The SWEAR Story

Our History, or Where We Came From

Western Australia has a long and chequered history of treating sex workers poorly, and of not giving sex workers a voice in the regulation of our industry, despite its massive consequences for our lives. This has, amongst other things, resulted in the current confusing and complicated legal situation in Western Australia, where the act of sex work itself is legal, but a host of other criminal laws apply to the industry, which are split between the Prostitution Act 2000 and the Criminal Code Compilation Act 1913.

Things nearly got much worse in 2011, when then-Attorney-General Christian Porter introduced the Prostitution Bill 2011, an appalling bill which would have had far-reaching consequences for Western Australian sex workers, and placed sex workers right across the industry in far more danger than they already were. The 2011 bill was so bad that it would have made Western Australia’s laws on sex work some of the worst in the world short of outright criminalisation of the industry. The bill was, thankfully, defeated after a chorus of opposition from across the political spectrum.

By 2013, Western Australian sex workers faced a number of continuing concerns: the potential reincarnation of the 2011 bill in a new form, the risk of a new, different bill which might nonetheless make things worse, the ongoing brutal crackdown on street sex workers in the Highgate area by the City of Vincent council, and continuing media discussion about sex work in which sex workers themselves were never consulted or given a voice. A group of local sex workers got together to address these issues in early 2013, and People For Sex Worker Rights in WA was formed as a result.

Since then, we’ve been working to address these issues and ensure that sex workers get heard on sex worker issues – and loud. We rallied at Parliament House in Perth in May 2013 for the decriminalisation of the sex industry in WA and against any return of the 2011 bill, and again in July, participating in the snap International Day of Protest Against Violence Against Sex Workers. We’ve been a consistent voice on sex worker issues in Western Australian media, in particular dogging advocates for the appalling Swedish or Nordic model of quasi-criminalisation by ensuring that they rarely get a word out without us having our say. We’ve fought to correct myths and misunderstandings in the Western Australian press, and we’ve been working to build networks, both among sex workers and with our allies in the broader community.

Rebranding

PFSWRWA was a mouthful and a half. When the executive committee got some new faces in 2017 a rebrand was decided upon. The development of a strategic plan for PFSWRWA led to a new, much more awesome, name. SWEAR, Sex Work; Education, Advocacy and Rights.

Going Forward

We recognise that we have a long fight ahead for decent, sex worker-friendly law reform in Western Australia. In 2014, we’ve seen a couple of fringe-but-persistent voices in parliament arguing for the appalling Nordic/Swedish model, which is opposed by sex workers everywhere, and we’ve seen a number of politicians from both parties talk ominously about “regulation” of the industry. The brutal treatment of street workers by the City of Vincent continues unabated, and must be stopped. We are adamant that sex workers, who will be the people actually affected by any reform of Western Australia’s laws on sex work, must be heard loud and clear in any reform process. We are equally adamant that the only form of law reform we will accept is decriminalisation, the international best-practice legal model regarding the sex industry, which is supported by sex workers not only here and interstate but right around the world.

We will be ramping up our campaign for the full decriminalisation of the industry into 2018, and we would love your support. If you’d like to get involved with our campaign, if you’d like more information on our issues, or if you’d like us to come and speak at your event or to your organisation, please contact us at swear.wa@gmail.com or via our Twitter or Facebook accounts.

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