Government needs to send a very clear message to its community that its not acceptable to discriminate against sex workers."

She said Tasmania was the only jurisdiction not to have a self-funded sex work project.

The group Scarlet Alliance has worked on a pilot project to provide services to 60 Tasmanian sex workers during the past two years.

But Ms Fawkes said such a service could not be sustained.

"Services have been occurring on a low scale but the costs of that can't be carried by Scarlet Alliance any further," she said.

And an outreach service was needed to provide safe-sex equipment to the workers at their place of business, Ms Fawkes said.

"A community based organisation is relatively low-cost," she said.

This would also have an impact on the health of the wider community as sex workers pass on safe practices, she said.

"They are the educators of clients who don't precieve themselves at risk of HIV," she said.

It would also break down the isolation that some sex workers felt.

"That needs to cover the whole of Tasmania, not just Hobart and Launceston," Ms Fawkes said.

She said the service could also provide referrals to legal and taxation advice.

"Without such a service, we find sex workers are socially isolated and unsupported," she said.

"Sex workers need their own project to help fight the high levels of stigma and discrimination."