Sandra Pankhurst, The Trauma Cleaner, passes away

Sandra Pankhurst the trauma cleaner
Image: Sandra Pankhurst Facebook

Sandra Pankhurst, the subject of Sarah Krasnostein’s book The Trauma Cleaner, has died in Melbourne. Aged in her late 60s, Sandra suffered from a pulmonary condition before her death.

Sarah Krasnostein’s award-winning biography bought Sandra Pankhurst’s amazing story to the public in 2018.

Sandra described herself as a transgender woman “adopted into an abusive family, forced to live a malnourished life in a backyard shed [who] worked in brothels across Australia.”

She always spoke candidly of her abusive childhood, and her careers as a drag queen, sex worker and funeral director. While working as one of Australia’s first female funeral directors, Sandra noticed a void in the market for trauma cleaners.

She also spoke of her transition in the 1980s.

Specialised Trauma Cleaning

Sandra’s company, Specialised Trauma Cleaning cleans up following homicides and suicides. It also decontaminates particularly squalid premises such as those used by hoarders and meth cooks.

Sarah Krasnostein writes in The Trauma Cleaner, “Each day for the past twenty years, her job has led her into dark homes where death, sickness and madness have suddenly abbreviated the lives inside.”

Sandra said the skills and inner strength she gained from her traumatic past enabled her to build Australia’s largest and most successful trauma cleaning business.

Friends and admirers have taken to social media to pay tribute to Sandra Pankhurst.

WomenConnect Frankston remembered her huge heart.

“It is with great sadness, we received word of the loss of our beloved Sandra Pankhurst. Sandra was an incredibly open, forthright and generous lady with a huge heart. She graced our stage and bared her story, in all its glory, not once, but twice!”

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Destiny Rogers

Destiny Rogers embarked on her career in the media industry immediately after high school, initially joining Mirror News, which later evolved into News Ltd. She fondly recalls editing Ian Byford's 'Passing Glances: A History of Gay Cairns' as one of her most fulfilling projects. Additionally, Destiny co-researched and co-wrote 'The Queen's Ball', chronicling the history of the world's longest-running continuous queer event. Her investigative work on the history of Australia's COON Cheese and Edward Coon culminated in the publication 'COON: More Holes than Swiss Cheese', a collaborative effort with Dr. Stephen Hagan. Destiny's journey at QNews began as a feature writer, and she was subsequently elevated to the role of Managing Editor of QNews Magazine in 2018. However, in July 2022, she decided to resign from this role to refocus on research and feature writing. For contact, please reach out at

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1 Comment

  1. Mrs Elsie Johnstone
    15 August 2021

    I have just finished Sarah’s amazing biography of Sandra Pankhurst. What a truly magnificent human being! I was sad to see when I did a search that she has passed from this valley of tears. What a life she led! How much she had to teach us about striving, forgiveness and forever looking forward, not backwards. Her sons should be proud.
    And Sarah Krasnostein, Your writing is beautiful, empathetic, descriptive and non judgmental. Your story will live on in me. It taught me so much.

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