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,"
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
"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
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
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.
By CHRIS TINKLER and SHELLEY HODGSON
August 11, 2002