An inside look at the Vixen Collective: the only peer-run sex worker organisation in Victoria
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An inside look at the Vixen Collective: the only peer-run sex worker organisation in Victoria

Stories/482 , Issues/Sex , Issues/Policy , Issues/Human Rights
Melbourne VIC, Australia
15th Feb 2019
An inside look at the Vixen Collective: the only peer-run sex worker organisation in Victoria
Led by sex workers themselves, Vixen fights for the full decriminalisation of sex work in Victoria.

When it comes to sex work, Jane Green is a fountain of knowledge. A Melbourne sex worker and activist, Jane is an integral part of Vixen Collective, a peer-only sex worker organisation in Victoria. When she spoke to me, she had a lot to say - about the politics of decriminalisation, the importance of a strong sex worker community, and about the hard slog of being a sex work activist.

Vixen Collective is the recognised representative body for sex workers in Victoria. It is entirely volunteer run and is the only sex worker organisation in Australia that doesn't receive government funding. When I was a newbie worker, Jane was the person I went to for information, as she answers the hard questions for many workers.

As the Vixen spokesperson, Jane's role includes media and advocacy. She also works in peer support and education. She says that "Vixen engages directly with sex workers across the state, through community consultation, peer support/education, our peer support line and social media spaces, social events, protests, and actions."

Vixen provides services to the industry, including being a space for workers to seek information on resources available to them, local laws, and support. Constantly consulting with sex workers when making decisions about their steps forward, Vixen is keenly focused on the current and future concerns of workers. It was founded in 2005 by a group of workers who wanted a peer run service, and in 2007, Vixen registered with Scarlet Alliance, the national sex worker association.

In the past Vixen has a varied history of speaking out about law and policy that supports sex workers rights, health, safety, including campaigning for the decriminalisation of sex work in Victoria and fighting against stigma.

Vixen works without funding from the State Government which impacts their ability to provide a full range of services to Victorian sex workers. As Jane says, "the Victorian government needs to recognise the work already being done every day by sex workers through Vixen Collective and as individuals, to value our work and fund accordingly."

Vixen's broad range of advocacy activity and personal assistance means that it struggles to stay afloat without government assistance. We have come so far but sex work is still highly stigmatised and sex workers are still looked down upon by the government and by the police, the justice system and civilians This harsh reality is even more apparent during election seasons, when a barrage of articles appears by non sex workers about sex work, ostensibly to give others a glimpse behind the sordid curtain, and politicians gamble recklessly with our safety in parliament for points.

We need more sex workers in parliament, in positions of power, so that when sex workers and organisations like Vixen speak up, we are listened to. A desire that will become less likely with the 2018 Victorian Election looking to hold the loss of Fiona Pattens' seat in the Northern Metro Upper House of Victoria.

When asked if she sees Victoria achieving decriminalisation of sex work any time soon, Jane is unsure. "We need the full decriminalisation of sex work now. Making this happen relies on the ceaseless work of sex workers ourselves, backed by health and human rights bodies at a local, national and global level", she says. "The policies of political parties in Victoria are now more supportive of sex workers (for example - Victorian Labor, Victorian Greens, Reason Party) but getting action in relation to decriminalisation will largely rely on sex workers continuing to keep this on the agenda."

When it comes to the just passed Victorian election, Vixen was prepared for battle. The Liberal party recently passed a motion at their State Council in support of criminalising sex work using a system called the Swedish/Nordic model. This model criminalises men who buy the services of a sex worker. By criminalising clients, the Nordic model in turn endangers workers. By making clients the criminals they will be less likely to be screened, to provide ID, and the ones who continue to see sex workers will be those looking to harm us.

Only after extensive advocacy by workers and organisations did the Liberal party release a statement indicating that the Liberals have "no plan to adopt the 'Nordic Model." However, the misinformation and discrimination surrounding the conversation around the Nordic Model is something that terrifies myself and my fellow workers.

The Victorian Liberal Party remains the only major political party in Victoria to fail to support the full decriminalisation of sex work. The Victorian Greens Party, with the Labour and Reason Party, supports the full decriminalisation of sex work.

However, the Greens pre-selected Kathleen Maltzahn— well known for her highly stigmatising views and history of calling for the criminalisation of sex work— in the seat of Richmond for the 2018 election. Jane mentions with vehemence that, "sex workers have protested Maltzahn's harmful views for more than 20 years and have engaged in an on-going campaign this year to raise awareness about her problematic views. We hope it will lead to her not being elected in Richmond."

In a wonderful win for sex workers, Malzthan lost the seat of Richmond with Richard Wynne for Labor retaining the seat, and conceded her spot. We can only hope this will lead to Maltzhan not running in the future, but as a past Greens voter it galls me that a party that outwardly presents as supporting the decriminalisation of sex work elected a candidate who is highly problematic. With the Greens attacking protesters from Vixen when they have protested at Greens events for Malzthan, our hope in their party as representatives for our voices begins to fade.

When looking towards the future, Vixen continues to advocate and work with Victorian sex workers, politicians, and government associations to open dialogue about sex work law reform and the needs of the many sex workers residing in Victoria. We can only hope that the Victorian Government will start to listen.

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