For the first time since the skilled migration and temporary visa programs were introduced decades ago, the newly released migration strategy promises to address the calamity it has caused in Australia’s massage sector.
Ann Davey, CEO Massage & Myotherapy Australia, said that the massage sector has become the epitome of what Dr Martin Parkinson described as a system ‘so badly broken’ that it required a ‘10-year rebuild’…a system not delivering for workers, for businesses, or for Australians.
‘Australia’s temporary and skilled migration program opened a floodgate of poorly trained massage workers, as a source of cheap and temporary labour, for the many quasi-massage shops that dot the country, offering anything from spa style massage to illicit and legal sex work that operates under the guise of legitimate massage therapy.’
The initiatives detailed in the strategy highlight key issues that have enabled the calamity that is the low end and poorly skilled massage sector in Australia. The new commitments include:
- higher English language requirements for international students and graduates;
- more scrutiny of high-risk student visa applications;
- a $19m investment into the Home Affairs student visa integrity unit;
- Restrictions on onshore visa hopping;
- ending settings that drive long-term temporary stays;
- tackling exploitation of the visa system; and
- targeting skilled migration to genuine shortages.
Mrs Davey said, ‘We hope these commitments will be applied vigorously to massage visa and sponsored visa applications. Australia has never had a serious skills shortage in qualified, professional massage therapists and the extraordinary influx of low skilled massage workers has led to confusion and the sexual stereotyping of massage therapists as sex workers and massage as sex.’
The professional massage sector is a female-dominated sector of complementary health, with a ratio of approximately 4:1 women to men. The long term and grievous consequences for massage therapists in Australia are well documented.’
Numerous studies indicate that the conflation of massage therapy with sex work and the subsequent confusion around health-related massage and massage therapists contributes to:
- unacceptable levels of sexual harassment (see Members’ Pulse Survey 2023 referenced below)
- human trafficking and bonded labour (2020)
- exploitation and abuse of women, especially migrant women (2015)
- ignorance of the documented real life health benefits for women who access massage therapy (2016)
- limited financial access to health-related massage services for people in need (2023)
- pro-active discrimination or irreverence for the qualifications and competencies of professional massage therapists
According to the 2022 Pulse Survey of our 8,600 members, respondents indicated that some professional massage therapists experience sexual harassment from clients in their workplace daily.
Mrs Davey said, ‘the Australian temporary and skilled migration program has not kept pace with the substantial improvements in professional development including the higher education and competency standards, or the demands or needs of the healthcare sector and community.
‘We look forward to further developments and the impact these changes will have on Australia’s current visa programs,’ Mrs Davey said.
Massage therapy qualifications are recognised under the Australian Qualifications Framework (AQF);
Sex workers are not subject to the National Code of Conduct for Health Workers which prohibits sexual relations with clients yet they can promote their services as legitmate health related massage
Massage & Myotherapy Australia is a not-for-profit organisation formed in 2003 and is the leading representative body for professional massage therapists nationwide, with a membership of over 8,500 therapists.
Glenn Schaube 0439 320 151; firstname.lastname@example.org