Scarlet Alliance

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Scarlet Alliance History


Scarlet Alliance hosted a 2 day sex worker pre-conference leading up to the International AIDS Conference (AIDS2014) in Melbourne. At the conference proper Scarlet Alliance in partnership with APNSW and NSWP hosted the Sex Worker Networking Zone in the Global Village.

The annual National Forum was held in Melbourne with a rally in St Kilda raising awareness of the problematic sex work laws in Victoria and the criminalisation of street based workers.

The organisation released key resources in 2014 including: Principles for Model Sex Work Legislation, a position paper on Rapid Testing, Pre-Exposure Prophylaxis (PrEP) and Early Treatment and contributed to the NSWP Global Report on PrEP and Early Treatment. A 2014-17 Strategic Plan was also released.


Scarlet Alliance presented several oral presentations, workshops and poster sessions at the International Congress on HIV in Asia and The Pacific (ICAAP) in Bangkok 18-22 November. Scarlet Alliance has had a number of oral presentations confirmed including: End criminalisation of sex workers living with HIV - Peer Ed stops transmission not criminalisation, Mandatory sex worker testing: Pin cushion or prevention: A policy failure, Migrant Sex Workers Representing Migrant Sex Workers on Issues and Policies that Affect Us. Our regional program supported sex workers from Friends Frangipani to attend and present Sex workers win anti-discrimination case; sending a message that sex workers have rights and will fight for them in court; and several e-posters.

Scarlet Alliance presented at ASHM & ASHA Conferences in Darwin, October 21-25 on our international Capacity Building work and hosted a lunchtime session on Wednesday 23/10/13 sex work legal issues with a panel of speakers. The session was titled Sex, police, condoms, arrests and the United Nations: what do sex workers have to say about it? A lively lunch discussion as our panel of sex worker experts cover how law, enforcement and policy affect safe sex, human rights and health promotion.

The Scarlet Alliance Annual National Forum was held in Sydney, November 26-28, 2013.


Scarlet Alliance hosted a sex worker float in Mardi Gras 2012, had abstracts accepted on Rapid Testing, a invited speaker on Stigm & Discrimination and hosted a hot sex over lunch panel of sex worker speakers at the National Centre in HIV Social Research Silence & Articulation Conference, the 12th Social Research Conference on HIV, hepatitis C and related diseases 12–13 April 2012. The Scarlet Alliance Annual National Forum was held in Hobart, November 20-22, 2012.

Scarlet Alliance had a strong presence at ICAAP Busan South Korea August 2012 and supported sex worker participation from other Pacific and Asian countries to attend. And participated in the Festival of Sex Work, Melbourne, 26 May - 2 June held by our member organisation Vixen.


The Scarlet Alliance National Forum was held in Darwin 22nd-24th NOVEMBER, 2011. Scarlet Alliance Associate Member Organisation Touching Base ran their Professional Disability Awareness Training for sex workers and sex industry staff who work with clients with a disability on the day before the Scarlet Alliance National Forum in Darwin. The Scarlet Road doucmentary was shown at the National Forum and Scarlet Alliance held a 4 week sex worker activist boot camp with invited guest speakers from each political party.


Scarlet Alliance hosted a international speaking tour supporting speakers to travel to Sydney, Hobart, Adelaide and Perth. The Sex Work Regulation Symposium: Best practice models for public and sex workers health showcased decriminalisation. A panel of international guest speakers toured Australia presenting compelling evidence on how different models of sex industry regulation impact on sex workers and health promotion outcomes. The presenters provided evidence from countries with different models of regulation including decriminalisation (New Zealand and New South Wales, Australia), the criminalisation of the clients of sex workers (Sweden) and criminalisation (Papua New Guinea - Sydney event only). Questions and discussion will be promoted in this essential session for all concerned with BBV prevention, public health and sex workers health.

For Mardi Gras Scarlet Alliance collaborated with A Gender Agenda (ACT) and marched on the Transsexual Empire Strikes Back float. For International Whores Day June 2nd a performance night was held at the Red Rattler, Marrickville. The Annual National Forum was held in Sydney 23 - 25 November, 2010


In August Scarlet Alliance held a public meeting for Sex Workers and Supporters in Hobart, Tasmania, the Money Upfront event drew attention to the lack of sex worker services for sex workers in Tasmania and major barriers for sex workers attending health services. The event resulted in the formation of the Sex Worker project in Tasmania. In May Scarlet ALliance held a night of performance called Mixed Business - Sex Workers and Lesbians Come Together launching the sex worker edition of the LOTL magazine. On May 15th we held Media Training for Sex Workers and on May 21 a Film Fundraiser for Women's Network for Unity (Cambodia). There was also an International Whores Day 2 June there was a Sydney Red Umbrella march and on 17th December International Day to End Violence Against Sex Workers, a brunch at the apex of Oxford, Riley and Burton Streets in Darlinghurst, followed by a red umbrella walk through the old haunts of sex work in the area.

Scarlet Alliance joined 80 Sex Workers from fourteen Asia Pacific countries attending the ICAAP Conference in Bali. A pre-conference sex worker meeting facilitated by APNSW & Scarlet Alliance was held just before the event and a research workshop that documented key ethics issues for researchers working with sex workers.

Our annual National Forum was held 17-19 November, 2009 in Canberra including a National Symposium at Old Parliament House.


The Scarlet Alliance HIV positive sex worker needs assessment report was released at a forum in Sydney in July. Scarlet Alliance and its membership organisations fundraised to send two members of the Migration Working Party to the International AIDS Conference in Mexico.

Scarlet Alliance held a sex worker only forum and a community forum to raise awareness of the lack of services for sex workers in Tasmania.

The Scarlet Alliance President was nominated and attended the Rudd Governments 2020 Conference raising sex worker and migration issues.

Scarlet Alliance speakers were included in the Speakeasy - Prohibition and Human Vices, 6th December 2008, the National Council of Jewish Women Australia- Trafficking Seminar, 8th December. Our Annual National Forum was held in Brisbane 26,27 and 28 November 2008 in conjunction with a Touching Base training, and the 4th annual National Symposium on sex worker issues.

Scarlet Alliance Presented in Mexico City, August 2008


Our second edition of proVision "Stigma" was released in 2007.

The 2007 National Forum was held in Kalgoorlie - the first regional national forum for Scarlet Alliance - complete with a Priscilla style bus ride across the desert. Representatives from Empower (Thai sex worker group) also attended and presented at the conference. The sex Worker group from Victoria Vixen organised a film night during the forum. The National Symposium was held at the Kalgoorlie Town Hall. Western Australia was in the midst of sex industry law reform at the time.

A large contingent of sex workers from around the country marched in the Perth Pride Parade.

Scarlet Alliance held a community forum in Brisbane raising awareness of the service needs of Queensland Sex Workers. This was followed by a on-line survey of Queensland sex workers to feed into the Queensland Health Inquiry.

International Whores Day was recognised by a number of events around the country including: sex worker celebratory parade starting at the Opera House and ending with performances outside the MCA in Sydney; A film night, introduced by Carmen, featured short films from around the world; and a media training workshop.

Scarlet Alliance Migration Working Party held the first Globali$ed Sex Work one day forum in Sydney raising issues effecting migrant sex workers in Australia.


The 2006 National Forum was held in Adelaide and included invited visitors from Friends Frangipani Association in Papua New Guinea. The Forum included two days of workshops and a opening night of sex worker performance. It was followed by a well attended Public Symposium at the Old Gallery of Parliament House. Constitution changes this year actioned the outcome of discussions over many years with the introduction of a new membership cateogory for individual sex workers. National media attention at the National Forum this year raised the discrimination experienced by sex workers at the hands of newspaper outlets. In some cases individual sex workers pay four to six times more to place an advertisement than any other individual or business. Some newspapers will only accept advertisements from sex workers if they place their advertisement for seven days in a row forcing workers into elongated work periods. The National Training Project took on a new lease of life with new rounds of assessments the outcome of the re-invigoration of a assessors network through a short term Reframing the Future grant. The year also included the employment of a one day per fortnight project officer, training in association with RASA (Relationships South Australia) upgrading current workplace assessor & trainers qualifications and providing training on two parts of the TAA qualification for new assessors. Many representatives from Scarlet Alliance and our member organisations participated in a Australian Institute of Criminology roundtable on proposed trafficking research. The Scarlet Alliance Migration Working Party (coordinated by a Executive member and including staff of member organisations) also informed the work of Cultural Practices on resources targetting Migrant Sex Workers. Members of the Migration Party were supported to present for the first time at the ASHM conference in Melbourne. Scarlet Alliance was successful in a bid to coordinate a Chlamydia Pilot Project focussing on specific sectors of the sex work community in Adelaide, Tasmania and Northern Territory. Policy work this year included submissions to: the Western Australian Parliamentary Committee on proposed changes to legislation; Queensland PLA Regulatory Impact Statement; New Zealand Parliament inquiry into street based sex work; Queensland Crime and Misconduct Commission inquiry into escort services. Scarlet Alliance also briefed both the Commonwealth Parliamentary Committee on HIV/AIDS and the IGCAHRD committee. The Male Workers E-list was re-developed and a project in collaboration with AFAO included a group of Male workers volunteering their time to support the development of advertisement banners for a gay chat site. In 2006 we lost a friend, and long time Scarlet Alliance activist when Kenn Robbinson died a week before the National Forum. This year marked the publication of the first edition of proVision, the Scarlet Alliance magazine.


Scarlet Alliance employed our first paid Communications Officer with the assistance of NAPWA ( who housed the employee for the six month period. We held a very successful series of events as part of Womens History Month raising the profile of the sex worker rights movement and reclaiming the role sex workers have played in the broader womens movement. Our allies and predeccessors were acknowledged and celebrated. Later the same year Scarlet Alliance recieved our ongoing Communications Project funding directly for the first time and was succcessful with other grant applications. This enabled us to open our first national office in Sydney in the Albion Street Centre building with donations of equipment, expertise and advise from Napwa, AFAO, NUAA, Workforce Development Program, SWOP, Urban Realists, and others. The office party will be remembered for some time with speakers including: Sera Pinwill, Roberta Perkins, Alina Thomas, Janelle Fawkes and performances by the Debby doesn't do it for free sex worker activist/artist/performance group. With paid staff the volunteer executive spent many sleepless nights transforming a long term volunteer organisation into one that would accomodate paid staff and new commitments in financial management and reporting. The changed role of an executive was taken in stride as we held our annual AGM and national sex worker forum in Melbourne in October including a public symposium with sex work papers under the banner of "contemporary sex work issues from an australian perspective." Scarlet Alliance had a strong presence in 2005 at the San Francisco International Sex Worker Film Festival and the Montreal Stellar Sex Worker Rights Conference as well as getting to finally spend time with our close allies at the New Zealand Prostitutes Collective NZPC as part of the Pan Pacific AIDS conference. Scarlet Alliance began our work in Papua New Guinea this year in assisting PNG sex workers to develop their own network to enable their involvement in the HIV/AIDS response.


  1. was filled with old and new trials. Old trials in the form of Sex Industry Law Reform which has produced less than desirable draft legislation and regulatory changes, and new trials in the form of escalating anti-trafficking dialogue and extremely short sighted and dangerous responses directly affecting the workplaces of some sex workers. Scarlet Alliance has lobbied on a state and national level for sex worker rights to be recognised in legislation; including a presence in Tasmania where major law reform changes are being considered, a submission responding to and opposing the proposed Brothel fee increases in Victorian, and Federally expressing strong opposition to the punitive approach to "trafficking" coming from the Government.

Again Scarlet Alliance has raised the lack of targetted sex work services in Tasmania and the short sighted erosion of support for peer education {the strategy underpinning successful HIV/AIDS prevention within sex work communities in Australia) by funding bodies in Australia.

Scarlet Alliance enjoyed a high international profile in 2004, including presenting in Hong Kong at the Zi Teng sex worker rights Conference, and delivering a highly acclaimed workshop "Whorigami - the Art of Towel Rolling, Folding and Shaping" at the XV International HIV/AIDS Conference in Thailand. See picture below (This workshop was previously censored in Western Australia by Education Minister Alan Carpenter in 2003)

Whorigami Workshop Promoting peer education in the International HIV/AIDS Conference, 2004

Scarlet Alliance underwent constitutional change including a name change to Scarlet Alliance, Australian Sex Workers Association (inc) and changes to membership criteria to facilitate the inclusion of small unfunded sex worker groups.

In December Scarlet Alliance held a forum in Darwin to mark World Aids Day. The Organisation won a National Australia Bank Volunteer Award to commemorate the many volunteers that contribute to the organisation.


Phoenix the Western Australian based sex worker group, a project of FPWA (formerly Family Planning WA) was defunded by the then Labor Health Minister Bob Kucera. An internal audit was conducted which found no mis-use of funds and that the resources produced by the project were within the paramaters of the contract between the health department and the project. The Health Minister however went ahead with the defunding stating the magazine marked "NOT FOR PUBLIC DISTRIBUTION", which was circulated to sex industry workers only, was "pornagraphic". Independent advice indicated the magazine was not pornographic and in fact targetted sex workers with information relevant to their work. Phoenix had been working toward improved OH&S standards for sex industry workers in that state and as such had spoken out, along with many doctors, lawyers and human rights organisations, against laws proposed by the office of Police Minister, Michelle Roberts.


The Scarlet Executive and AFAO delegates participated in the mid-term review into the HIV and Hep C Strategies. Once again Scarlet called on the Federal Government to recognise the importance of peer based sex worker services, education and networking.

Cald and NESB Skillshare

Scarlet organised a national skillshare weekend for peer based outreach workers from non-english speaking backgrounds and culturally and linguistically diverse communities. There was a focus on workers from Asia, included looking at specific groups such as Chinese and Thai workers. Globalisation, Immigration issues, sexual health and sex work in the Asia Pacific region was also covered. On the last morning participants ran their own workshop to report on the issues in each state and identify key issues.

The National Forum

Scarlet Alliance National Forum was held in Perth in November and was very timely, with the announcement of the proposed licensing laws only 3 days after a national media conference hosted by Scarlet against such laws. Participants at the forum wrote a submission in response to the proposed licensing laws.

The National Training Project

The National Training Project employed a new co-ordinator and has moved forward considerably, initial focus groups were held with peer educators participating at the National Forum.



Melbourne held the ICAAP conference, Scarlet Alliance held the National Forum the week earlier to enable participants to attend. Members from EMPOWER and GAATW participated in a research project with SWOP reporting back their findings at the National forum. One of the attractions of the ICAAP cultural program was the Honey Bee Special sex worker performance group from EMPOWER in Thailand.

Funding Issues

In the years since the first national AIDS strategy, which committed many state and territory governments to fund safe sex peer education projects aimed at sex workers (initially through AIDS matched funding and now through the health partnerships), the industry increased in size by 20% to 50% in some areas (eg. ACT had 6 brothels in 1991, currently has 17). There was also an increase in the demand for service provision by sex worker organisations to sex workers, yet funding to these organisations barely kept up with CPI increases. This gave rise to overstretched, under resourced organisations with a high level of staff turn over due to burn out. The areas that particularly suffered as a result of this are; organisations ability to develop and document policies, evaluations of services to analyse the effectiveness of approaches and pick up emerging needs, workplace training manuals, research (particularly collaborative research with various institutions), and organisational capacity building.

Some of these issues were picked up by the Scarlet Alliance, and with voluntary commitment Scarlet Alliance developed a number policies, both independently as well as with the Australian Federation of Aids Organisations. “Unjust & Counterproductive- The Failure of Governments to Protect Sex Workers from Discrimination” and “ Occupational, Health and Safety Guidelines and Model Principles for Sex Industry Law Reform are examples of the work Scarlet Alliance had achieved with AFAO by 2001.

In 2001 Scarlet Alliance again tried for Secretariat Funding and was denied. It had been proposed that nationally three staff be employed to cover the following areas:

Manager, Overseeing the smooth running of the organization, networking and linking in with other organizations, A Research/Policy Officer, whose role it would be to develop policy on issues important to sex workers and an administrative officer.

Scarlet Alliance Members in 2001:

  • VIC: Rhed (associate member)
  • WA: Phoenix & SWOPWA
  • ACT: ACTSWOP (associate member)
  • SA: SA SIN
  • NSW: Sex Workers Outreach Project (SWOP), & Quewu –Queer and Esoteric Workers Union


Scarlet Alliance produced the lobbying and educative document “Model Principles for Sex Industry Law Reform” in association with AFAO. “Model Principles” brings together the key issues for law reform in Australia, and includes short briefing papers followed by strong arguments for sex worker rights, empowerment and political strength. A clear media and lobbying kit for sex worker activist is in the appendix, as well as a brief introduction to the political process. The Scarlet Alliance Law Reform Committee also assisted in writing “Model Principles.”

Scarlet Alliance made an application for National Training Project Funding, and proposal for funds to have a Scarlet Alliance Website.

Sue Metzenrath spoke on behalf of Scarlet Alliance * on a panel Sex: Is it Politics’ at the Australasian Political Studies Association 2000 Conference.

  • at Durban, 11 July 2000 Session - D17 - Sex Work and HIV:Lessons and Challenges sited 9 April,2004 sited 9 April,2004

    In an aggressive move by the ACT Government, the sex worker organisation WISE (Workers in Sex Industry Employment) had their funding cancelled. WISE had been involved in a long battle for more than 3 years with their funder, the ACT Health Department, about level of funding. The Health Department had been advised by WISE that they were unable to continue to provide the same levels of service provision without an increase in funding. The Health Department had consistently refused the requests. The funding was cancelled without phone call or face to face meeting, simply in a fax from the Health Department. At the time when the Health Department were asked how they were going to deliver peer based services to sex workers in the ACT, they replied that they did not know.

1999 Scarlet Alliance held its National Forum in Kuala Lumpur backed onto the Fifth International Congress on AIDS in Asia and the Pacific, Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, 23 - 27 October 1999.

International Focus

The issue of trafficking in women/sex slavery was very prominent for Scarlet Alliance in ’99. The ideas articulated by Scarlet Alliance were adopted internationally by the Network of Sex Work Projects (NSWP). Other pro sex work womens organisations that were involved with the trafficking debate were also influenced by the dynamic and highly informed arguments put forward by Scarlet Alliance.

An international working group of sex worker activists (including Scarlet Alliance) analysed, provided comments on and was very active in lobbying a number of NGOs with UN status to endorse the Scarlet Alliance position on the issue of “trafficking in women”. This protocol, since passed, has guided the work of signatory States in relation to trafficking in persons and has had far reaching consequences on national laws relating to the sex industry. A “Human Rights Caucus” was developed which included The International Human Rights Law Group, La Strada (Poland), Fundacion Esperanza (Spain), Global Alliance Against Trafficking in Women, Foundation Against Trafficking in Women (Netherlands), and Asian Women’s Human Rights Council. This caucus met in March (7th-12th). Scarlet Alliance does not have official UN NGO accreditation, but the International Human Rights Law Group did include Scarlet members in the delegation. An action plan for Scarlet was produced to guide lobbying efforts in preparation for more meetings relating to the protocol.

The perspectives of Scarlet Alliance included peer based programs which will serve the interests of sex workers who are migrating for the purpose of working in the sex industry. Further criminalisation of the sex industry only jeopardises sex workers’ health and allows the human rights of sex workers to be undermined. The Caucus developed position papers on trafficking/smuggling, involuntary servitude, sexual exploitation and reported case studies. Sue Metzenrath and Penny Saunders prepared some of these reports for the caucus, and on behalf of Scarlet Alliance.

Members 1999

  • SQWISI – GOLD COAST, Trust House 3070 Gold Coast Highway Surfers Paradise QLD
  • SQWISI – CAIRNS, Andrejic Arc. 55 Lake Street Cairns QLD
  • WISE – ACT, Lonsdale Street Braddon ACT
  • SIN – SOUTH AUSTRALIA, Hutt Street Adelaide SA
  • SWOP – NSW, Riley Street Surry Hills NSW 1300
  • TAS-WISE – TASMANIA, Wellington Street Launceston TAS
  • PCV – VICTORIA, Inkerman Street St Kilda VIC
  • SAINT – NT, C/- NTAC 6 Manton Street Darwin NT
  • PHOENIX – WA, Aberdeen Street North Bridge WA
  • Queer & Esoteric Workers Union – NSW, Devine Street Erskineville NSW


Scarlet Alliance made a funding Application to the Australia Council which proposed to:

  • Catalogue sex workers artsworks that already exist, with the possibility of including some of these in a travelling culture festival planned to start in Sept 1999. Media involved include: writing, painting, performance art, photography, crafts. The culture festival is planned to be piggy backed onto already existing festivals, eg Mardi Gras, Fringe Festival in Adelaide, etc.
  • Provide support for sex worker artists to get them in touch with their local community artists, and art funding bodies. Provide help in writing funding submissions.
  • Oversee the production of a set of “Coming Out” postcards. The plan is to have around fifteen sex workers pose for photographs that can be utilised in postcards that we can sell to raise money to set up a trust fund to then further fund sex worker art projects.

    “There is a wealth of talent among the sex worker community which the Scarlet Alliance intiative will be able to foster and support. Sex workers have been marginalised by the mainstream community and treated by funding bodies as primarily a "risk group" for HIV. By funding this arts project, the Australia Council wil be able to support the work of many exciting and socially aware artists as well as promoting links between sex workers and community cultural organisations and improving the profile of sex workers in the general community. We would like to see exhibitions and cultural events embrace the diversity of the sex industry in a variety of media. We will also encourage a multi-cultural awareness to include the skills of severally-marginalised sex workers such as Asian immigrants, HIV positive workers, transexuals etc. It may also be possible to extend the project to include countries in the region.” (Quote from QEW-U support letter)

    A HIV & Sex Work Conference was held but funding ran out and the papers were never published.


The major aims for the year were to increase the profile of Scarlet, consolidate the organisation and support sex worker community development.

Some of the activities Scarlet has been involved in during the year in order to achieve those aims include:

  • Responding to various National Strategy drafts,
  • Discussions with various government departments, including Health and Family Services, Attorney General’s Dept, Office for the Status of Women, Dept of Immigration;
  • Production and distribution of a brief on sex slavery;
  • Ongoing consultation with state and territory sex worker groups and information brokerage;
  • Networking in the Asia Pacific region;
  • Representation at the international conference on AIDS in Vancouver in 1996;
  • Representation at the international sex workers conference in LA;
  • Input into the ANCARD workplan;
  • Input into the National Indigenous Sexual Health Strategy;
  • Put out a number of media releases;
  • Having ongoing input into AFAO via our representative on the AFAO executive;
  • Supported the setting up of an organisation in the Northern Territory to provide services to sex workers;
  • Supported prostitution law reform in a number of jurisdictions through the contribution of submissions.

    The problem of Tasmania

    There are currently no funded HIV/AIDS/ communicable diseases sex worker targetted services or organisations in Tasmania. The Ottawa Charter for Health Promotion is made up of five parts, including building healthy public policy, creating supportive environments, strengthening community action, developing personal skills and reorienting health services. These principles are not evident in relation to sex workers in Tasmania. The National HIV/AIDS Strategy recognises the importance of community development and involvement by affected communities (pg. 15).

    Currently, sex workers in Tasmania endure some of the most repressive working conditions in Australia and as a result of the lack of a specific funded sex worker organisation there is no linkage with government, heightened awareness of transmission issues, and support for an enabling environment is impossible. Sex workers in Tasmania need an organisation based on peer principles to contribute to public health policy, provide education and advocate on sex industry issues.

Members 1997:

  • ACT: WISE (Workers in Sex Employment)
  • NSW: SWOP (Sex Worker Outreach Project)
  • PROS ( Prostitutes Rights Organisation for Sex Workers)
  • Q-ewu (Queer and Esoteric Workers Union)
  • NT: SIANT (Sex Industry Association of the Northern Territory)
  • PANTHER (Prostitutes Association of the Northern Territory for Health, Education and Referral)
  • QLD: SQWISI (Self Help for Queensland Workers in the Sex Industry, Brisbane, Cairn, Gold Coast)
  • SA: SASIN (South Australian Sex Industry network), SWAG (Sex Worker Action Group)
  • TAS: TASWISE (Tasmanian Workers in Sex Employment)
  • VIC: PCV (Prostitutes Collective of Victoria)
  • WA: SIERA ( Self Information, Education, Referral Association).

    The Scarlet Alliance advocated on behalf of sex workers at the national level that current levels of HIV/AIDS funding and services be maintained. In relation to the issue of HIV/AIDS, the Scarlet Alliance was consulted by the Commonwealth in the three National HIV/AIDS strategies, as well as on the National Indigenous Sexual Health Strategy and the evaluations of the national HIV/AIDS strategies. All of these reports incorporated issues which are of concern to Scarlet ALliance members.

    Illegal (migrant) workers in Australia

    Scarlet Alliance had ongoing discussions with the Immigration Department in relation to the issue of illegal (migrant) sex workers in Australia and the need for departmental officers to be sensitive to their needs. Scarlet was successful in ensuring that whilst these women were waiting deportation they were maintained in refuges rather than detention centers or prisons. Scarlet were still looking at ways for these women to come to Australia on work permits or through employer sponsorships that are legitimate in order to prevent some of the abusive working conditions that some of these women are subjected to as a result of being in Australia illegally, and due to the high monetary debt which is owed to those who bring them to Australia. On the issue of the high incidence of STDs found in this group of women, Scarlet Alliance had discussions with the chair of ANCARD (Australian National Council on AIDS and Related Diseases) and with the CDC (Centre for Disease Control), Department of Health and Family Services to look at ways of supporting these women while they are in Australia. The Attorney General’s Department (Commonwealth) is currently looking at the issue of amendments to the Commonwealth Criminal Code in order to make it unlawful to recruit sex workers overseas to come to Australia and work in prostitution under servile conditions. The Scarlet Alliance submitted a response which has also gone to all the Attorneys General in Australia, as these changes will need complementary legislation to be enacted in all the states and territories.

    International Lobbying

    The second meeting of the Asia Pacific Network of Sex Workers occurred at the Manila International Conference on AIDS in Asia and the Pacific in October 1997. The first part of the meeting was organised by Empower was funded by AIDSCAP and the second part organised by the Scarlet Alliance (Australia) was funded by UNAIDS. The first part of the meeting focused on issues of safety and safe working conditions for sex workers in the Asia Pacific region and the second part focused on organisational issues for the network. The Scarlet Alliance pushed very strongly through the Australian Office for the Status of Women for sex workers to be allowed to enter China for the International Women’s Conference in Beijing. Through Australia’s advocacy at organising meetings, the Chinese Government allowed sex workers to come to the conference, and Scarlet Alliance had a huge contingent there.

    Education campaigns

    The Scarlet Alliance was also involved in national education safe sex campaigns aimed at sex workers and their clients.

    Scarlet goes digital!

    Scarlet Alliance acquired computer equipment and was in the process of setting up a web site linked to member organisations. Scarlet also purchased fax/modems for members, who were getting connected to the internet at the time. On an ongoing basis Scarlet had been communicating through mail, faxes and occasional newsletters (the cost of which have been mainly borne by one of the co-convenors). In fact the major reason for connecting Scarlet Alliance and members to the internet was in order to communicate more quickly, cheaply and efficiently in order to save money and so as to place less monetary stress on the co-convenor.


Geoffrey Fysh worked at AFAO during 1996 as the Scarlet Alliance Policy Officer, liaising with member organisations and co-ordinating Scarlet Alliance communications, including the executive and tele-conferences. He produced a Statement of Principles document for HIV positive sex workers.


Scarlet Alliance member organisations participated in a training and communication needs assessment report which concluded that training options for sex worker organisations needed to be explored in order to fill skill gaps, but in total there was high levels of skill in sex worker organisations around the country. Outreach and peer based skills were commonly of a high level among sex worker organisations. The most popular skills sex worker organisations required training in were computer and word processing skills (65% or participants requested this training), office management and organisational skills (38%).

Scarlet Alliance Membership in September 1995 consisted of:

  • SQWISI (Brisbane, Queensland)
  • SQWISI (Gold Coast, Queensland)
  • SQWISI (Cairns, Queensland)
  • WISE (Braddon, ACT)
  • SIERA (West Perth, WA)
  • PASA (Adelaide, SA)
  • SA SIN (Adelaide, SA)
  • SWOP (Darlinghurst, NSW)
  • PROS (Strawberry Hills, NSW)
  • TAS-WISE (Launceston, Tasmania)
  • PCV (St Kilda, Victoria)
  • QEW-U (Strawberry Hills, NSW)
  • PANTHER (Darwin, NT)


Scarlet Alliance Executive and members were disappointed to hear that Scarlet was not to receive any secretariat funding and that at most only AFAO would receive funding for one worker to work nationally on sex industry and HIV issues. Scarlet had asked for a budget of $1, 14600 to run a national office. The denial of funds began a process of many questions from sex worker activists nationally on how to fund ongoing national and international activism on the issue of sex work in Australia. Scarlet was sharing a board member position with AVIL, on a rotational basis. At the end of 1994 sex worker organisations participated in a Skills Audit conducted by the Australian Federation of Aids Organisations (of which Scarlet Alliance is a member). The question was “What would you consider to be the most effective way to share our strengths and assets with other sex worker organisations (nationally and regionally) and how do you think we can be most effective if filling the skills and assets gaps?”




Australia’s response to HIV engenders the innovative work done with communities affected by the epidemic, including people who work in the sex industry. The Scarlet Alliance, a national forum for sex worker rights organisations, developed in response to the growing need for a national focus for the range of innovative services and organisations in the country working to minimise the effects of HIV on the Sex Industry, and a need to organise and mobilise at a structured national level. Its structure is designed to facilitate information dissemination, national policy formation and advocacy on behalf of sex workers around the country. It draws on the expertise existing in the member organisations to focus and direct the work it does. There is a consensus amongst the member organisations that the role of the Scarlet Alliance as a national sex worker organisation is to strengthen the position of member organisations to allow them to provide better representation for, and HIV/AIDS service delivery to sex industry workers.

Aims and Objectives

  1. To promote the civil rights of past and present sex workers, including Sex Workers living with HIV/AIDS, and to work towards ending all forms of discrimination against them;
  2. To lobby for legislative and administrative frameworks which do not discriminate against prostitutes;
  3. To challenge any government at any time when and where it implements legislation and/or law enforcement discriminatory and repressive to the rights and autonomy of prostitutes;
  4. To actively work towards guaranteeing the rights of all sex workers to optimum Occupational Health and Safety provisions that will promote conditions where safer sex and general health knowledge can be converted to safe working practices, and to furthermore, challenge any legislation, policy or process which does not so promote the rights of the worker;
  5. To strive to eradicate prostitute stereotypes in the popular consciousness and to communicate the ideas, opinions and aspirations of past and present sex workers;
  6. To work to put an end to Australia’s involvement in 1st world exploitation of indigenous and 3rd world people through sexual violence and trade.
  7. To continue to assist in the development of strong representative community based organisations of sex workers in the Asia and Pacific Region, empowered to respond to the HIV/AIDS crisis.

    The Scarlet Alliance also supports the World Charter for Prostitutes Rights

Past Achievements


The Scarlet Alliance has organised and implement training programs for staff of member organisations, particularly those newly developing organisations.

International assistance and development

A Scarlet Alliance member assisted in the development and implementation of programs for sex workers in Bangkok.

Resource development

There is an undertaking from the Scarlet Alliance to participate in the development of nationally significant resources for sex workers and the sex industry.

Client Pamphlet

The Alliance has developed print resource material for clients of sex workers in several languages

National Services Referrals and Resources Listing

A Pamphlet covering the services offered and contact details of member organisations has been developed.

Low Literacy/HIV testing

The Scarlet Alliance through one of its member organisations developed two pamphlets; one a HIV information resource for people in the sex industry who have low literacy skills or are non literate, and one that provides information on HIV testing for sex workers in all states and territories.

Needs Assessments, Research and reports

Two fairly detailed research projects have been completed by the Scarlet Alliance. The first project looked at the needs of HIV antibody positive sex workers in the Australian sex industries, and the second focused on men and boys who work in the sex industry. Presentation of papers at national and international forums. Both the national organiser and workers from member organisations have presented both written and orally at national and international conferences and seminars of significance to the sex industry

Fostering of Developing Organisations

The Scarlet Alliance has assisted in the development of newly forming Sex Worker Organisations to ensure that all states and territories are looking to service provision for their local sex industries. Particularly of note is the work that has been done with PANTHER in the Northern Territory and CYBELE in Tasmania.

Policy Development

A range of national policies have been developed by the Scarlet Alliance covering issues specific to the sex industry and related to effective response to the HIV epidemic.

HIV Related Discrimination Media Campaigns

The forum has responded to the advocacy needs of positive people engaged in sex work over the past three years, including media and other campaigns.


The Scarlet Alliance has and will continue to lobby at a national level for legal, social and other frameworks that support the rights and dignity of sex workers.

Forward Vision

It is essential that the Scarlet alliance continues to provide a national forum, focus for, and service to its member organisations. The following are some of the key continuing and new goals of the Scarlet Alliance:

  1. Facilitate communication and cooperation between the State and Territory Organisations
  2. Foster the developing organisations and services for sex workers in states where there is inadequate focus and funding
  3. Act as a clearing house for information that is both of national and state significance
  4. Foster the skills and organisational development of member organisations
  5. Complete a series of one off projects of national significance and priority, including resource development
  6. Continue to advocate on a national level for the rights of sex workers
  7. Lobby for and work towards the enactment of the recommendations outlined in the Scarlet Alliance Needs Assessment of Sex Workers with HIV/AIDS.
  8. Liaise with appropriate Government Departments, Organisations and other sex worker groups with a view to promoting effective appropriate services for sex workers in the Asia and Pacific area.
  9. Organise bi-annual meetings of the member organisations to continue to plan, implement and evaluate the operations of the Scarlet Alliance

1989 Scarlet Alliance was formed in 1989 by individuals involved in the state/territory sex worker organisations that understood the need to develop a National network. Of course at this stage internet was not available and archiving of materials was quite different. There is little documentation of this period but it is strongly alive in the memories of sex workers around at the time that assisted in turning Scarlet Alliance into a reality.