It's a grey and frosty day in Melbourne, and I'm sitting outside a cafe with Dawn*. Dawn is 54 and she's a sex worker.
At the age of 19, Dawn caught her first glimpse of sex work when she moved in with a friend who was working in a brothel doing sex work. Despite knowing "nothing about the industry", she began to pick up on the ins and outs of the business through her friend, and later took a job as a cleaner in a brothel.
"I was an intravenous drug user and I never felt comfortable or confident enough — or pretty enough, or feminine enough — to try working (as a sex worker) in brothels. And identifying as a gay woman, I felt like it sort of went against what I stood for," she tells me.
"The reason I ended up working as a street-based sex worker was for money for drugs, initially."
A recently-announced $1 million reward for help solving the 2013 murder of Melbourne woman and street-based sex worker Tracey Connelly made me realise that despite knowing people from almost every part of the sex industry, I knew very few people who worked on the street.
Those who had done it mentioned it only in passing and rarely elaborated on it: even in the relatively open-minded world of sex work, street-based work still felt like a taboo topic.
So I went to meet with Dawn to ask her about what it was like to do street-based sex work. Is it scary? Is it hard? Is it as fraught with danger as we might imagine?
As it turns out, there's a lot that I didn't know.
For example, Dawn tells me, she rarely has sex in a car. The majority of her regular clients she would see at her house or theirs, using her place on the street as a meeting point, rather than a working space, as much as possible.
Her preferred working hours aren't late at night but early in the morning, around sunrise, when her clients are on their way home from the night shift, or on their way to the gym, or seeking a bit of fun before their working day begins.
She talks about the clients she's met, and the few seconds she might have to size up an interested man in a car before she takes the job or declines it. She looks for nicer, newer cars as an indication of the client's ability to pay for the booking and says she prefers older men to younger ones — the younger ones, we both agree, can be too energetic and physically demanding.
"I've met some really nice blokes, as far as it goes, who are generous and clean and don't want to take advantage of me."
And what would people be surprised to know about working on the street?
"That their husbands are down there every Saturday," Dawn laughs.
But there are also the bad experiences.
Like the people who drive past Dawn and other workers just to gawk at them, or to pelt them with eggs that they throw from their car windows.
She recalls her first time working, as a teenager, how it felt both exciting and scary to step out on to the street for the first time. And then, she tells me: "The first car I got in to was a police car. I don't think I went back for a long time after that."
On her first day, doing what she thought was her first job, Dawn was charged with loitering for the purpose of prostitution. She describes the situation as "entrapment": when a police officer poses as a potential client and then arrests the sex worker who offers to see him.
"I was charged and humiliated and it's still on my record," she says.
"They were rude, and when I say brutal … they weren't brutal towards me physically, but brutal in their attitude towards me. They weren't looking out for us like they might be now."
The experience never left Dawn.
"I avoid the police at all costs," she tells me. "If I were to see them, I'd be hotfooting it out of there."
In April, Homicide Detective Inspector Tim Day announced the million-dollar reward for information leading to the arrest of Tracey Connelly's killer, asking: "Who deserves to be slain in a van on a cold, dark winter's night? Nobody. Think about Tracey as a human being, deserving of justice like anyone else."
While it's an attitude that may feel belated to many sex workers, it's certainly not unwelcome. "This reward reflects the fact that the police and our society are beginning to take violence against sex workers seriously," says Lisa Marie Dallimore from Sex Work Law Reform Victoria.
"The sad reality is that the perpetrator may reoffend. Victoria's solicitation laws criminalise street-based sex workers and their clients. These laws make it harder for police to catch Tracey Connelly's killer, because street-based sex workers and their clients are much less likely to voluntarily provide information to police."
While sex work isn't completely illegal in Victoria, many aspects of the industry are criminalised.
It's legal to work in a brothel, and legal to work as a private escort — so long as the worker registers themselves with the Business Licensing Authority first — but street-based sex work is against the law.
So too is being an unregistered private worker, or seeing a client in your own home or hotel instead of his, discussing your services or prices in public, or describing the services you offer in an ad.
It's not safe, or even practical: a worker can't openly discuss or advertise the services they offer, and can't host clients at their own premises without breaking the law. But then imagine travelling with a client to their unfamiliar home or hotel, and arriving to find out that they want — or expect — a sexual service that a worker is unwilling or unable to offer.
It's not hard to imagine the environment of mistrust that can be created, not only between workers and clients, whose interactions are bound by confusing and problematic laws, but between workers and police who enforce the laws.
Neither Dawn nor myself knew Tracey personally, but neither of us need to have met her to know what Dawn tells me next.
"Tracey Connelly was much more than a sex worker," she says, firmly, when I talk about the newspaper headlines that referred to her not by her name, not as a woman, or a person, but simply as a 'prostitute'. "They think we don't have anything else going on — they report us as 'prostitutes' first and 'mother of three' second."
For the record, Dawn has a lot going on outside of her work. She tells me about her creative pursuits: her interest in writing, a Diploma course she recently finished, and a Bachelor of Arts that is yet to be completed.
But that's the big-picture stuff. Her day-to-day life isn't too different to yours or mine: she works, she goes home, she meets with friends, she sees family.
"I'm not doing anything much at the moment," she muses, "Apart from living and surviving, down in St Kilda."
— Kate Iselin is a writer and sex worker.