In 2016, the Joint United Nations Programme on HIV/AIDS estimated that Australia has 20,500 sex workers across the country. A common question is whether prostitution is legal in Australia. There is not one simple answer to this question. Each state and territory has their own laws regarding sex work.
Prostitution laws in Australia
Is prostitution legal in NSW?
New South Wales decriminalised prostitution in 1979.
Brothels are legal in NSW under the Summary Offences Act 1988.
Although prostitution has been decriminalised in NSW, some activities associated with sex work are illegal. Examples of these are:
- Unless you own or manage a brothel, living on the earnings of a sex worker is illegal.
- You are not allowed to cause or induce sex work.
- Using a premise advertised as being a massage parlor or sauna as a brothel.
- Soliciting sex work near a school.
- Advertising sex work.
- Child prostitution.
Australian Capital Territory
Sex work has been legal in the ACT since 1992, since the enactment of what is known as “Anna’s Law”.
Sex workers are required to register with the Office of Regulatory Services. Further, owners of brothels or escort agencies are also required to register.
The Prostitution Regulation Act 2004 made sex work illegal in the NT. Notwithstanding this, those who operate an escort agency business may register with the NT State Police.
The state of Queensland has two limbs of sex work that are legal:
- Private sex work. This practitioner is allowed to advertise their business, and
- Licensed brothels.
In 2009 a report demonstrated that in QLD only 10% of sex works occurred in licensed brothels.
Brothels are illegal in South Australia, under the Criminal Law Consolidation Act 1935 and the Summary Offences Act 1953.
While sex work is legal, no person may employ or otherwise control or profit from the work of individual sex workers.
Engaging in sex work on the street in Victoria is illegal and has been so for a number of years.
Sex work itself is legal, but many activities associated with it, such as pimping and running brothels, are illegal.
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