Single mums turn to brothels and stripping

LISA MARTIN
Last updated 14:53 20/01/2013

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Australia

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Some single mothers hit by recent Australian welfare cuts to parenting payments have turned to prostitution and strip clubs in order to keep a roof over their family's head.

The payment cuts came in at the start of 2013 and affect 84,000 single parents, mostly mothers who received parenting payments.

The majority have been shifted onto the Newstart unemployment allowance when their youngest child turns eight.

More than 60,000 single parents now receive between A$60 (NZ$75) to A$100 (NZ$125) a week less under entitlement changes.

While the budget will look A$728 million (NZ$913m) better over four years and make the system more sustainable, welfare groups have been concerned families will fall into poverty.

A spokeswoman from a Brisbane brothel told AAP there had been "influx" in applications from single mothers looking for work since the welfare changes came through.

She said there had been about 20 applications.

"They're looking for extra cash to help cope following the cuts and Christmas and back to school," said the spokeswoman, who did not want to be identified.

Women working at this brothel could make up to A$1000 (NZ$1250) during an eight hour shift, seeing three to five clients, she said.

A spokeswoman from an inner-city Melbourne brothel said she knew of some single mothers, affected by the cuts, applying for jobs in strip clubs.

"They find pole dancing is a bit more palatable," she said.

"It's an easier step compared to going all the way with sex work."

A woman from a St Kilda brothel said she had also noticed a huge increase in single mothers seeking sex work.

"It's sad. They're doing it to pay their rent," she said, but also declined to give her name.

Single Parents Action Group spokeswoman Katrina Rae said she was not surprised women in her position were turning to sex work and stripping to pay the bills.

"I wouldn't personally, but you would do anything to feed your family," she said.

"The cuts have made people desperate."

Ms Rae, a Sydney mother of four teenagers, said she had done her family budget on Sunday morning and was A$287 behind for the next fortnight.

"I don't have breakfast or lunch. If there's not enough food for dinner I'll have toast so the kids can eat," she said.

"We look at our budgets and we cry ourselves to sleep."

She said the federal government was "clueless" about how hard single mothers work to care for their families and pay the rent.

"We're not sitting at home watching daytime television," Ms Rae said.

"We run around like headless chooks."

She said as a victim of domestic violence she didn't choose to be a single parent.

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"Society sees us as a bunch of teenagers who can't close their legs," Ms Rae said.

"For me the choice was continue to be a punching bag or get out."

Ms Rae works a full time job in insurance, commutes 22 hours a week for work, and only manages to stay A$25 above the poverty line each week.

"I've considered moving our family into a garage and living in the car," she said.

"At the moment I sleep on a lounge so the kids can sleep in a bed."

Adelaide single mother Samantha Seymour said a woman she knew of affected by the payment cuts had spoken to a male staffer at Centrelink about her desperate situation.

"She told him 'What am I supposed to do? Turn to prostitution?' and he replied 'You have to do what you have to do," Ms Seymour said.

- AAP

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