Prostitutes Collective founder Catherine Healy made a Dame

Prostitutes Collective co-founder Catherine Healy has been made a Dame Companion of the New Zealand Order of Merit.

The former sex worker led the fight to decriminalise the industry, and has spent three decades supporting sex workers.

Dame Catherine says in the eyes of the law, sex workers are equal - but there's still work to be done to change perceptions.

She founded the New Zealand Prostitutes Collective in 1987, thus beginning her long fight to decriminalise sex work.

The issue polarised the country and lead to impassioned debate.

The Prostitute Reform Act was passed by parliamentary vote in 2003, a moment Dame Catherine describes as "electric".

She says while New Zealand has led the way with legislation, we still have some way to go when it comes to attitudes towards sex workers.

Dame Catherine says receiving the Queen's Birthday Honour is an absolute privilege.