Rachel Wotton has been a sex worker since 1994, working both in Australia and overseas. Rachel’s previous roles as International Spokesperson for Scarlet Alliance (www.scarletalliance.org.au) and as a peer Outreach Officer at SWOP NSW, gave her the opportunity to present sex worker issues at numerous local and international conferences, while networking with sex workers from around the globe.
Rachel is a founding member of Touching Base (www.touchingbase.org), which brings people with disability and sex workers together to advocate for the rights for both communities and to decrease stigma and discrimination. In 2009 she was also involved with the formation of a new sex worker activist group called Nothing About Us Without Us (www.nothing-about-us-without-us.com). Rachel is currently juggling her sex work career with all of her Touching Base, university & sex worker activism commitments…and spending time with her friends and family! A huge fan of stand up comedy, she hopes one day to do a world tour of all the major Comedy Festivals.
Her dream is to meet Sir Richard Branson and is still waiting for his call…
Saul Isbister – sex worker activist & President of Touching Base Inc
Saul has over 20 years’ experience as a sex worker and sex worker rights activist in both New Zealand and Australia. He has a keen interest in professional development and, as a sex worker, has been specializing in seeing clients with a range of special needs.
Based in Sydney, he is a founding member and currently President of Touching Base Inc and a co-editor of the Touching Base Policy and Procedural Guide for disability service providers supporting clients to access sex services (2011). For over a decade Saul has advocated for the rights of private sex workers to be better recognised within legislation and regulations. He also played a significant role in the development of the Sex Services Premises Planning Guidelines (2004) for local councils in New South Wales.
Saul is one of Rachel’s best friends. When they’re not changing the world they can be found in a serious game of cards or out on the green playing lawn bowls.
John Blades is 51 years old and have had MS for 29 years. He has been in a wheelchair for 18 years and a motorized wheelchair for 13 years, and driven with a chin control for the past 10 years. Having no movement below the neck.
John’s Journey Begins in 1982 when five major things happened. He graduated from civil engineering at Sydney University. He began working as a structural engineer and worked for 16 years in the design of buildings and bridges. It was also the year when he started in radio. On the volunteer operated community radio station 2 MBS FM. John currently co-present a program of experimental music new releases from all around the world, called Background Noise and incorporates live interviews and extensive what’s on. He am also the convener of the contemporary music collective of radio programs at 2MBS FM. In 1982 I also co-founded an experimental music group called The Loop Orchestra. We have done over 45 live performances had a record and two CDs released in Australia and CD releases in Europe.
Since 1993 he have made seven feature programs for ABC radio National. The Too Hard Basket about disability and sexuality in 2009 has received great acclaim all over the world and won awards around the world in 2010 including the prestigious Walkley award for Australian journalism in the social equity category.
To listen go to http://www.abc.net.au/rn/360/stories/2011/3074279.htm
John’s message: “Live life to the fullest, there is plenty of life to be lived from the neck up”.
Mark Manitta was born in country NSW 47 years ago and was diagnosed with Cerebral Palsy at 10 months of age. In 1966, Mark and his family moved to Sydney to enable him to receive the best possible support through the then Spastic Centre of NSW which now known as the Cerebral Palsy Alliance. Mark attended the Mosman Spastic Centre from the age of 3. During this time he learnt to communicate and ‘speak’ using a communication board. He then progressed to a typewriter and he now uses a ‘Polyanna Electronic Device’ that speaks for him.
During his early years, Mark expressed his artistic ability using an electronic typewriter and head pointer to create complex pictures of his surrounds. He also developed a love for music which led him to undertake a DJ course with 2RRR Community Radio resulting in Mark being a DJ on his own radio program once a week for 15 years. Mark has also produced a CD containing his favorite love songs complied from the last five decades with the proceeds went to the Cerebral Palsy Alliance. Mark also DJs music at a variety of occasions for family and friends.
He is currently writing a book titled ‘Inside Out’ about his life and he hopes to have it published in the near future. Mark lives in a community house with 5 other residents where he receives assistance with his day to day care. He regularly journeys out to his local shops where he is well known by the local shopkeepers. Mark lives his life in tune with the song renowned by John Farnham ‘You’re the Voice’. Despite a sharp mind being trapped inside a body that doesn’t work properly, Mark leads a happy and fulfilling life surrounded by family, friends and care providers.
Elaine & Spag Manitta are Mark’s loving parents. ‘Spag’ as he is known, migrated to Australia when he was 3 years old from Italy and settled with his family in Northern NSW where he eventually started working as a mechanic when he was 15 years old. His passion for cars led him to open a garage and workshop which he had for several years. Elaine was born in northern NSW where she lived with her family. Elaine left school at 15 to work as a dental nurse and in 1959 was crowned Floral Queen of Lismore.
Elaine and Spag married in 1960 and had their first child, a baby girl in 1962, and a son Mark in 1964. At the age of 10 months Mark was diagnosed with Cerebral Palsy. Elaine and Spag decided to move to Sydney to ensure that Mark received the best possible. Elaine and Spag had a third child, a baby girl and Mark lived at home with his two sisters during his childhood and finally moved out of home in his late 20’s to live independently.
Throughout Mark’s time in the family home, Elaine was the primary carer and Spag continued to work as a mechanic. Even today, Elaine and Spag are still very much involved in Mark’s life. Mark’s mantra to his parents has always been, ‘I don’t want to be wrapped in cotton wool, I want to have quality of life’.
Spag has been retired for several years now however he manages to fill his days with playing golf, brewing beer, making wine and growing vegetables in the back yard! Elaine is enjoying spending time with her 6 grandchildren and cooking up a storm in the kitchen. Elaine and Spag recently celebrated their 50th wedding anniversary and are living in the inner west of Sydney.
NOTE: Where does the name ‘Spag’ come from? This is what you are called when your mother sends you school with Spaghetti for lunch and not sandwiches!
Belinda Mason is a Sydney-based photographer who focused on taboo social issues that explore the very personal and sometimes difficult subjects of grief, body image and identity. Her work about sexuality & disability, “Intimate Encounters” toured nationally and internationally for seven years and is held in collections in Australia, New Zealand, USA, UK and Spain. Belinda is the 2008 winner of the riches photography prize in Australia, the Moran Prize. She was awarded “most emotionally intense image” at the CCP 2008 Kodak Salon and won the PCP Iris Award. She was the winner of BHP Images of the Outback award for 2003 and 2004. In 2008 she was the winner of the Australian Human Rights Award for Photography.
Belinda is the mother of two amazing boys, Dieter and Liam, who now create documentaries about the world they have grown up in. To some, this world is diverse, to them it’s just normal. For them the only disability they see is ignorance. To hear an interview they did with Rachel on FBI Radio go to
To view the ‘Intimate Encounters’ exhibition go to www.belindamason.com
Born in Sydney, Matt was raised as an “army brat” in country NSW moving from place to place before finally heading back to Sydney as a teenager, which to Matt’s mind put him in the right places at the right age.He left school early through a desire for independence and has never looked back.Eventually working in international logistics for many years gave Matt the opportunity to travel to many parts of the world and broaden his horizons through meeting people of all sorts of backgrounds and cultures.He’s done a few ‘extra-curricular’ activities along the way, having performed with his original band for a number of years in Brisbane, as well as the odd dabble in theatre and recently winning a runner up spot for a local film promotion.Now living in QLD, Matt credits his easy going nature and sense of humour to all of these experiences.
Having been friends for many years, the stars aligned to allow Rachel and Matt to find love.Matt now spends his time running his motorcycle business, playing his guitar and loving the life that he and Rachel have created together.
Denise Beckwith is a former Paraylmpian, having competed for Australia thirteen times in swimming. The pinnacle of Denise’s sporting career was representing Australia at the Sydney 2000 Paralympic Games. She competed in every race from the 50 metre Freestyle to the 200 metre, She also won the bronze medal in the 4 x 50m Freestyle Relay. In the lead up to and following the Games, Denise became a public speaker around disability awareness. She then embarked on her career in the Disability Sector. Denise has been employed with People with Disability Australia (PWD) for nine years in various roles; Her current position is the Coordinator of the Disability Rights Information Service (DRIS). One component of the role includes assisting people with disability to facilitate appointments with sex workers. Denise also participated in a photography exhibition, Intimate Encounters, that explores the topic of disability sexuality and body image. She is the current vice president of Touching Base that has the goal of making the linkage between people with disability and the sex industry much easier.
My Message “I am passionate about the issue of sexuality for people with disability, as I believe it is essential to enable people with disability to be viewed as whole people and explore their sexuality, as sexual expression is a human right.”
Pye Jakobsson started working as a sexworker since 1986 and is the founder of the Swedish sex worker organisation Rose Alliance. She also has a degree in neuropsychiatric disabilities and is involved in several projects aiming to strengthen rights and citixzenships of marginalised groups, including disabled people and sex workers. She won the UK charity erotic awards 2010 for “female sex worker of the year”. She believes in everybodies right to be touched, and that human contact is essential in order to live a full life. She has been a close friend of Rachel for six years, even though they met over the internet several years prior to that. First time they met Rachel said “Great meeting you, I have been quoting you for years!”