Australia, you’re morally bankrupt. Sex worker Julie Bates is admitted to the Order of Australia (AO), an award granted for achievement and merit in service to Australia or humanity.
Bates, also known as Darlo Debby, laughed at the thought of being the first Australian with a background in sex work to get an AO. “Well, the only one who has acknowledge their sex work,” she told the Sydney Morning Herald.
The 68-year old reportedly received the award in recognition of her work in championing the rights of sex workers and mobilising the sex industry against the spread of HIV/AIDS.
According to the Herald, one of her first successes was to convince the owner of Sydney’s largest brothel to insist on condom use.
The head of the Sexual Health Program at the Kirby Institute, Professor Basil Donovan, said thousands owe their lives to such work. “But for Julie and people like her, we could have had a much worse HIV epidemic,” he said. “It took huge courage, you have no idea.”
Having won the battle to decriminalise the sex industry in NSW 23 years ago, Bates said, “the next big fight is to win anti-discrimination protection, which we don’t have yet.” In other states, there is a “mishmash of criminalisation, prohibition and licensing” still to tackle.