Laws governing sex work
Like any other business, you must comply with many laws, which cover:
- public health
- occupational health and safety
- discrimination and harassment
- criminal law.
You must also be aware of laws which apply to all businesses. These include the Australian Consumer Law and those about business registration, tax and workplace agreements.
Legislation and regulations
- Occupational Health and Safety Act 2004
- Occupational Health and Safety Regulations 2007
- Public Health and Wellbeing Act 2008
- Planning and Environment Act 1987
- Crimes Act 1958 (Vic)
- Crimes Act 1914 (Commonwealth)
- Migration Act 1958 (Commonwealth)
- Summary Offences Act 1966
- Equal Opportunity Act 2010
Sex work regulators
Victoria Police and local councils enforce the licensing, criminal and planning requirements of the Act, respectively.
The Australian Federal Police (AFP) and Victoria Police are responsible for enforcing the criminal law, including issues related to the sex industry such as sexual slavery and sexual assault.
Sexual slavery is:
- unlawfully detaining
- engaging in fraud or misrepresentation, including by omissions, or
- imposing debt upon someone with the purpose of them providing commercial sexual services.
You can face a jail term if convicted.
The AFP and the Department of Immigration and Citizenship are responsible for investigating potential human trafficking in the sex industry.
Victoria Police investigates other offences, including aggravated deceptive recruiting for sex work, and illegal brothels.
Other agencies that regulate laws relating to sex work include:
Victorian Equal Opportunity and Human Rights Commission (VEOHRC) - staff may inspect your brothel. You must protect sex workers from discrimination or harassment, such as bullying and violence, by clients. Additionally the Equal Opportunity Act 2010 protects persons, including sex workers, from discrimination based on their ‘profession, trade or occupation’. If you or a sex worker have experienced discrimination based on your profession, trade or occupation you can contact VEOHRC for help.
Australian Taxation Office (ATO) - financial records of licensees, managers and sex workers may all be checked by the ATO. Licensees who employ staff must pay income tax and GST.
WorkSafe Victoria - administers Victoria’s occupational health and safety laws, and may visit your brothel.
Department of health - responsible for public health matters.
Department of Home Affairs - inspects brothels to ensure those businesses and their employees comply with visa requirements. When hiring overseas workers:
- ask for evidence of a valid visa
- check the department’s free Visa Entitlement Verification Online (VEVO) to ensure the visa presented to you is legitimate
- comply with the conditions imposed on the visa by the department, including rostering of hours.
It is a criminal offence, under the Migration Act 1958, for a person to:
- allow an illegal worker to work
- refer an illegal worker for work with another business.
You may also need to comply with regulations from the Child Support Agency and Centrelink.
You may be visited by these agencies:
- Australian Federal Police
- Australian Taxation Office
- Child Support Agency
- Department of Health and Human Services
- Department of Home Affairs
- Local councils
- Victoria Police
- Victorian Equal Opportunity and Human Rights Commission
- WorkSafe Victoria.
For more information on these agencies, view the: