NTAHC 2010 - 2013

    Photo; Sharyn Marshall (Program Manager) and Pip - Alice Springs 2012

    In the beginning it was really, really, really cool. It was like a big-ass family, basically. The way that everything was and the way that everybody worked together and that, yeah.

    My name is Pip and I think I started with NTAHC Alice Springs in 2010. I knew about it and had dealings with it before that as a person, way before that, since I was a kid, but I started working, I think, in 2010 because the person who was managing at the time needed somebody in the NSP for a couple of weeks so I came and filled in and I just stuck around.

    I was a casual NSP for a while and then - I’m not sure when - but I’ve gone through different positions. I’ve been from casual NSP to NSP co-ordinator for Alice Springs to Sex Worker Outreach Project officer. The way the SWOP stuff happened was the Darwin boss people came down and I sat down and asked her if I could talk to her, then we went out the back and I said to her that I didn’t think it was good enough that Darwin had a sex worker outreach project officer five days a week and we didn’t have anything. We had the Darwin person come down but the Darwin person only came down once every couple of years, and I didn’t think that was good enough, and we needed our own SWOP worker down here. She let me go through the great big-ass spiel before she leant on the table and went, “I think you’re absolutely right.” So it was quite funny.

    That was Alison. I’d worked my balls up to sit down and actually go, “Hey, this is what we need” and blah, blah, blah and she’s all like, you know how she was, like ‘til the end, then she’s like, “I think you’re absolutely right.” And I’m like, “This is cool, but did you have to have my on my toes the whole time?” <Laughter> That’s how I started working as SWOP.

    The biggest achievement that I think I made in my time was getting a sex worker liaison officer within the police in Alice Springs, because I started off emailing once every couple of months and I didn’t really get that much of a response, so I started phoning every week, or every fortnight first and then I moved it to every week, and then after a few months of that, I’d had jack, so I started fronting up at the cop shop every week. I’d come to work, put all my stuff down, say hello, see what was going on, and then trot off down to the police station, rock up to the front counter and go, “Hi, my name’s Pip, I’m from the Northern Territory Aids and Hepatitis Council and I’m the sex worker outreach project officer and I’m just asking, again, whether somebody’s ready to stand up and say they’ll be the liaison officer for the sex workers in Alice Springs yet, or not?” So I’d just repeat that every week. Anyway, after about five weeks I got a phone call saying, “Hey, my name’s Julie Spirling and I’ve just had this really interesting email land across my desk and I’m ringing you to say, yeah, I’ll raise my hand, I’ll be the face of the Alice Springs police force for the Alice Springs sex workers.” So I started having regular meetings with her and it was pretty damn cool. That was a really cool achievement.

    One time there was one dude in town that was being a bit nasty and everybody was worried that if he came across more inexperienced workers he’d really screw them over. The liaison officer was quite happy for me to have three other workers in a room together, and I phoned one of them, and then I waited for my phone to go black so you couldn’t see the name or anything, and then I put it on the desk and she interviewed them like that, and she was quite happy to interview them like that. And then she rang me a week later and she told me that they’d found the dude and we were right, he was a local, not a tourist, and that he’d been warned that if anything like that happened again he would be charged. So I could pass that information back along to the other workers.

    It’s really difficult because there’s not that many workers in Alice Springs. So I would ring, like I'd do cold calling every week, I’d get the paper and I'd ring, because nine times out of ten there’d be different people in there.  So I’d get the paper and I’d ring them, and tell them that we were here, and services like selling condoms, and talking and all of that sort of stuff.  Sometimes people would engage and sometimes they wouldn’t. Also, there’s a hotel not far from here that’s pretty good, the owner’s pretty good, and I had trouble engaging with some of the workers there. We know that he knows what’s going on and he’s completely fine with it, so I ended up giving him the sex worker packs to pass on to the workers for me because that particular group wouldn’t engage on this.  I had to find some way of getting to them.

    ACOCA was on Todd Street near the 24 hour shop. Eric was the manager. I think it was Eric, after his house burnt down and his dogs died he got a couple more dogs and then he decided to bugger off with Adelaide with a bunch of the money from the AIDS Council. That’s what I’ve heard over the years. I don’t know how true it is, or not, which is why I don’t really say it that much.

    That’s what I was told. And then Caroline got thrown into the director’s chair and tried to clean that mess up and couldn’t clean that mess up and it got absolved and then eventually Darwin decided to venture into Alice Springs again under the branch of NTAHC.

    The biggest issue that I ran into during the time was the technology, or rather the lack of it in Alice Springs in the office. Every Friday, without fail, when I was working there would be a certain time period where the Darwin server would go down and that was ritualistic. Every Friday. I think it was around 9.00-11.00 am. That was annoying. Also, probably, the biggest thing in SWOP would be the lack of engagement from workers. Sometimes it was really good, there was a bit of a lack of engagement from quite a few workers which was frustrating. You could only do what you could only do.

    Generally we’d have meetings, telephone meetings, once a month. We were working on a plan for somebody, whichever way it was, one person travelling to the other NT work site so that we could work side-by-side for a little bit, but that never eventuated, so mostly it was just regular telephone contact.

    In the beginning it was really, really, really cool. It was like a big-ass family, basically. The way that everything was and the way that everybody worked together and that, yeah.

    Well, we had new management take over that didn’t really, I suppose, actually appreciate and understand what I was actually doing and that it was as important as it actually was.

    Incidentally, that is the reason I don’t swear at work anymore. They actually taught me how unprofessional it was to swear at work. I’d walk in and because I started later, I had to drop my boy off and that, and I’d walk in and Darwin would be down and I’d hear F-this and F-that and I was like, Oh, my, God! I’m not swearing anymore, that really is unprofessional. Whoops. That was insane.

    I did have a ball while i was working for NTAHC. Doing stuff like World Aids Day and International Sex Worker Day, all of those days, they were all pretty cool, but I actually enjoyed working the day-to-day basic stuff, being in the office and feeling a part of a team as well. All-in-all, I had a ball working for NTAHC. It was pretty cool.