Back in May of 2020 the federal court of Australia ruled that the National Disability Insurance Scheme should not deny disabled people the right to use their NDIS insurance to pay for sex work services if they could show that it was “reasonable and necessary”.
I can’t emphasise enough how important this recognition of both sex work and the rights of people with disabilities is. It cannot be understated.
Governments world wide have long pushed sexuality and sex work to the margins of society, with hugely detrimental consequences. New South Wales in Australia, where I work, in fact was so plagued by corruption of it’s police force and politicians, due to the criminalisation of sex work that it became the first place in the world to decriminalise sex work (and thus remove that blight of corruption).
It seemed for a brief moment there that as the states and territories in Australia embrace and/or implement decriminalisation that the tide was turning. Even the federal court has recognised sexual expression as an integral part of human existence.
Then last week federal minister for the NDIS, Stuart Robert went on a conservative radio show to once again display his ugly conservatism.
“I never thought you and I would be talking about prostitutes.”
Robert said NDIS participants were “welcome to avail themselves of anything that is lawful and they can pay for themselves” but not with taxpayer funds.The Guardian – Stuart Robert Condemned
Firstly it’s worth noting the derogatory language. Stuart Robert knows that the preferred and respectful term is “sex worker”. He has used it in the past here (https://amp.abc.net.au/article/11298838). So his choice of words when talking to Ray Hadley on the radio was intended to rile up listeners and shame people who pay for and provide sexual services in front of a conservative radio audience. It was deliberate.
The federal court stated that if a person with a disability can make a case for the NDIS to cover the cost of sex work services then those services should be covered. Which seems quite reasonable. It’s not giving anyone with a recognised disability a blank cheque to see sex workers every day of the week on the government’s dime. It is simply recognising that there are people in our community who’s disability means that they can’t safely and readily participate in an integral part of the human experience – their sexuality – that the rest of us take for granted.
What most people who oppose the NDIS funding sex workers don’t stop to consider is the risks that people with disabilities take when they try to engage with people for a relationship and especially sex.
Most of the clients I see and have seen over the years who have a disability are extremely physically vulnerable and require significant care 24 hours a day. It is virtually impossible for a person in this position to “just get on Tinder” for instance. Most have never experienced sex at all when they contact me and are looking for someone who understands their disability, how to communicate and work with them safely.
This isn’t something you get with a random stranger off the Internet. Imagine being wheelchair bound and unable to speak trying to meet someone to have sex with – for the first time.
This is what Stuart Robert ignores. And it’s a huge over site for the minister in charge of the NDIS.
The only way that you can justify excluding sexual services for people with a disability is if you believe that sex and sexual expression is a privilege.
From the NDIS website:
The main objective of the NDIS is to provide all Australians who acquire a permanent disability before the age of 65 which substantially impacts how they manage everyday activities with the reasonable and necessary supports they need to live an ordinary life.NDIS – Operational Guidelines
So the test that the NDIS claims it applies to supporting people with disabilities is “does this disability prevent you from living an ordinary life?”
I would suggest that a life devoid of sex is not an ordinary life – and I have over ten years of experience working with people, both able bodied and with disabilities who tell me all the time how important being able to have sex is to them and much it improves their lives.
Sex is a part of our ordinary lives and if minister Robert Stuart was honest with Australians he would accept the federal court’s ruling and stop fighting against people with disabilities.
His latest attack on people with disabilities is try to force through a definition of “reasonable and necessary” that will exclude sex work from NDIS cover.
“I will move to actually define what is reasonable and necessary so we can meet community standards, because I do not believe … that the federal government using taxpayer’s money to pay for prostitutes meets that standard, I just can’t see it,” Robert said.The Guardian – Stuart Robert Condemned
Every time he claims that it would be against “community standards” he is applying his own moral, religious, and/or political beliefs to a question that should not be influenced by any of those things ever.
And claiming authority by citing “the community” is nothing more than cowardice. At least own your discrimination Stuart.