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ECPAT International, 2006.
Although Australia has a high standard of living, high numbers of children and young people are homeless, which in some cases leads to commercial sexual exploitation. According to the census of 2001, 46 per cent of the 99,900 homeless people at that time were below 25 years of age, with those aged between 12-18 years a prominent group (26 per cent of all homeless people). Factors that push young people to live on the street include poverty, domestic violence, and sexual abuse at home, which results in the disintegration of family relationships. ‘Speaking for Themselves’, a research publication produced by Child Wise (the ECPAT group in Australia) in 2004 confirms significant links between commercial sexual activity of children and those who have experienced abusive backgrounds, exposure to violence, homelessness, and/or drug addiction. Once children live on the street, they become more vulnerable to cycles of drug abuse, sexual abuse and petty theft and may fall into commercial sex as a means of survival. As underage sex work is illegal, they therefore work on the street rather than in a legal brothel, which leads to further risks of violence and increased vulnerability; they are sought out by exploiters because of this.
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