With the announcement that a small town in rural Queensland – complete with 16 properties, a community hall and three saw mills – entered the real estate market, a different sort of prospective buyer has emerged, launching a campaign to raise the necessary funds to purchase it outright.
Rather than developing Allies Creek into a campground, as some suggested, performer and activist Sabrinna Valisce plans to transform the space into a safe haven for former sex workers – a sort of home away from home when the stresses of life become unmanageable.
As the founder of not-for-profit organisation Real Empowerment Through Real Options (RETRO), Valisce aims to provide “the perfect place for survivors to retreat to,” where those looking to exit the industry can engage in artistic pursuits and other therapeutic activities in a supportive and recuperative environment.
But first, she needs to scrape together a little under $1 million – something she hopes to do with crowd-funding platform GoFundMe.
When I caught up with Valisce, she was beat: after slogging through a 14-hour work day, she’d devoted her downtime to writing dozens of press releases and coordinating the campaign on social media. Even so, she graciously agreed to speak with me after I reached out through a mutual friend on Facebook.
On her inspiration for the campaign, she said, “After attending the World’s Oldest Oppression conference in Melbourne, it became clear exit services are both needed and sorely lacking across Australia. Current resources consist of outsourcing to generic, existing services, such as 12-step, religious and government-run programs, but none of these are specifically set up to understand the unique situation of those exiting the sex trade.”
As for what she intends to do with the properties once the deeds are hers, she explained, “We want to divide the land into two parts. Half would be rented out to small women’s festivals and conferences to pay for rates, water, bills and repairs. We're currently looking into ways we can self-generate income, and looking into private funders. If we can avoid competing for government funding, we will.”
Meanwhile, the other half will be used for “three to six-week retreats as needed,” though ultimately the length is up to the residents. “It's for them, so it’s up to them as much as possible,” she said.
As of writing this, the campaign has racked up over $1000 in donations, as well as scores of Facebook shares and supportive comments. According to the GoFundMe, if the target isn’t reached, all funds raised will be funnelled towards a “drop-in centre” in an affordable CBD location.
And her final message? “Exit services are endless in their scope. Our plan is to do what we can, partner with who we can and look at ways to maintain longevity, and – over time – build more and more services. It's going to take a lot of hard work and long hours on our part to make it happen. We all know what we’re in for.”
While the town is now under offer, the campaign is still seeking donations. Those interested are welcome to donate here.