During the 1980s, Catherine Healey was just an ordinary school teacher with a thirst for travelling but soon realised her yearly Visa bill was starting to become a little overwhelming. As a teacher, Healey made four-hundred dollars a week. After starting work in the sex industry, her income increased to approximately two-thousand dollars weekly.
As Catherine transitioned into her life as a sex worker, she recognised that her life would be filled with fear. Instead of being a respected school teacher, Healey consistently worried she might be arrested for her new choice in careers. In an interview with BBC, she stressed: “We needed to find our voice, and we needed to be understood.”
In an effort to change her circumstances, Catherine helped co-found The New Zealand Prostitutes Collective, that aims to protect the rights and well being of sex workers. Once Catherine went with a friend to report a rape, who was informed she was in a database and could herself be arrested, she knew things needed to change. Healey’s courage has now contributed to contracts, better labour conditions and the right to report other offences.
After years of hard work, Healey’s contribution paved the way for the 2003 Prostitution Reform Bill, which legalised sex work throughout New Zealand. This turned brothels into legitimate businesses.
This turning point that passed by one vote left Healey elated. She commented by saying: “They don’t have to worry about the police coming in to arrest them. In New Zealand, they know that they have the right to justice. They have the right to report violence. They have contracts and they have labour conditions they can uphold.”
To her surprise, Healey learned she would become a Dame recognised with the Order of the Merit by Queen Elizabeth II. This week, the news was made public that Her Majesty would be commending Catherine Healey’s in her 2018 Birthday Honours List for New Zealand.
The 2018 Birthday Honour’s List for the United Kingdom will be published at 22:30 on Friday, 8 June. Follow Royal Central for all the updates.