This is a fuller report on the news items in today's NewsDesk and QuickNews:
From yesterday's Sunday news in Australia: Girls as young as twelve are working as prostitutes on St Kilda's streets in Victoria's burgeoning illegal sex trade.

Children on Sex Street

Older prostitutes say more and more young people are turning to street sex work, often with disastrous consequences. And it has been claimed controversial plans to develop sex tolerance zones and a street worker centre in St Kilda are sanctioning child prostitution.

A study run by the support group CHILD WISE found 1205 children under 18 involved in commercial sex in Victoria, including one boy under 10. The study of agencies working with children in every state and territory found Victoria had the highest number of child prostitutes.

CHILD WISE has warned the situation has worsened recently. News of more young people being drawn to prostitution comes after the Herald Sun revealed yesterday that Melbourne schoolgirls are working as prostitutes in illegal suburban brothels.

St Kilda sex workers revealed this week that young girls were being recruited into the industry by older workers or their boyfriends. One worker, "Louise", said she knew of a 12-year-old girl working the streets. She said that many other girls were bashed and raped because they did not know what they were getting into. "One girl is 15," Louise said. "She's been raped four times and she still keeps coming back.

"There's heaps that come in and they're always gone by about midnight -- the last train home to mum's."

A woman who identified herself only as "Toula", said yesterday her daughter was 13 when she started working as a prostitute on St Kilda's streets while she was in the care of the Department of Human Services. "I was totally devastated. It's one of a parent's worst nightmares," Toula said. She said her daughter, now 15, had recently stopped working on the streets.

"She's finally -- in a matter of the last few weeks -- got sick of having to do that to herself and she's overcoming her heroin addiction," she said.

Another worker "Kelly", 20, said this week that she knew of two 13-year-olds and a 14-year-old working in her area of St Kilda. "The two that work here, the 13 and 14-year-old, they're saying they have to get money for rent and chuff (marijuana) and money for their mum," Kelly said.

"We don't like it because these young girls are coming here, they're standing here and they get all the work."

Another worker "Sara", 18, said she had been working the streets since she was 15. She said there many teenaged prostitutes, with several aged only 13 or 14. "They're starting to come in now, all the young ones," she said. "The younger ones make me sick. They shouldn't be doing it, they should be at school. I wish I hadn't done it."

"Pippa" said there were many girls who looked 15. "It's definitely a lot worse than it was four or five years ago," she said.

Male street workers said they were aware of a 14-year-old boy who worked in the area.

CHILD WISE national director Bernadette McMenamin said she knew of 10-year-olds selling sex. "This is a means of survival," Ms McMenamin said. "If people come up and say 'I'll give you 50 bucks to do this', that's $50 they don't have." Ms McMenamin said children were involved in sex work in St Kilda and the city, in areas such as Springvale, Dandenong and Footscray, as well as in hidden networks. But she feared it was an issue people did not really want to know about and one that seemed "too hard for governments to tackle".

Ms McMenamin said pimping, often by boyfriends, and recruitment of teens for sex work appeared to be on the rise.

Drugs were part of the problem, but many of the children had also been abused or come from broken families, she said.

The managing director of the Daily Planet brothel, Andrew Harris, said development of sex tolerance zones and a street worker centre in St Kilda would serve to sanction child prostitution. Mr Harris said the brothel would consider launching legal action if the Government went ahead with its plans. He said the plans made a mockery of the Prostitution Control Act and would result in discrimination against legal brothels.

Already some St Kilda residents and traders have threatened to take legal action to protect their property values and to gain compensation for potential business loss.

Port Phillip mayor Darren Ray said legislative change would be required to open a street worker centre. But he rejected claims that the plans would effectively sanction child prostitution. He said children would not be allowed to operate in sex tolerance zones and people using the sex worker centre would have to show proof of age. There would be intervention where child prostitutes were discovered.

"The council believes that the mandatory reporting under the Children and Young Person's Act is a sufficient and well-established mechanism in instances of child prostitution," he said. "Child prostitution is unacceptable. It is imperative that children are protected from the dangers and harms of what can only be called a form of exploitation."

Sandra Gibson, a health education support worker with the Resourcing Health and Education in the sex industry (RhED) program, said she was not aware of any 12-year-old prostitutes on the streets, but the number of 17 and 18-year-olds had increased in the past year.


August 11, 2002