A sex worker has accused the Northern Territory police department of discrimination after she claims they rejected her application to become a cop due to her line of work.
Lisa Lewis recently made the move from New Zealand to Darwin to pursue her goal of becoming a police officer, something she had dreamt about since she was a child.
The escort and model says she was inspired to apply after seeing the state’s appeal for new recruits to help deal with the Alice Springs crime explosion earlier this year.
In a TV advertisement back in May, Acting Northern Territory police commissioner Michael Murphy called for “anyone who wants to come and join us, please come and put an application in online” – which she did on July 17.
“Forensics was my goal with joining the police,” Ms Lewis told news.com.au.
“I think it stemmed from knowing forensic scientists hold the power of examining crime scene evidence to assist in the prosecution of perpetrators of crime or absolving an innocent person from suspicion.
“I also watch a lot of Crime and Investigation in my down time and I believe with my life experience, I pick up on things maybe someone from a ‘normal walk of life’ might miss.”
However, Ms Lewis claims her application was rejected due to her ‘declared history’ of being a sex worker.
She has now filed a complaint to the NT Anti-Discrimination Commission, with the matter having the potential to become a test case in discrimination law.
“I believe what Northern Territory Police have breached anti-discrimination legislation that came into effect 3 July, 2023,” she said.
“I believe a huge part of integrity is honesty. Now say if a person was honest in their police application about their drug taking habits, that is different because they are involved in illegal activity.
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“I have been working in a legal industry declaring 100 per cent of my income and being honest.
“I was disappointed with the integrity team for dismissing me from Northern Territory Police recruitment. I feel that with such an act of rejecting me for being honest about a legal job that has stigma, – they will be encouraging future recruits to lie to get in.”
Ms Lewis first hit headlines after streaking at an All Black rugby test and selling the bikini she’d worn on Trade Me. She also gained notoriety as New Zealand’s first topless newsreader on the now defunct Alt TV channel.
Her employment application for the Northern Territory Police had advanced to the point where officers requested her fingerprints, identification documents, driving record, medical history, details of ‘declarable associates’ and her criminal history.
She declared two past offences – running onto the pitch in a bikini at an All Blacks game in 2006 and a common assault charge for pushing a man who knocked her teeth out in 2012.
In the NT police’s recruit constable information booklet, it states that “simple offences” such as common assault are not reason for exclusion from the recruitment process if they occurred more than 10 years ago.
But Ms Lewis claims she received a call from a police recruitment officer who said due to her “unique profession” as a sex worker, her application would be sent to the police integrity panel.
She was asked whether she was currently employed as a sex worker – which is not illegal in either New Zealand or the Northern Territory – and she confirmed that she was.
In a letter to the integrity panel, she said she still worked in the sex industry ‘because I need money to live and survive’ and that she would quit if she joined the police.
Brendan Muldoon of the Professional Standards Command wrote to Ms Lewis on July 27, rejecting her application and banning her from reapplying for five years.
Ms Lewis said she believed she had been discriminated against because of her work.
“I’ve always been a loud and proud sex worker,” she told The Australian.
“It’s a legal job, I pay more tax than most New Zealanders. I’ve only just moved here and I don’t have anything to be embarrassed about.
“If it is a legal job in the Northern Territory, the NT police have no right to discriminate under moral principles. We’re law-abiding workers, just like any other employment.
“I just want to ensure the NT police are held accountable for their actions … if they have a history of rejecting sex workers, maybe they should think twice about it.”
Ms Lewis added that she believed her work experience would help her because she was used to dealing with people from all different walks of life in a non-judgmental way.
Ms Lewis reported this matter to the Northern Territory’s anti-discrimination commission earlier this month, and has now applied for a job with the Victorian police.
“Whether or not discrimination is right or wrong from a morally ethical perspective doesn’t matter,” she told News.com.au.
“What matters is what is current legislation and NT Police need to be held accountable.
“Legislation states a person shall not discriminate against another person on the ground of employment in sex work or engaging in sex work, including last employment in sex work.
“N.T Police had me provide a document based on my industry of sex work for the Integrity Panel. They cannot discriminate and refuse a sex worker work and/or refuse a sex worker access to a guidance program, vocational training or other occupational training or retraining program.
“N.T police serve the community. It is not their job to judge me or any other.
“Judgement is reserved for a public officer appointed to decide cases in a court of law.”
News.com.au reached out to Northern Territory Police, who stated that they were “unable to provide any information regarding the recruit application process for Ms Lewis, also noting a complaint has been referred to the Northern Territory Anti-Discrimination Commission.”