In one NSW town, brothel operators are calling on authorities to deal with a “new shady player” and an onslaught of illegal sex workers.
Losing business is a concern, but brothel owners aren’t happy the “unknown boss” is flouting the rules so brazenly.
Mr M (* not real name), who owns two legal brothels in Wollongong, was particularly “incensed”.
So in early January he hired a private investigator to do some digging.
Mr M’s worst fears were confirmed when it was uncovered that up to 100 sex workers were operating illegally in Wollongong on any given weekend.
He was also “shocked” to learn unprotected sex was part of the services offered by some of these women.
Mr M, who has worked in the sex industry for 20 years, is also convinced that the majority of illegal sex workers are from China and are here on tourist visas.
“We are licensed and operating in an industrial area and stringently covered by the council bylaws,” Mr M said.
“Whatever the council wants us to do, whatever the laws say, we do...but these locusts are doing what they want and it’s not right.”
Mr M became suspicious something was not quite right early in 2018.
At first he put it down to the holiday period, thinking it was “family time”.
“I wasn’t too concerned because the industry has its ups and downs,” he said.
“But then some strange things started to happen. The men that did come in were asking some funny questions...they wanted unprotected sex.
“We’ve never had an experience like that before because Wollongong people are usually very nice and respecting the ladies as well.
“I knew something was wrong.”
The private investigator confirmed Mr M’s suspicions and uncovered that sex workers were advertising their services on two well known sex classifieds websites.
Once contacted, women sent prospective clients a phone message with details of where to meet – usually in hotels, motels and apartments in Wollongong.
The men that did come in were asking some funny questions...they wanted unprotected sex.Mr M
Under Mr M’s instructions, the PI sent the women a message warning them that they would be reported to the authorities if they didn’t stop working immediately.
“The sites have been cleaned up a lot since that first weekend in January but it’s still happening,” Mr M said.
“I can tell by the advertisements that there is a boss behind the scenes.
“I can also tell that the images of the women are copied from a Chinese website. I know also that these women are here on tourist visas and are working illegally.”
Responding to Mercury questions, a Wollongong City Council spokesperson said “Council does from time to time receive complaints about alleged illegal brothels in the Local Government Area. All complaints and allegations are investigated by Regulation and Enforcement officers in accordance with Council’s Enforcement Policy.”
Mr M implored authorities to act before Wollongong became “flooded with unhealthy people”.
Clinical Associate Professor Dr Katherine Brown said chlamydia was the most common STI (Sexually Transmitted Infections) in Australia.
As the Illawarra Shoalhaven Local Health District ambulatory and primary health care medical director, Dr Brown’s main role is in sexual health.
“We are very interested in sex workers as a population and one of our target groups to try and get testing to make sure that they are safe,” the sexual health and forensic physician said.
“Overall for Australian-born workers, that’s the case. There’s quite low rates of STI’s in that population.”
Dr Brown said the problem with the overseas worker was that they only stay in a particular city for a short time.
“They’re never here long enough for us to run a [test] program.”
Women can get help by visiting the Sexual Health Info Link or calling 1800 451 624.
Rules for Wollongong brothels
- There are 11 legal brothels with development consent within or in close proximity to the Wollongong CBD
- Brothels are subjected to at least one inspection a year which are carried out by two Environmental Health Officers.
The Illawarra Mercury