Space provides hope for street sex workers

My only encounters with brothels and sex workers have been organising to have flowers distributed outside one of Sydney’s largest brothels in Camperdown during random acts of kindness events and trawling the area around Hollywood Boulevard, LA, in the early hours of the morning with a Dream Centre team.

In both cases the intention was to bring the kindness of God to an otherwise unkind corner of our society, hopefully surprising people with the news that God loves them.

Oh and there was one occasion on the bus from work when two young women, looking like uni students, sat behind me and begun discussing their ‘clients’. Being a consummate eaves-dropper I was soon shocked and got off feeling a little shaken about the world we live in.

So it is good news indeed to see a Christian community group featured in the Sydney Morning Herald because of complaints against sex workers – not making the complaints but being the object of them.

Baptist Church urban compassion ministry, Hope Street, has raised the ire of inner Sydney residents for running a support service for sex workers out of a Bourke Street, Darlinghurst terrace.

Established in April 1995, Women’s Space is described by Hope Street as a “safe place where we provide support for street-based sex workers and other women involved in the sex industry in inner Sydney, with a focus on encouraging those women who choose to make a change in their lives and supporting these women during and after the changes they make.”

About five street-based sex workers visit the centre each morning, according to the SMH report, and may seek counselling have a shower, get a new set of clothes or just sit in the sunny courtyard.

Coordinator Kay Syonesa said the women “can come here and have someone treat them as an individual whereas other places it’s: ‘just a sex worker’… they come here and it’s: ‘you’re human’.”

As the service only moved to the Bourke St location at the start of this year, the were asked to submit a development application to the City of Sydney and local residents have contributed 84 objections out of 88 responses.

One representative of the East Sydney Neighbourhood Association came up with this ‘impressive’ list of objections: “the street sex workers are homeless… it does not service the residents, it’s not compatible with the permissible use.”

Compelling reasoning… not. Kings Cross police have no problems with the service, street prostitution has not increased in the area and some residents are seeing the bigger picture: “It’s just pathetic, this idea of ‘not in my backyard. It will make absolutely no difference to these residents but it could do a huge amount of good for these women,” the resident told the SMH.

Let’s hope compassion wins over ‘not in my backyard’ as City of Sydney planners assess the development application.

Find out  more about Hope Street’s Women’s Space.

Check out this previous post:

Paul Moulds – into the dark places.

Pieters-Hawke and bonds of love and affection

Sue Pieters-Hawke has been in the news this week for an argument with Blanche d’Alpuget, wife of her father, former Prime Minister Bob Hawke.

The two women have reportedly been at odds over comments about Ms Pieters-Hawke’s mother, Hazel, in d’Alpuget’s biography of Mr Hawke. Hazel is suffering from advanced dementia.

The disagreement occurred at Brisbane Airport last Thursday and the next morning Ms Pieters-Hawke gave an address to HammondCare’s Rehabilitating Aged Conference in Sydney.

Listening to Pieters-Hawke, it was obvious she was passionate about the care of older people, particularly those with dementia.

In describing what she learned in the years spent caring for her mother, Ms Pieters-Hawke said, “My job description while caring for mum… was doing my best to help her maximize her own enjoyment of life. Her subjective sense of happiness and well-being was both the very point of me doing what I did and the ultimate measure of its value.”

As care for older people and the growing incidence of dementia are among the greatest challenges facing our communities, I encourage you to read the rest of my story about Sue Pieters-Hawke’s address. A more passionate advocate you will not find.