The stories that enrage and sustain us.
rage \ respite
edition 11
the stories that enrage and sustain us.
The Galàpagos Islands, shot by @piariverola
Almost two months ago, Covid cases were spreading like wildfire in the Eastern Beaches, an affluent, mostly white area of Sydney. It's an area with clifftop mansions, sprawling beaches and leafy streets; it's also part of one of the safest Liberal seats in the state.

But despite over 60 cases being linked to the outbreak in Bondi at the time, the NSW government wouldn't lock down the Eastern Beaches. The now chief supporter of snap lockdowns, Scott Morrison, said at the time that "if anyone can get on top of this without shutting the city down it is the NSW government."

But they didn't. Instead, Eastern Beaches residents walked around maskless, congregated at at each other's houses and eventually, spread the virus across the city. Now, the virus has its hold on south-west and western Sydney, in some of the most culturally and linguistically diverse areas in the country.

Across these areas, a large majority of workers are in essential roles that keep society running while the city's rich stay safe at home. Many people also work more than one job, making avoiding a rapidly spreading and highly contagious virus that more difficult. As Secretary of the Australian Council of Trade Unions, Sally McManus, tweeted: "people can't stay at home, otherwise east Sydney doesn't get fed."

For many in these often casualised roles, going to work is a non-negotiable. They have families to feed and lights to keep on, taking time off to get tested and wait 24 hours (minimum, some testing sites are recording up to a 5 day wait) for results is not an option. NSW only introduced a test isolation payment this week, which is less in value and more limited than what's on offer in other states. So people are going to work with symptoms, their co-workers are getting sick, they're taking it home and spreading it to their families, people are dying.

In the past few days, the virus has spread further into the regions, including to Dubbo and its surrounds in western NSW. There are grave fears for the large Aboriginal population in this area, majority of who are unvaccinated. This week, 40% of new cases
in western NSW have been in Aboriginal children. The failure to protect these communities and kids is horrific.

And yet, I walk down to Clovelly Beach, here in the Eastern Beaches, and see swarms of people in large groups, without masks. We get to work from home, lie in the sun and paddle in the water while those in the south-west are being door knocked by the military and hounded by police; their friends, co-workers and family are in ICU.

Class and wealth are inextricably linked to lockdowns, the pandemic has never been 'the great equaliser'. Western Sydney and regional NSW are suffering because the government didn't want to lock down the rich people in the east.

In an era that feels like the world is constantly moving backwards, it is the greatest relief (and respite!) to have real, meaningful progress achieved. Last week, Victoria joined New Zealand, New South Wales and the Northern Territory as the only jurisdictions in the world to have decriminalised sex work. This follows years of campaigning by sex workers, advocate groups and the state Reason Party MP, Fiona Patten.

Under the existing, archaic act in Victoria, sex workers are vulnerable to prosecution if they don't work within the rigid, strict and often confusing legislation. Furthermore, police currently enforce the Act, forcing sex workers to choose between their safety or avoiding charges if something goes wrong.

Now, sex workers will have the same rights as every other worker in the state, from workplace health and safety, to welfare and tax coverage. Importantly, the law change removes the forced reliance on police and instead opens up WorkSafe as a regulator for sex workers' rights, as with every other profession.

Globally, Amnesty International and the World Health Organisation support decriminalisation as the legal model that best ensures the human rights and protections of sex workers. By making this move, Victoria becomes
a "world leader" in the promotion of the rights of sex workers. Even other 'liberal' countries that are known for their wide spread support of sex workers such as the Netherlands, Sweden and France, have not decriminalised the profession; instead, they have legalisation (which is different) and legislation that subjects sex workers to different rules.

Scarlet Alliance, the Australian Sex Workers' Association
applauded the announcement.

"The Victorian government’s recognition that sex work is work and that police are not suitable regulators of the sex industry is significant ... and a signal to other jurisdictions in Australia that it is time to take an evidence- and rights-based approach to sex work to support the safety, self-determination and wellbeing of sex workers and our communities."

As the Andrews' Government begins a two year legal overhaul, the role of sex workers in determining their futures and outcomes is more important than ever.

This long-awaited and fought for change will improve the safety, rights and freedoms that sex workers have at work, and will help to further break down stigma and discrimination. Sex work is work.

As Sydney COVID cases have spiralled out of control over the past month, I have been so grateful for the work and coverage done by Guardian Australian journalist, Mostafa Rachwani. Living in south-west Sydney, at the epicentre of this outbreak, Rachwani has been speaking to locals about how the Berejiklian Government has failed them and why containing the outbreak has gone so catastrophically wrong.

With many news outlets, and indeed politicians, making assumptions from afar about what is happening in one of Australia's most diverse communities, I'm grateful to Rachwani for providing a platform where locals can have their voices heard.

This newsletter is created on the stolen lands of the Gadigal and Bidjigal people of the Eora nation. I pay my respects to their elders past and present. Sovereignty was never ceded.
I'm Georgia Gibson, a freelance content strategist and writer working with impact-driven clients.
You can visit my website or follow me on Insta for more.

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Clovelly, Clovelly, NSW, 2031, Australia