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AN Aboriginal woman, attractive with an easy smile, tells her story of the unspoken sex trade for those on the streets of Darwin. We bring it back today for those who missed it. The Aboriginal woman, aged about 40, attractive with an easy smile, explains how it was for her when she lived on the streets of Darwin for six years, until she entered public housing last year: She and other women would hang out by the beach, waiting for men to drive by.
I was hooked on it. I was getting food and I felt good. It was every morning, every day. White men, Greek men — all for a box of moselle. It has been part of life in the north since frontier times: Aboriginal women used as sexual commodities. Until now, no researchers have ventured into the long grass and asked Aboriginal women to tell their stories of this common but unspoken sex trade. What has emerged from the work of Dr Catherine Holmes and Dr Eva McRae-Williams, working through the Batchelor Institute, is a visceral insight into the dangers and desperation of the lives of long-grass women.
The women appoint "Captains" among their groups to take turns having sex with cruising white men. The women felt excluded from society and saw trading sex as an opportunity to earn cash, grog, cigarettes and ganja for their groups, and also looked forward to travelling in nice cars or, on rare occasions, being taken to private homes, with stocked fridges and showers.
It was a temporary escape, and a better deal, than the routine rape they suffered at the hands of their own men. Then another one comes and climbs on. The researchers interviewed 89 women. They carried knives to protect themselves when sleeping in long grass groups at night. The report, "Captains" and 'Selly-welly': The report said some women coveted the role of Captain, because it gave them a sense of power and control when they returned to the group, distributing the grog, ganja or cigarettes.
Some women we spoke to disagreed with the researchers — they said the captain was the man, not the woman. She has shower every day. One young woman explained that 'all people in the long grass do it! I do it sometimes, too. The women the researchers spoke to did not see themselves as sex workers.