Scarlet News:

SWOP NSW and Scarlet Alliance condemn gratuitous and irresponsible reporting on sex work

Apr 15, 2024 | Media release

There is a current and deeply concerning media trend that places excessive, unnecessary, and stigmatising focus on sex work, at the expense of meaningful discussion about the significant issues that Australia is currently facing. SWOP NSW, the key organisation that provides peer support to and representation of sex workers in NSW, and Scarlet Alliance, the Australian Sex Workers Association, condemn this gratuitous and irresponsible reporting on sex work.

In the aftermath of a tragic event in which six people lost their lives, it is wholly inappropriate for the Australian public to be beset by a barrage of salacious descriptions of Joel Cauchi’s sex work advertisements. Despite a range of media outlets choosing to highlight one of Cauchi’s chosen occupations in their headlines, or as the primary subject matter of their article, none established a connection between sex work and Cauchi’s devastating actions.

We were similarly confused and disturbed by various references to Cauchi’s patronage and reviews of sex industry businesses. We can only conclude that, as per the Bruce Lehrmann case currently before the courts, sex work is being exploited as click bait.

As organisations that regularly see the impact of stigma and discrimination experienced by sex workers, we are tired of media companies placing petty commercial interests ahead of any real regard for the human beings affected by their reporting. Whilst accounts of Cauchi’s interest in surfing, and the curry he ate shortly before murdering six people and injuring several others, also amount to disrespectful and distracting deviations from the real issue at hand, the difference is that neither are likely to cause further harm to the NSW community at a time when we are all already experiencing grief and trauma.

All too frequently sex workers are offered up as a spectacle for public scrutiny and titillation. It is difficult to understand how descriptions of the floral shirt Cauchi wore in photos used to advertise escorting services is helpful to readers seeking to make sense of this violent crime. Rather these details are offered as a form of entertainment, in the most inappropriate of contexts. It is notable that Cauchi’s employment as an English tutor received far less attention, when it was reported at all.

The gratuitous media hyperfocus on sex work ultimately hurts all of us. As an already marginalised population, sex workers are currently fighting for necessary and overdue anti-discrimination protections. Stigma and discrimination increase the chances sex workers will experience violence and vilification, and create barriers to help seeking, health and safety.

Senselessly stigmatising reporting is also at odds with journalistic codes to act with integrity and in the public interest.

There are obvious commonalities with recent reporting about Seven Network’s alleged payments to secure its exclusive interview with Bruce Lehrmann. Many media outlets have directed a disproportionate amount of attention towards expenditure on sexual services. There was significantly lower interest in and reporting on the lavish meals, rounds of golf, and accommodation costing more than $100,000. The level of detail provided about the sex workers, including their photographs and place of work, was unnecessary and unethical.

Whilst these sex workers had done nothing wrong, the investigation into and exposure of their personal details suggested otherwise, and compromised their privacy and safety. The undue focus on sex work distracted from the actual wrongdoing, and those who had committed it, and raised very serious question about journalistic ethics.

For comment please contact:


Joanna Megan – CEO

0407 709 947

Scarlet Alliance

Mish Pony – CEO

0402 633 424

If you would like to make a complaint to the Australian Press Council, please see our resource here.