The New Zealand Prostitutes Collective has been critical to advancing the rights, safety, health and wellbeing of sex workers in Aotearoa.
The New Zealand Prostitutes Collective (NZPC)  was established in 1987 to seek equal rights for sex workers. It formed in response to an increase in HIV in New Zealand and sex workers being harassed and arrested by Police. The sex workers who established the NZPC were a mix of “masseuses” working in massage parlours and private houses, as well as trans- and cis-gendered women who worked on the street. One founding member said, “people started to talk about us as if we were a force to be reckoned with. This is really when we realised we were becoming an organisation.”
In 1988, following conversations between the NZPC and the Minister for Health, the NZPC began providing HIV/AIDS prevention services to sex workers across the country. During the 1980s, the Government funded a number of community-based services focused on preventing HIV/AIDS. In contrast to the other services provided, the NZPC focused on promoting safe sex for sex workers, by providing information, support services and an opportunity to meet other sex workers. By 2000, the NZPC had three clinics that offered free sexual health to sex workers. These clinics were located in Auckland, Wellington and Christchurch. Today, the NZPC has offices in Auckland, Tauranga, Hamilton, Hawkes Bay, Palmerston North, Wellington, Christchurch and Dunedin.
In 1989, the NZPC began advocating for the decriminalisation of sex work. They formed strong relationships with the Department of Health and pushed for an interdepartmental committee to review the laws surrounding sex work. This was in response to police raids and arrests in the early 1990s, where condoms were used as evidence to convict sex workers of prostitution-related offences.
The Prostitution Reform Bill was introduced to Parliament in October 2000. The NZPC was the driving force behind the Bill. Oral hearings on the Bill began in 2001. The Select Committee examined 222 individual submissions, heard 66 oral submissions and spent more than 42 hours discussing the Bill. The Prostitution Reform Act was passed into law on 27 June 2003. It was a large step forward for sex workers rights in New Zealand, and the NZPC was the driving force behind the law change.
In 2008 the Prostitution Law Review Committee found that the Prostitution Reform Act “has had a marked effect in safeguarding the right of sex workers to refuse particular clients and practices, chiefly by empowering sex workers through removing the illegality of their work.” In 2018, Dame Catherine Healy, who has been the National Coordinator of the NZPC since its inception, was awarded a New Zealand Order of Merit for services to the rights of sex workers.
In more recent years, the NZPC has focused on the rights of migrant sex workers. Migrants who require visas to work in New Zealand are prohibited from working in the sex industry, which creates inequality and unsafe working conditions for migrant sex workers. While the Prostitution Reform Act 2003 greatly contributed to improved working conditions for the majority of sex workers, this has not been the case for migrant sex workers.
The NZPC has been critical to advancing the rights, safety, health and wellbeing of sex workers in Aotearoa. It has done this through service provision, advocating for legal rights, forming strong relationships with politicians, government agencies and community organisations and by keeping their approach ‘by sex workers, for sex workers’. The NZPC continues to promote sex workers rights and advocate for change, both in Aotearoa and internationally.
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Recomended Further Reading:
Aotearoa New Zealand Sex Workers Collective. (2021). History. https://www.nzpc.org.nz/History.
Community Research. (2013). Occupational Safety and Health of Migrant Sex Workers in New Zealand. https://communityresearch.org.nz/wp-content/uploads/formidable/Roguski-2013-OSH-of-migrant-sex-workers-in-NZ.pdf.
Government House. (2021). Dame Catherine Healy, of Lower Hutt, DNZM, for services to the rights of sex workers. https://gg.govt.nz/file/25572.
Ministry of Justice. (2005). The Sex Industry in New Zealand: A Literature Review. https://www.justice.govt.nz/assets/Documents/Publications/sex-industry-in-nz.pdf.
New Zealand Legislation. (2003). Prostitution Reform Act. https://www.legislation.govt.nz/act/public/2003/0028/latest/DLM197815.html.
Te Ara, the Encyclopedia of New Zealand. (2021). New Zealand Prostitutes’ Collective Premises. https://teara.govt.nz/en/speech/29374/new-zealand-prostitutes-collective-premises.
 (Aotearoa New Zealand Sex Workers Collective, 2021)
 (Aoteaora New Zealand Sex Workers Collective, 2021).
 (Te Ara, 2018).
 (Global Network of Sex Projects, 2017)
 (Aoteaora New Zealand Sex Workers Collective, 2021).
 (Occupational Safety and Health of Migrant Sex Workers in New Zealand, 2013).
- [Image: the New Zealand Prostitutes Collective with a sign saying “Hey Ho! Let’s Go! Our right to say yes, our right to say no!” https://www.nswp.org/fr/node/3201.]
- [Image: the Wellington premises of the New Zealand Prostitutes Collective in 1988. The image shows an open door, with 282 written above it. There are signs on the wall saying “if you don’t wear this Joe you’re a dick” and “absolutely positively committed to stopping aids”. https://teara.govt.nz/en/speech/29374/new-zealand-prostitutes-collective-premises]
- [Image: Dame Catherine Healy receiving the New Zealand Order of Merit from Dame Patsy Reddy https://gg.govt.nz/file/25572].