Touching Base Inc logo showing a line drawing of two hands almost touching, and the byline "sex workers and people with disa ility coming together"  at the fingertips

Newsletter No. 1 2016
Catch up with the latest news on our recent activities, exciting new podcast resources on our website and upcoming  appearances and workshops.

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Celebrating 20 years decriminalisation of sex industry in New South Wales

MP Alex Greenwich standing at a podium in front of people sitting in the audience with a colourful tapestry in the background
Touching Base was thrilled to invite friends and allies to join us at NSW Parliament on November 11th 2015 to celebrate the decriminalisation of sex work in New South Wales in 1995. This event, kindly hosted by Sydney City Independent MP Alex Greenwich, was timed to coincide with the Scarlet Alliance National Forum and was co-sponsored by Touching Base, Scarlet Alliance and the Sex Workers Outreach Project (SWOP NSW).

We also launched the findings of our year-long research project by University of Technology Sydney (UTS) which investigated how local councils in the Sydney metropolitan area regulate the commercial and home based sex industry premises. 
Members of Parliament who joined our celebration included our host Alex Greenwich (Independent Member for Sydney); Penny Sharpe MLC, Linda Burney & Tom Crakanthorp (Labor), David Shoebridge & Mehreen Faruqi (NSW Greens) and the Honourable Dr Peter Phelps (Liberal Party and Government Whip in the Upper House) 

We heard inspiring speeches in support of decriminalisation from:
  • our host Alex Greenwich (Independent Member for Sydney)
  • Penny Sharpe, Labor Member of the NSW Legislative Council
  • Mehreen Faruqi, Greens Member of the NSW Legislative Council
  • Chris Puplick, former Chair Australian National Council on AIDS and, Hepatitis; former President NSW Anti-Discrimination Board and Privacy Commissioner; Liberal Senator 1978-81/1984-90
  • Cam Cox, Chief Executive Officer Sex Workers Outreach Project NSW
  • Eva Cox, AO, Adjunct Professor, Sociologist; introducing findings of UTS/Touching Base research into sex industry regulation
  • Jules Kim, Migration Project Manager Scarlet Alliance, Australian Sex Workers Association
  • Saul Isbister, President Touching Base Inc
Podcasts of the speeches will be made available on our website in due course. 
Seven sex worker representatives holding a knife for a ceremonial cutting of a large chocolate cake iced with a large red unbrella and the words Celebrating 20 years of decriminalisation. There are several people standing in the background beside tables set with afternoon tea.
Then sex worker reps had a go with the knife and we all had cake!

[Pictured at front from left: Janelle Fawkes (Scarlet Alliance), Can Cox (SWOP NSW), Ryan Cole (Scarlet Alliance), Saul Isbister (Touching Base), Julie Bates (Urban Realists), Rachel Wotton (Touching Base)  and Maria McMahon (Scarlet Alliance)

Parliamentary Select Committee on Brothels Regulation in NSW

Many thanks to everyone who put in submissions to this Select Committee after reading our Call to Action. Here are links to the Touching Base submission and oral testimony (pp. 35-47 of linked PDF), and answers to Questions on Notice
By coincidence, the Select Committee released its report the day prior to our Parliament event celebrating 20 years of decriminalisation. The report’s ominous content did cast a shadow over our celebration at times.    
Touching Base rejects the findings of the Committee’s report – along with three members of the Select Committee. The fact that the Committee was so divided makes us hopeful that recommendations for licensing and a new police unit (to enforce discriminatory local council regulations) will be rejected by the State Government. Such moves would be regressive, expensive, risky and likely to ultimately lead to unintended negative outcomes including increased opportunities for corruption and driving the industry underground.
Four members of NSW Parliament are standing beside a celebratory cake, flanked by three sex workers and with several other people watching in the background
[Pictured at front from left: Rachel Wotton (Touching Base), Ryan Cole (Scarlet Alliance), Tom Crakanthorp MP (Labor), Penny Sharpe MLC (Labour), Mehreen Faruqi MLC (NSW Greens), Dr Peter Phelps MLC (Liberal Party) and Saul Isbister (Touching Base)]

On the brighter side we were thrilled that MPs from across partisan divides came and joined us to celebrate the many successes achieved under decriminalisation at our successful event at NSW Parliament House. Their pledges of ongoing support give us hope that our world-leading system of regulating the sex industry will not be overthrown by knee-jerk reactions to the minor problems experienced by a tiny minority of local councils (as uncovered in our recent research.) 

Final report of UTS 2015 research for Touching Base also launched at the Parliamentary event

The Subversion of Progressive Intent:
Sydney metropolitan local councils’
unworkable sex industry regulations
Touching Base patron Eva Cox standing at a podium with a colourful tapestry in the background, in front of people sitting in the audience.
Our Patron, Eva Cox AO, gave a rousing speech as she critiqued the Select Committee on Brothels report and delivered key findings of the UTS/Touching Base research which investigated how local councils in the Sydney metropolitan area regulate sex industry premises.
Phase 1 of the research covered restrictions in zoning options for commercial Sex Services Premises and Home Occupation (Sex Services) areas. See the important findings in the Phase One Fact-Sheet

Phase 2  of the research investigated complaints and enforcement actions. Here is a link to the Phase Two Fact-Sheet and for those wanting more in depth information – here is a link to the Full Report and Appendices covering both Phases One & Two.
Touching Base patron Eva Cox standing at a podium with a colourful tapestry in the background, in front of people sitting in the audience.
At the launch of the findings of our year-long research project it was wonderful to have two of the students Madison O'Mullane and Yolanda Thomas (pictured with Eva Cox and Saul Isbister) come forward to receive Certificates of Appreciation for their outstanding work. Sadly Cailin Anning, the other student involved in this project, wasn't able to join us.
Our media release highlights that our new data on the frequency and content of public concerns about the sex work industry in NSW show no need for any increased control over premises used for sex services.

Training workshops

Professional Disability Awareness Training (PDAT) - for sex workers
We are pleased to let you all know that RESPECT Inc, the state-based sex worker peer organisation in Queensland has obtained a grant from the Queensland Prostitute Licensing Authority (PLA) that they are using to get Touching Base to deliver four PDATs in Queensland in 2016. We held the first one in Brisbane in January. The three others will be in Townsville, Cairns and the Gold Coast.
  • Gold Coast Friday 3rd June 2016
  • Townsville - yet to be announced
  • Cairns - yet to be announced 
Due to the grant by the PLA sex workers in Queensland will be able to attend these workshops for free. Please contact Elle at RESPECT Inc for more details and to register, Phone 0432 367 598 or email
Sex workers wanting to get advanced notice of the next workshops in other locations, or who want to go on our waiting list, please email us via
We acknowledge we still have quite a few sex workers on our waiting list for our next PDAT workshop. We look forward to setting a date soon in Sydney and giving sex workers on the waiting list advance notice once a date is set.
Service Provider Awareness Training (SPAT) - for disability service providers and carers
In November 2015 RED Inc hosted us to deliver a SPAT workshop in Lismore for their staff and staff of other local disability service providers. The night before the workshop we held a special fundraising screening of Scarlet Road in Lismore, followed by a Q&A featuring Rachel Wotton and Jill Maginnity.

We have already have three SPAT workshops run in partnership with Family Planning NSW planned in different locations for NSW in 2016. There is more info about this very popular workshop for people working in the disability sector on the Family Planning NSW website or follow the links below to immediately register for upcoming workshops. The one day workshop COST: $215
  Location Date  
  ASHFIELD 28 April 2016
  PENRITH 7 October 2016
  NEWCASTLE 21 November 2016

Supported by Family Planning NSW and IDEAS (Information on Disability Education & Awareness Services)

In the media

A scene from a painting showing historical street-based sex workers cavorting with clients next to an alleyway. One of the women has her skirts lifted right up to her hips in a way that would have shocked the sensibilities of the middle class in the Victorian era.

Sex worker community slams Brothel Inquiry findings

Sex workers are critical of the outcome of the parliamentary enquiry into NSW brothels which has found in favour of a licensing scheme for sex work.  The Scarlet Alliance has been skeptical since the start of the enquiry saying it is a “politically motivated attack on sex workers” by conservative councils.
A photo taken from a height looking down on the front of a building at night. There are red lights making a glow from the windows below, envoking the sense of a "Red Light District".

Flicking the switch: Marrickville turns off the red lights

Marrickville Council has made a decision that sex workers can no longer operate from their own homes.  While no formal complaints have been received the safety of workers and clients has been cited.  Touching Base’s Saul Isbister says sex workers are “being discriminated against for no valid reason”.
Flicking the switch: Marrickville turns off the red lights
Why sex worker laws do not need changing
Members of Touching Base speak at the Select Committee hearing into the Regulation of Brothels.  Decriminalisation came about in 1995 as a response to the Wood Royal Commission into police corruption.  Currently there are proposals that a model of licensing, as in Victoria, be instituted in NSW.   
Why sex worker laws do not need changing
AFP reveals (sic) sex trafficking based in Sydney brothels
The Australian Federal Police has stated that sex trafficking is alive and well in Sydney brothels.  It is said that people are duped into coming to Sydney to work, but then find themselves living in brothels and unable to leave.  Touching Base refutes this, saying the story is “inflated through the media”.   
AFP reveals (sic) sex trafficking based in Sydney brothels
Silhouette of a women standing next to a man sitting in a wheelchair
SA [South Africa] lags when it comes to sexual needs of disabled
Times LIVE-3 Jul 2015
Touching Base is an Australian organisation that trains sex workers on how to manage sexual needs of disabled clients.
SA [South Africa] lags when it comes to sexual needs of disabled
To see all media articles go to the “In the News” page of our website
Coming up on SBS Insight

Earlier this year Touching Base was invited by SBS Insight to be part of a program on how people with disability. navigate sex and relationships.

SBS Insight is a weekly one-hour discussion program which focuses on a single topic each week from a diverse range of experiences and views. The strength of their program is based on first-person experiences and stories and they regularly handle sensitive and sometimes difficult subjects by exploring all of the complexities and issues that can go with them. This program on disability and sexuality is scheduled to be screened nationwide in Australia in early-mid April 2016 and will be available as a podcast after screening on the SBS website:

The award winning documentary Scarlet Road will be screened again on Australian TV on Easter Sunday on SBS 2 from 10:25PM - 11:25PM

The special roundtable seminar at the University of New South Wales

Disability, intimacy, pleasure and sexuality: towards cultures of respect

Podcasts with subtitles are now available of the guest speakers who presented on a range of fascinating topics relating to disability, intimacy, pleasure and sexuality. This seminar in November 2015 was hosted at the University of New South Wales by our Patron Helen Meekosha, with guests including Eva Cox, Michael Kirby (also Patrons of Touching Base). This event was sponsored by Touching Base, Family Planning NSW and People With Disability Australia Inc.

We have a new page on our website which introduces the seminar and holds a gallery of the speakers’ podcasts. We hope that these podcasts (ranging from 7 - 12 minutes) will be enjoyed by anyone with an interest in the area and that they will be handy resources for teachers and lecturers:
A screenshot showing Rosalie Power, one of the seminar speakers sitting at a desk. Subtitiled wordsappear across the bottom of the image  saying "But it can also be a source of joy and connection and purpose and meaning in people's lives."

Feel the Vibe

Touching Base has again been invited by Northcott to participant in the upcoming Feel the Vibe event being held at Penrith Panthers on the 31st of March (forum 10:00am – 12:00pm) and 1st of April (expo 6:00pm – 9:00pm).

This free event gives the disability sector and people with disability aged 18+ the chance to access information about sexual fulfillment in a friendly and supportive environment. Touching Base will be involved in short presentations on day one and will have an exhibitor stall in the evening of the second day. Follow this link for more details:

AGM in December 2015

Our AGM was again hosted by Ashurst Australia. Ashurst is one of Australia's leading law firms and we are very grateful for their ongoing generosity in hosting our AGM every year. This year we were in one of the gorgeous meeting rooms in their new premises where we were treated to a delicious light lunch prior to going through the formal proceedings of our AGM.
At the AGM eight of the nine positions on our Committee of Management were elected unopposed. We are thankful for the ongoing dedication of long-standing committee members: Saul Isbister (President), Jill Maginnity (Treasurer), Rachel Wotton, Rob Hardy, and Grant Wardell-Johnson (Ordinary members).
We warmly welcome aboard our new Secretary Janna Taylor; along with Vice President Mary Johnson and Ordinary member Suzy Keene - who were invited by the Committee to fill casual vacancies during 2015.
We also thank Fleur de Lys for her contribution to the work of the Committee over the last couple of years and her willingness to continue to volunteer, even though Fleur has stepped down from the Committee to head back to university studies.

New sex worker resource – sponsored by GLYDE Health

At the Scarlet Alliance – Australian Sex Workers Association, national forum in November 2015 we launched our new resource for sex workers in a convenient postcard sized format. This resource outlines what Touching Base offers sex workers in regards to training, information, peer support and the opportunity to become  a member and go onto our referral list of disability-friendly sex workers.

Printing was generously sponsored by
GLYDE Health and we take this opportunity to thank GLYDE for their wonderful ongoing support of Touching Base over the last decade!

Participants sought for research projects

Touching Base has been approached by researchers from Deakin University in Melbourne and the University of NSW. They are looking for participants for their research projects looking into (a) facilitated sex for people with disability and (b) women who pay for sex.  
DISCLAIMER: Touching Base is not a partner in these research projects and sharing this information should not be taken to mean Touching Base endorses these research project.
Facilitated Sex and Disability: Perspectives of Adults with Disability Who Use Support Worker Services
Some adults with disability may need assistance from their paid carers or support workers in order to express themselves sexually or participate in sexual activities (this is called facilitated sex). There is very little research on this issue. Currently in Australia, the need for this kind of help is ignored by disability services and those who make policy.
In order to be eligible to participate in the research you would need to:
  • be an adult with a disability age 18-65
  • be restricted in one or more of the following: mobility, arm movement, hand manipulation and/or ability to communicate  
  • use the services of a carer or support worker to assist you in everyday care/tasks
  • reside in Victoria 
For more information follow this link, or contact
Russell Shuttleworth, PhD MSW Senior Lecturer in Social Work
School of Health and Social Development, Deakin University
Phone: (03) 5227 8433

Women who buy sex - Stage II study.
If you are female identifying and have bought sex in Australia for any reason, the researcher would love to chat with you about it. Interviews are completely anonymous and may give you an opportunity to talk about your experiences in a safe and non-judgemental way. Email interviews can be arranged for people with speech impairment. 
For more information follow this link: or contact Ms Hilary Caldwell, University of New South Wales

Making a donation

A big thank you to members who have been making monthly donations. What a great way to show your ongoing support for our work and you don’t have to be a member to donate.
Remember all donations over $2.00 are tax deductible and because we are unfunded every gift makes a difference. You can donate via our website or click on the GiveNow logo below to directly access our secure online donation portal right now.

Make a donation now


Contact Touching Base

General Enquiries:                   
Phone: 0424 591 409

Postal Address:                         
PO Box 523, Newtown, NSW 2042
Referral List:
Referral Request Form:
Phone: 0499 054 400

ABN: 182 1399 7639

Copyright © 2016 Touching Base Inc., All rights reserved.

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