Sex workers in mining towns facing discrimination

An interesting controversy has arisen out of the mining boom, with sex workers reporting discrimination from hoteliers.

The sex industry has long been a lucrative market in the male dominated mining communities, but now the issue has created problems between those working offering the services and local accommodation venues, The Sydney Morning Herald reports.

Deputy Commissioner of the Queensland Anti-Discrimination Commission, Neroli Holmes, told the Herald there has been an increase in the number cases being reported to authorities over issues between sex workers and accommodation providers.

One issue is the fear of judgement or discrimination within the industry, which leads Holmes to believe the three reported conflicts since the beginning of July is not actually representative of the issue.

“Most sex workers in regional towns preferred to keep their business discreet. There may be a bigger problem than the numbers of complaints indicate,” she said.

Rockhampton motel operator Yudy Tjandramulia shared his concerns that the number of “working girls” looking to use his premises has increased since he bought the business six years ago.

“More and more and more they keep coming,” he said.

“And we don’t know what to do.

“We can’t tell, we can’t ask – it is not always women either – it is very confusing.”

“We don’t know if there is a problem until sometimes when the police come.”

The main issue is the discrepancies between liquor licensing and anti-discrimination laws.

In 2009 the Prostitution Licensing Authority warned that denying sole sex workers accommodation based on their business could be in breach of the Anti-Discrimination Act.

But hoteliers are using their right to refuse service, under liquor licensing laws, to turn them away.

A touring sex worker currently fighting a discrimination case on the issue, Kaarla, told the Herald the treatment is unfair.

“It all comes down to the same thing, ‘you’re a prostitute, we’re running a family business, we don’t want you here’,” Karlaa said.

“But at the end of the day, this is a mining town and people do not bring their families to the hotel and if I knocked on every single door, I could pretty well guarantee that 90 per cent of the guests would be guys.

“They have no right to throw us out of our rooms.”

Last year a study into regional communities in Western Australia, questioned the sex trade in mining communities, saying prostitutes operated out of limousines in the area and men often engaged in fights over the small number of women and sex workers in the towns.

But the madam of a brothel in Kalgoorlie, Leigh Varis Beswick, says her workers had not experienced problems with drunken lout behaviour from miners.

Kaarla said she went to the Gold Coast to cash in on the opportunity, with so many male workers located in one area.

But she has already settled out of court with two motels over discrimination issues regarding her work.

The fly-in, fly-out (FIFO) employment types, which have attracted extensive controversy in recent times, are not only for the mine workers themselves, as a representative from sex worker advocacy group Respect told the Herald.

Jenny said there was an increasing rate of solo sex workers preferring to fly in and fly out of regions to avoid a “high level of discrimination,” while chair of the United Sex Workers of North Queensland, Michele Man, said working girls find it difficult to get accommodation in mining towns.

“What I’ve had to do is ring up every hotel and asked whether they were sex worker-friendlyshe said.

“In Townsville, I only got eight of about 100.”

Karlaa said accommodation in places like Moranbah are often booked out up to three months in advance compared to the six weeks usual in the previous mining boom.

The Queensland government was this morning granted an extension on a decision about a BMA application for a 100 per cent FIFO workforce at Caval Ridge, near Moranbah.

She also said she is often charged more for accommodation because she’s a sex worker.

“I think motels are more bothered about the stigma and the reputation, than respecting our rights,” she said.

“But the mining boom, the floods, and the all contractors coming in, accommodation is at a premium – it’s like they can do what they want.”

The Australian Accommodation Association would not comment on the issue but issued a statement saying the matter had not been raised as an issue.

Image: Perth Now

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