New South Wales was the first state or territory to adopt a different model, decriminalising prostitution in This became a model for New Zealand and a failed attempt in Western Australia in Victoria and Queensland adopted different models, based on legalisation—Victoria in and Queensland in In the remaining states of Tasmania , South Australia and Western Australia, despite intense debate and many proposed legislative reforms there has been no change in the laws.
The Australian Capital Territory adopted partial decriminalisation in , and the Northern Territory allowed partial decriminalisation in In all jurisdictions the issue remains divisive, and in the three eastern states with regulated sex work there has been intermittent review.
Much of the information in this article concerns heterosexual, not homosexual, sex work. Sex work in Australia has operated differently depending on the period of time evaluated. For this reason discussion is divided into three distinct periods: Pre-colonial "prostitution" among Aboriginal peoples is not considered here, since it bore little resemblance to contemporary understanding of the term.
The late colonial period viewed prostitution as a public health issue, through the Contagious Diseases Acts. Since Federation in , the emphasis has been on criminalising activities associated with prostitution. Although not explicitly prohibiting paid sex, the criminal law effectively produced a de facto prohibition. Prostitution probably first appeared in Australia at the time of the First Fleet in Some of the women transported to Australia had previously worked in prostitution, while others chose the profession due to economic circumstances, and a severe imbalance of the sexes.
While the Bigge Inquiry refers to brothels, these were mainly women working from their own homes. In the colonial period, prior to federation , Australia adopted the Contagious Diseases Acts of the United Kingdom between and in an attempt to control venereal disease in the military, requiring compulsory inspection of women suspected of prostitution, and could include incarceration in a lock hospital.
After federation, criminal law was left in the hands of the states. But criminal law relating to prostitution only dates from around These laws did not make the act of prostitution illegal but did criminalise many activities related to prostitution. These laws were based on English laws passed between and , and related to soliciting, age restrictions, brothel keeping, and leasing accommodation.
Since the s there has been a change toward liberalisation of prostitution laws, though the actual approaches have varied. A May Australian Institute of Criminology report recommended that prostitution not be a criminal offence, since the laws were ineffective and endangered sex workers. Men who had paid for sex were more likely than other men to smoke, to drink more alcohol, to have had a sexually transmitted infection STI or been tested for HIV, to have more sexual partners, to have first had vaginal intercourse before 16, and to have had heterosexual anal intercourse.
Health and safety regulations and peer education have been effective at keeping STIs in the sex worker population at a low level, similar to the general population, and comparable amongst the states Maginn Although there had been claims that sex workers were responsible for STI levels in mining communities, subsequent research has shown this not to be true.
The number of people trafficked into or within Australia is unknown. Estimates given to a parliamentary inquiry into sexual servitude in Australia ranged from to 1, trafficked women annually. Australia did not become a party to the Convention for the Suppression of the Traffic in Persons and of the Exploitation of the Prostitution of Others when it was implemented in Australia has also ratified on 8 January the Optional Protocol to the Convention on the Rights of the Child on the Sale of Children, Child Prostitution and Child Pornography , which requires it to prohibit, besides other things, child prostitution.
For the purpose of the Protocol, a child is any human being under the age of 18, unless an earlier age of majority is recognised by a country's law. In all Australian jurisdictions, the minimum age at which a person can engage in prostitution is 18 years, although it is argued against the age of consent, and it is always illegal to engage another in prostitution.
Prior to passage of the Prostitution Act, prostitution policy in the Australian Capital Territory ACT consisted of "containment and control" under the Police Offences Act  This prohibited keeping a brothel, persistently soliciting in a public place, or living on the earnings of prostitution. This law was not enforced. In a report entitled Prostitution in the ACT: Interim Report Australian Capital Territory was produced by the Select Committee on HIV, Illegal Drugs and Prostitution describing the then state of the industry, the shortcomings of the law, and the possible reforms available.
Having considered the example of other Australian States that had adopted various other models, the committee recommended decriminalization, which occurred in the Prostitution Act. Sex workers may work privately but must work alone.
Soliciting remains illegal Section The legal situation was reviewed again with a Standing Committee on Justice and Community Safety's inquiry into the ACT Prostitution Act , following the death of a year-old woman, Janine Cameron , from a heroin overdose in a brothel in The inquiry was established on 28 October Written submissions were required by 26 February at which time 58 submissions had been received.
The Eros Association, which represents the industry also called for removal of registration and for an expansion into residential areas. In the October elections the opposition Liberals campaigned on a platform to oppose allowing more than one sex worker to use a premise in suburban areas  but were not successful in preventing a further term of the ALP Green alliance.
New South Wales NSW has the most liberal legislation on prostitution in Australia, with almost complete decriminalisation, and has been a model for other jurisdictions such as New Zealand. According to a report in the Daily Telegraph , illegal brothels in Sydney outnumbered licensed operations by four to one. NSW was founded in and was responsible for Tasmania until , Victoria until and Queensland until It inherited much of the problems of port cities, penal colonies, and the gender imbalance of colonial life.
Initially there was little specific legislation aimed at prostitution, but prostitutes could be charged under vagrancy provisions if their behaviour drew undue attention.
In Commissioner Bigge reported stated there were 20 brothels in Sydney, and many women at the Parramatta Female Factory were involved in prostitution.
The Select Committee into the Condition of the Working Classes of the Metropolis described widespread prostitution. Attempts to pass contagious diseases legislation were resisted, and unlike other States, legislative control was minimal till the general attack on 'vice' of the first decade of the twentieth century which resulted in the Police Offences Amendment Act , and the Prisoners Detention Act. Street prostitution was controlled by the Vagrancy Act sec.
This was strengthened by an amendment of the Police Offences Amendment Act , which also prohibited living on the earnings. The Vagrancy Act was further strengthened in , making it an offence to 'loiter for the purpose of prostitution' sec. These provisions were then incorporated into the Summary Offences Act , s.
In the s an active debate about the need for liberalisation appeared, spearheaded by feminists and libertarians , culminating under the Wran ALP government in the Prostitution Act Eventually NSW became a model for debates on liberalising prostitution laws.
But almost immediately, community pressure started to build for additional safeguards, particularly in Darlinghurst Perkins , although police still utilised other legislation such as the Offences in Public Places Act for unruly behaviour. Eventually, this led to a subsequent partial recriminalisation of street work with the Prostitution Amendment Act , of which s.
This resulted in Darlinghurst street workers relocating Perkins Further decriminalisation of premises followed with the  implementation of recommendations from the Select Committee of the Legislative Assembly Upon Prostitution — Although the committee had recommended relaxing the soliciting laws, the new Greiner Liberal government tightened these provisions further in through the Summary Offences Act in response to community pressure.
The suburbs of King's Cross in Sydney and Islington in Newcastle have been traditional centres of prostitution. New South Wales is the only Australian state that legalises street prostitution. But community groups in those locations have occasionally lobbied for re-criminalisation.
As promised in its election campaign, the Liberal Party sought review of the regulation of brothels. In September , it issues a discussion paper on review of the regulations. Nevertheless, there is no evidence of a negative effect of brothels on the community. Generally prostitution policy in NSW has been bipartisan.
But in the Liberal centre-right opposition announced that it would make prostitution reform part of its campaign for the March State election. The plan would involve a new licensing authority, following revelations that the sex industry had been expanding and operating illegallly as well as in legal premises. The Liberals claimed that organised crime and coercion were part of the NSW brothel scene. Sex workers have protested against the fact that the NT is the only part of Australia where workers have to register with the police.
Unlike other parts of Australia, the Northern Territory remained largely Aboriginal for much longer, and Europeans were predominantly male. Inevitably this brought European males into close proximity with Aboriginal women. There has been much debate as to whether the hiring of Aboriginal women Black Velvet as domestic labour but also as sexual partners constituted prostitution or not.
Once the Commonwealth took over the territory from South Australia in , it saw its role as protecting the indigenous population, and there was considerable debate about employment standards and the practice of 'consorting'. Bonney In the Prostitution Regulation Act reformed and consolidated the common law and statute law relating to prostitution. The Attorney-General's Department conducted a review in A further review was subsequently conducted in The NT Government has consistently rejected calls for legalisation of brothels.
There are two types of sex work that are legal in Queensland:. All other forms of sex work remain illegal, including more than one worker sharing a premise, street prostitution , unlicensed brothels or massage parlours used for sex work, and outcalls from licensed brothels. Much emphasis was placed in colonial Queensland on the role of immigration and the indigenous population in introducing and sustaining prostitution, while organisations such as the Social Purity Society described what they interpreted as widespread female depravity.
Brothels were defined in section of the Queensland Criminal Code in , which explicitly defined 'bawdy houses' in Solicitation was an offence under Clause E, and could lead to a fine or imprisonment. Other measures included the long-standing vagrancy laws and local by-laws.
The Fitzgerald Report Commission of Inquiry into "Possible Illegal Activities and Associated Police Misconduct" of led to widespread concern regarding the operation of the laws, and consequently a more specific inquiry Criminal Justice Commission.
An inquiry into prostitution in Queensland in This in turn resulted in two pieces of legislation, the Prostitution Laws Amendment Act and the Prostitution Act The Crime and Misconduct Commission reported on the regulation of prostitution in ,  and on outcall work in Despite the intentions of the founders, prostitution became identified early in the history of the colony, known as the 'social evil', and various government reports during the nineteenth century refer to estimates of the number of people working in prostitution.
In , within six years of the founding of the colony, it was reported that there were now "large numbers of females who are living by a life of prostitution in the city of Adelaide, out of all proportion to the respectable population". The Police Act  set penalties for prostitutes found in public houses or public places  This was consistent with the vagrancy laws then operating throughout the British Empire and remained the effective legislation for most of the remainder of the century, although it had little effect despite harsher penalties enacted in and Following the scandal described by WT Stead in the UK, there was much discussion of the white slave trade in Adelaide, and with the formation of the Social Purity Society of South Australia in along similar lines to that in other countries, similar legislation to the UK Criminal Law Consolidation Amendment Act was enacted, making it an offence to procure the defilement of a female by fraud or threat the Protection of Young Persons Act.
While current legislation is based on acts of parliament from the s and s, at least six unsuccessful attempts have been made to reform the laws, starting in Parliament voted a select committee of inquiry in August,  renewed following the election.
The committee report recommended decriminalisation. A number of issues kept sex work in the public eye during and The next development occurred on 8 February when Ian Gilfillan Australian Democrat MLC stated he would introduce a decriminalisation private members bill. He did so on 10 April  but it met opposition from groups such as the Uniting Church and it lapsed when parliament recessed for the winter.
Another bill came in and then Mark Brindal , a Liberal backbencher, produced a discussion paper on decriminalisation in November , and on 9 February he introduced a private member's bill Prostitution Decriminalisation Bill to decriminalise prostitution and the Prostitution Regulation Bill on 23 February. He had been considered to have a better chance of success than the previous initiatives due to a "sunrise clause" which would set a time frame for a parliamentary debate prior to it coming into effect.
He twice attempted to get decriminalisation bills passed, although his party opposed this. It had little support and lapsed when parliament recessed. No further attempts to reform the law have been made for some time, however in a governing Labor backbencher and former minister, Stephanie Key , announced she would introduce a private members decriminalisation bill. She presented her proposals to the Caucus in September ,   and tabled a motion on 24 November "That she have leave to introduce a Bill for an Act to decriminalise prostitution and regulate the sex work industry; to amend the Criminal Law Consolidation Act , the Equal Opportunity Act , the Fair Work Act , the Summary Offences Act and the Workers Rehabilitation and Compensation Act ; and for other purpose".
The proposal was opposed by the Family First Party that had ten per cent of the votes in the Legislative Council , where Robert Brokenshire now opposed decriminalisation. Key introduced another Bill  in May Prostitution has existed in Tasmania since its early days as a penal colony, when large numbers of convict women started arriving in the s.
Some of the women who were transported there already had criminal records related to prostitution. Prostitution was not so much a profession as a way of life for some women to make ends meet, particularly in a society in which there was a marked imbalance of gender, and convict women had no other means of income.
Nevertheless, the concept of 'fallen women' and division of women into 'good' and 'bad' was well established. In an attempt to produce some law and order the Vagrancy Act was introduced. Other attempts were the Penitent's Homes and Magdalen Asylums as rescue missions.
In like other British colonies, Tasmania passed a Contagious Diseases Act based on similar UK legislation of the s ,  and established Lock Hospitals in an attempt to prevent venereal diseases amongst the armed forces, at the instigation of the Royal Navy.
The Act ceased to operate in in the face of repeal movements. However, there was little attempt to suppress prostitution itself. What action there was against prostitution was mainly to keep it out of the public eye, using vagrancy laws. More specific legislation dates from the early twentieth century, such as the Criminal Code Act Crimes against Morality , and the Police Offences Act Prior to the Act, soliciting by a prostitute, living on the earnings of a prostitute, keeping a disorderly house and letting a house to a tenant to use as a disorderly house were criminal offences.
Sole workers and escort work, which was the main form of prostitution in the stat, were legal in Tasmania. Reform was suggested by a government committee in The Bill proposed registration for operators of sexual services businesses. Consultation with agencies, local government, interested persons and organisations occurred during , resulting in the Sex Industry Regulation Bill being tabled in Parliament in June It passed the House of Assembly and was tabled in the Legislative Council, where it was soon clear that it would not be passed, and was subsequently lost.
It was replaced by the Sex Industry Offences Act Essentially, in response to protests the Government moved from a position of liberalising to one of further criminalising.
The Act that was passed consolidated and clarified the existing law in relation to sex work by providing that it was legal to be a sex worker and provide sexual services but that it was illegal for a person to employ or otherwise control or profit from the work of individual sex workers.
A review clause was included because of the uncertainty as to what the right way to proceed was. The Act commenced 1 January Prostitution is legal, but it is illegal for a person to employ or otherwise control or profit from the work of individual sex workers.
The Sex Industry Offences Act  states that a person must not be a commercial operator of a sexual services business — that is, "someone who is not a self-employed sex worker and who, whether alone or with another person, operates, owns, manages or is in day-to-day control of a sexual services business".
Street prostitution is illegal. This law explicitly outlines that it is illegal to assault a sex worker, to receive commercial sexual services, or provide or receive sexual services unless a prophylactic is used. In , the Justice Department conducted a review of the Act and received a number of submissions, in accordance with the provisions of the Act. In June , the Attorney-General Lara Giddings announced the Government was going to proceed with reform, using former Attorney-General Judy Jackson 's draft legislation as a starting point.
However, her Attorney-general, former premier David Bartlett , did not favour this position  but resigned shortly afterwards, being succeeded by Brian Wightman. Wightman released a discussion paper in January This was seen when Whistleblowers Tasmania invited Sheila Jeffreys to conduct a series of talks including one at the Law Faculty at the University of Tasmania.
The government invited submissions on the discussion paper until the end of March, and received responses from a wide range of individuals and groups. The Government's top priority is the health and safety of sex workers and the Tasmanian community. Victoria has a long history of debating prostitution, and was the first State to advocate regulation as opposed to decriminalisation in New South Wales rather than suppression of prostitution.
Legislative approaches and public opinion in Victoria have gradually moved from advocating prohibition to control through regulation. While much of the activities surrounding prostitution were initially criminalised de jure , de facto the situation was one of toleration and containment of 'a necessary evil'. Laws against prostitution existed from the founding of the State in The Vagrant Act  included prostitution as riotous and indecent behaviour carrying a penalty of imprisonment for up to 12 months with the possibility of hard labour Part II, s 3.
This Act was not repealed till , but was relatively ineffective either in controlling venereal diseases or prostitution. The Police Offences Act  separated riotous and indecent behaviour from prostitution, making it a specific offence for a prostitute to 'importune' a person in public s 7 2.
Despite the laws, prostitution flourished, the block of Melbourne bounded by La Trobe Street, Spring Street, Lonsdale Street and Exhibition Street being the main red light district, and their madams were well known.
An attempt at suppression in was ineffectual. The Police offences Act  prohibited 'brothel keeping', leasing a premise for the purpose of a brothel, and living off prostitution ss 5, 6. Despite a number of additional legislative responses in the early years of the century, enforcement was patchy at best. Eventually amongst drug use scandals, brothels were shut down in the s.
All of these laws were explicitly directed against women, other than living on the avails. In the s brothels evaded prohibition by operating as 'massage parlours', leading to pressure to regulate them, since public attitudes were moving more towards regulation rather than prohibition. Community concerns were loudest in the traditional Melbourne stroll area of St. A Working Party was assembled in and led to the Planning Brothel Act ,  as a new approach.
Part of the political bargaining involved in passing the act was the promise to set up a wider inquiry. The inquiry was chaired by Marcia Neave , and reported in The recommendations to allow brothels to operate legally under regulation tried to avoid some of the issues that arose in New South Wales in It was hoped that regulation would allow better control of prostitution and at the same time reduce street work.
The Government attempted to implement these in the Prostitution Regulation Act This created an incoherent patchwork approach. In a working group was set up by the Attorney-General, which resulted in the Prostitution Control Act PCA  now known as the Sex Work Act  This Act legalises and regulates the operations of brothels and escort agencies in Victoria.
The difference between the two is that in the case of a brothel clients come to the place of business, which is subject to local council planning controls. In the case of an escort agency, clients phone the agency and arrange for a sex worker to come to their homes or motels. A brothel must obtain a permit from the local council Section 21A. A brothel or escort agency must not advertise its services.
Section 18 Also, a brothel operator must not allow alcohol to be consumed at the brothel, Section 21 nor apply for a liquor licence for the premises; nor may they allow a person under the age of 18 years to enter a brothel nor employ as a sex worker a person under 18 years of age, Section 11A though the age of consent in Victoria is 16 years. Owner-operated brothels and private escort workers are not required to obtain a licence, but must be registered, and escorts from brothels are permitted.
If only one or two sex workers run a brothel or escort agency, which does not employ other sex workers, they also do not need a licence, but are required to be registered.
However, in all other cases, the operator of a brothel or escort agency must be licensed. The licensing process enables the licensing authority to check on any criminal history of an applicant. All new brothels are limited to having no more than six rooms. However, larger brothels which existed before the Act was passed were automatically given licences and continue to operate, though cannot increase the number of rooms.
Sex workers employed by licensed brothels are not required to be licensed or registered. Amending Acts were passed in and , and a report on the state of sex work in Victoria issued in The Act is now referred to as the Sex Work Act In further amendments were introduced,  and assented to in December The stated purposes of the Act  is to assign and clarify responsibility for the monitoring, investigation and enforcement of provisions of the Sex Work Act; to continue the ban on street prostitution.
When the oppositional Coalition government was elected in it decided to retain the legislation. Sullivan and Jeffries also wrote in the report that the legislation change of created new problems:.
Ongoing adjustments to legislation became necessary as state policy makers attempted to deal with a myriad of unforeseen issues that are not addressed by treating prostitution as commercial sex—child prostitution, trafficking of women, the exploitation and abuse of prostituted women by big business. The reality is that prostitution cannot be made respectable. Legalisation does not make it so. Prostitution is an industry that arises from the historical subordination of women and the historical right of men to buy and exchange women simply as objects for sexual use.
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