Tributes have flowed in for Roberta Perkins, a trailblazing Australian advocate for trans and sex worker rights, after she passed away on Tuesday, aged 78.

Perkins was an academic and writer, authoring numerous books on sex work in Australia and using her platform to fight for sex worker rights.

In the 1980s she became a member of the Australian Transsexual Association, which supported trans people by lobbying for social and legal reform.

Perkins’ research on the lives of trans people in Kings Cross drew the attention of Frank Walker, then State Minister for Youth and Community Services, and led to the establishment of a refuge in Petersham for homeless trans people, which later became The Gender Centre.

Perkins was a founding member of the former Australian Prostitutes Collective NSW, which advocated for decriminalisation of sex work to improve the lives of workers in the state.

The organisation’s work is today continued by the Sex Worker Outreach Project (SWOP) NSW.

“It would be hard to quantify the number of trans people and sex workers that have benefited from Roberta’s work and legacy,” said SWOP NSW and national sex worker body Scarlet Alliance in a joint statement.

“Much of the work conducted by sex worker organisations today still takes its cues from Roberta’s early work, addressing the complex and intersecting needs of sex workers, while simultaneously working on reducing the structural and systemic barriers sex workers face.

“Roberta was a trailblazer and her impact on the health, safety and rights of sex workers and trans people has been vast and enduring.

“She will be greatly missed. Vale, Roberta Perkins.”

Sex worker organisations and peers have flooded social media with tributes and memories of Perkins, her life and her work.

Her friends and family invite all to attend a celebration of Perkins’ life tomorrow, Friday June 29, at 12 pm.

The service will be held at The Anne Wilson Funeral Chapel, at the corner of Barrenjoey Rd and Darley St in Mona Vale.

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