Australian Institute of Criminology

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Migrant access to services

Given the importance of migrants being able to access services and support while in Australia, the survey also contained questions on the type of services respondents used, the barriers they experienced in accessing services—and in accessing information more broadly—that they had experienced, and their propensity to contact police in circumstances of violence or other criminal events. The questions and response options reflected the range of organisations in Australia that provide sex workers with sexual health, outreach, information, referral and other supportive services.

Knowledge of service providers

Respondents were asked in the survey whether they had heard of, and whether they would use, the following organisations and services:

  • Sex Workers Outreach Project (SWOP) NSW;
  • SWOP ACT;
  • SWOP NT;
  • Respect Inc. Queensland;
  • Sex Industry Network (SIN) South Australia;
  • Magenta Western Australia;
  • Resourcing Health and Education in the Sex Industry (Rhed) Victoria;
  • Victorian Sex Industry Network (VIXEN);
  • Sex Worker Union; and
  • Scarlet Alliance, Australian Sex Workers Association.

Respondents were also given the opportunity to specify other organisations and services they had heard of or would use. Those mentioned by respondents as organisations they had heard of included (in alphabetical order): Eros Association, Hunter New England Health, Project Respect Australia, Sydney Hospital, Touching Base, United Sex Workers Inc. (North Queensland) and Crimson Coalition. Five respondents used the open response for ‘other’ organisations to indicate that they had not heard of any of the listed organisations. Those mentioned by respondents as organisations they would go to included (in alphabetical order): Eros Association, Hunter New England Health, Sydney Hospital, Touching Base, United Sex Workers Inc. (North Queensland) and Crimson Coalition. One respondent stated that they had heard of and would use ‘State/territory peer-based drug user [organisations]; state/territory AIDS councils; local sexual health clinics (specifically for sex workers)’. Another sex worker stated that they had heard of and would go to:

Other informal peer groups of sex workers who meet, not associated with any [organisation] just in solidarity[,] debriefing and learning from each other about our specific issues[.]

Half of the migrant respondents (n=204) stated they had heard of at least one of the organisations listed or specified other service providers. This was significantly different to the proportion of non-migrant respondents, who knew of at least one of these organisations (83%, n=125; z=7.07, p<0.0001). The most frequently selected organisation or service migrant respondents had heard of was SWOP NSW (24%, n=99); for non-migrants this was Scarlet Alliance (60%, n=90), followed closely by SWOP NSW (51%, n=77).

Similarly, migrants were significantly less likely than non-migrants to indicate that they would use any of the organisations listed or specify others (34%, n=139 cf. 66%, n=100; z=6.89, p<0.0001). The most frequently selected organisation or service migrant respondents would go to was SIN (SA) (15%, n=60), followed closely by SWOP NSW (14%, n=57). The most frequently selected organisations or services non-migrant respondents would go to were Scarlet Alliance (40%, n=60), followed closely by SWOP NSW (35%, n=53).

Barriers for migrant respondents to accessing services

When asked whether they had experienced any difficulties accessing these organisations and services, migrants were significantly less likely than non-migrants to state that they did not have difficulties (25% cf 45%) (see Table 20). The major barriers experienced by migrant sex workers in accessing sex worker organisations and services appeared to be a lack of knowledge of existing services in their local area (cited by 52% of migrant respondents who answered the relevant question), followed by language difficulties (12%) and fear of accessing these services (11%). Migrants were significantly more likely than non-migrants to cite that they did not know which support services could help and could not find one that spoke their language. Non-migrants were significantly more likely to identify a desire to deal with difficulties themselves.

The language barriers for migrant sex workers extended from accessing sex worker organisations to more general services and information. Although a large proportion of migrant respondents chose not to answer this question (19%, n=77, one due to a survey print error), of those who did (n=335), nearly one-third (32%) stated that they did not find it easy to access information and/or services in the language they mainly speak at home. Respondents’ access to information and services in the language spoken at home significantly varied between migrant respondents (Figure 19). Migrant respondents born in South Korea were significantly more likely to indicate they had difficulties accessing information in the language they speak at home and were more likely to state that they ‘didn’t know’ (Figure 19).

The survey question on interpreter service ratings gains importance in consideration of these language barriers. Although, again, a large proportion of migrant respondents did not respond to this question (19%, n=77, one due to survey print error); of those who did (n=335), 30 percent had never used an interpreter service before. Forty-five percent had used one and rated it very good/good, 22 percent had used one and rated it satisfactory and only four percent stated that the interpreter service they had used was bad/very bad.

Taking into account a lack of knowledge among half of all migrant respondents (and 17% of non-migrants) about the services available to sex workers, it is relevant to investigate possible mediums that might be used, or improved, to disseminate this information. Respondents were asked where they obtained ‘general information’. It was up to survey respondents to interpret what ‘general information’ would encompass. Migrant respondents tended to use friends as a source of general information (Table 21), with less reliance on printed and other forms of media.

Table 20 Reasons for difficulty in accessing listed services and organisations by migrant status (%)
Reasons for difficult access Migranta Non-migrantb Significance testing
Didn’t know which support services could help 52 22 Yates adj χ(1)=28.97**
Couldn’t afford them 3 1 frequencies too low
Couldn’t find one that spoke language 12 1c Yates adj χ(1)=11.66**
Opening hours didn’t suit 8 12 ns
Was afraid 11 4 ns
Wanted to deal with difficulties myself 7 14 Yates adj χ(1)=4.38*
Have not had any difficulties accessing services 25* 45 Yates adj χ(1)=14.74***

* p=0.05

** p<0.001

***p<0.0001

ns: not significant

a: Percentages calculated from the total number of migrant responses to the question on difficulties accessing services (n=292), excluding 120 migrant respondents who did not respond to this question, including one due to survey print error

b: Percentages calculated from the total number of non-migrant responses to the question on difficulties accessing services (n=118), excluding 33 non-migrant respondents who did not respond to this question

c: This respondent, although Australian-born, indicated that they spoke Thai at work and had previously resided in Thailand, which may explain their response

Note: The question on difficulties accessing services had a high non-response rate (27%); therefore results should be interpreted with caution. Migrant respondents were significantly less likely to answer this question than non-migrant respondents; therefore, migrant status comparisons may not be valid. Respondents could select multiple responses for the question on difficulties accessing services

Source: AIC, Sex Worker Migration and Vulnerabilities to Trafficking 2010 [computer file]

Figure 19 Do migrant respondents born in China, Thailand and South Korea have access to information and services in the language they speak at home? (%)

χ(4)=12.87, p<0.05, one cell with frequency<5

China: n=73

Thailand: n=157

South Korea: n=32

a: Excludes 34 migrant respondents born in China who did not respond to this question

b: Excludes 23 migrant respondents born in Thailand who did not respond to this question, including one due to survey print error

c: Excludes 6 migrant respondents born in South Korea who did not respond to this question

Note: The question on access to information and services had an overall high non-response rate among migrant respondents (19%); therefore, the responses may not be representative of the migrant sample. Migrant respondents born in Thailand were significantly less likely to answer the question and migrant respondents born in China were more likely to respond to this question; therefore, comparisons between birth countries may not be valid

Source: AIC, Sex Worker Migration and Vulnerabilities to Trafficking 2010 [computer file]

Table 21 Reported sources of general information by migrant status (%)
Migranta Non-migrantb Statistical testing
Local newsletter 33 28 ns
Friends 64 63 ns
Newspaper 40 48 ns
Sex worker organisation 39 58 Yates’ adj χ(1)=12.02**
Internet 41 66 Yates’ adj χ(1)=21.56***
Television 25 39 Yates’ adj χ(1)=7.58*
Radio 7 33 Yates’ adj χ(1)=48.06***

* p<0.01

** p<0.001

*** p<0.0001

ns: not significant

a: Percentages calculated from the total number of migrant responses (n=347), excluding 65 migrant respondents who did not respond to this question, including one due to survey print error

b: Percentages calculated from the total number of non-migrant responses (n=126), excluding 25 non-migrants who did not respond to the question, 8 due to survey print error

Note: The question on sources of general information had a high non-response rate (14%); therefore, responses may not be representative of the sample, although the number of missing responses did not significantly differ between migrant and non-migrant respondents. Respondents could select multiple responses for the question on sources of general information

Source: AIC, Sex Worker Migration and Vulnerabilities to Trafficking 2010 [computer file]

Contact with authorities

The majority of both migrant and non-migrant respondents had never been arrested by police for sex work in Australia (Table 22); however, non-migrants (12%) were significantly more likely than migrants (5%) to have ever been arrested. Half of the migrant respondents (51%) reported having had staff from DIAC visit their workplace at some point. Not surprisingly, migrant respondents were significantly more likely than non-migrants to have been in contact with DIAC at their workplace, reflecting the fact that DIAC would be targeting compliance raids at workplaces where it was known that migrant sex workers were working.

Table 22 Contact with authorities at work (%)
Migrant Non-migrant
Ever been arrested for sex work in Australia?
Yes 5 12
No 95 88
Total (n)a 382 147
Significance testing Yates adj χ(1)=7.55, p<0.01
Ever had DIAC visit your workplace?
Yes 51 12
No 49 88
Total (n)b 372 138
Significance testing Yates adj χ(1)=60.34, p<0.0001

a: Excludes 30 migrant respondents and 4 non-migrant respondents who did not respond to this question, including 7 due to survey print error (all migrant respondents)

b: Excludes 40 migrant respondents and 13 non-migrant respondents who did not respond to this question, including 7 due to survey print error (all migrant respondents)

Note: Percentages may not add to 100 due to rounding. Migrant respondents were significantly less likely than non-migrants to answer the question on whether they had been arrested by police for sex work in Australia; therefore, migrant status comparisons may not be valid

Source: AIC, Sex Worker Migration and Vulnerabilities to Trafficking 2010 [computer file]

Main contact to report criminal situations

Respondents were asked to select their main contact for various situations from a list. As the types of situations respondents were presented with were more relevant to crime-related situations and experiences of violence, it was decided that analysis would be restricted to the following scenarios (see methodology section): experience of violence, domestic violence or sexual assault; victim of crime in general; or involvement in a criminal incident (see Table 24). The scenarios did not specify whether the respondent would be involved as victim or as offender. For all situations presented, the majority of respondents indicated that their main contact would be the police (Table 23). The second most common point of contact across a number of the scenarios was a sex worker organisation, followed by friends and lawyers (see Table 23).

Migrants were significantly less likely to select the police as their main point of contact for situations of sexual assault but equally as likely as non-migrants to report their involvement with other criminal incidents to law enforcement (Table 24). This finding replicates those of the literature around the barriers specific to CALD women to reporting and accessing support services for sexually violent crimes (Allimant & Ostapiej-Piatkowski 2011).

Table 23 Scenarios by main place of contact (%)a
Main place of contact Scenario
Violenceb Domestic violencec Victim of crimed Involvement with a criminal incidente Sexual assaultf
Police 73 69 81 65 67
Embassy 4 3 4 4 3
Sex worker organisation 38 16 19 13 45
DIAC 0g 1 1 0g 1
Red Cross 1 2 1 1 2
Refugee organisation 1 2 0g 0g 0g
Centrelink 0g 2 1 1 1
Legal centre/lawyer 10 20 16 22 12
Friends 22 27 16 13 20
Don’t know 2 6 2 7 2
Wouldn’t seek help for this 2 1 1 4 2

a: These responses include respondents who had an unclassified migrant status

b: Percentages calculated from the total number of responses to this scenario (n=356), excluding 236 respondents who did not respond to this scenario, including one due to survey print error

c: Percentages calculated from the total number of responses to this scenario (n=338), excluding 254 respondents who did not respond to this scenario, including one due to survey print error

d: Percentages calculated from the total number of responses to this scenario (n=339), excluding 253 respondents who did not respond to this scenario, including one due to survey print error

e: Percentages calculated from the total number of responses to this scenario (n=320), excluding 272 respondents who did not respond to this scenario, one due to survey print error

f: Percentages calculated from the total number of responses to this scenario (n=343), excluding 249 respondents who did not respond to this scenario, one due to survey print error

g: n=1, rounded to 0 percent

Note: There was a very large non-response rate for the question on main place of contact for criminal scenarios (40–46% for each scenario); therefore, the responses cannot be generalised to the entire sample. Respondents could select multiple responses for each criminal scenario for the question on main place of contact

Source: AIC, Sex Worker Migration and Vulnerabilities to Trafficking 2010 [computer file]

Table 24 Respondents who selected police as their main contact for various criminal situations by migrant status (%)
Migrant Non-migrant Significance testing
Violencea 74 70 ns
Domestic violenceb 65 75 ns
Victim of crimec 79 83 ns
Involvement with a criminal incidentd 67 62 ns
Sexual assaulte 61 74 Yates adj χ2(1)=5.45*

* p=0.02

ns: not significant

a: Percentages calculated from the total number of migrant responses to this scenario (n=211), excluding 201 migrant respondents who did not respond to this scenario, one due to survey print error; and from the total number of non-migrant responses to this scenario (n=127), excluding 24 non-migrant respondents who did not respond to this scenario

b: Percentages calculated from the total number of migrant responses to this scenario (n=200), excluding 212 migrant respondents who did not respond to this scenario, one due to survey print error; and from the total number of non-migrant responses to this scenario (n=120), excluding 31 non-migrant respondents who did not respond to this scenario

c: Percentages calculated from the total number of migrant responses to this scenario (n=195), excluding 217 migrant respondents who did not respond to this scenario, one due to survey print error; and from the total number of non-migrant responses to this scenario (n=126), excluding 25 non-migrant respondents who did not respond to this scenario

d: Percentages calculated from the total number of migrant responses to this scenario (n=181), excluding 231 migrant respondents who did not respond to this scenario, one due to survey print error; and from the total number of non-migrant responses to this scenario (n=124), excluding 27 non-migrant respondents who did not respond to this scenario

e: Percentages calculated from the total number of migrant responses to this scenario (n=199), excluding 213 migrant respondents who did not respond to this scenario, one due to survey print error; and from the total number of non-migrant responses (n=127), excluding 24 non-migrant respondents who did not respond to this scenario

Note: There was a very large non-response rate for the question on main place of contact for criminal scenarios (40–46% for each scenario); further, migrant respondents were significantly less likely than non-migrants to answer the question, so the migrant status comparisons may not be valid

Source: AIC, Sex Worker Migration and Vulnerabilities to Trafficking 2010 [computer file]