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Youth workers warn an increasing number of children are turning to sex work on the streets. Child Protection Minister Robyn McSweeney said she was so concerned by the revelations she would seek an urgent meeting with Police Minister Rob Johnson and youth workers.
Her comments came after Perth Inner City Youth Service acting manager Jen Korab said children as young as 12 had been working from parks within the city in the past year.
Ms Korab told The Sunday Times most child prostitutes in Perth were about 14 to 16, but younger children were starting to enter the industry. Those children often turned to drugs to "mask" the pain because they did not have the emotional maturity to cope with sex work, she said.
Ms Korab, who at 13 became a prostitute for about eight years, said the average person was not aware of the problem. She said the Northbridge curfew, criticised as targeting Aboriginal children, "moves them into darkness" and out of sight. Bernadette McMenamin, who runs the charity Child Wise, said it was difficult to quantify the true extent of child prostitution because state and federal governments failed to fund comprehensive research.
She said regulation failed to tackle street prostitution, which was most likely taken up by children who engaged in "opportunistic prostitution".