Sex work advertising, licences and signage

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Our inspectors may collect advertising material such as a brochure or business card, or photograph brothel signs. Such material must be in the approved form and have the letters SWA followed by the licence or exemption number.

An advertisement must not:

  • describe services offered
  • describe the health of workers, or any diagnostic procedures or medical testing they have undertaken
  • refer to massage services by the use of the words ‘massage’, ‘masseur’ ‘remedial’ or similar words
  • induce a person to work as a sex worker.

The Sex Work Regulations 2016 detail advertising requirements, which relate to:

  • the disclosure of SWA numbers in all advertisements. The SWA number must be clearly legible in a point type no smaller than the smallest point type in the advertisement or 7 point type, whichever is the larger
  • any photograph or picture of a person. This must only show head and shoulders (unless the advertisement is published on the internet) and you must have the person’s written consent
  • any advertising that is published on the internet. Any such advertising may show the head and shoulders of the person, but must comply with the content restrictions listed in the Regulations, including the depiction of bare breasts and genitals. You must have the person's written consent
  • the form and size of print advertising
  • the descriptive content of text used; for example, you cannot include details of the health of, or any diagnostic procedures or medical testing undertaken by, the sex worker.

Licences and registration

Your current licence must be displayed near the entrance so it is easily visible to clients.

If you operate a brothel without a licence, in breach of a licence condition or while your licence is suspended, you risk a fine, jail or both.

Inspectors can demand to be shown the licensee or approved manager’s current licence or certificate of approval. Penalties apply for failing to provide this licence on request.

Sexual slavery signage

Sexual slavery is a serious crime. You can face a jail term if convicted of sexual slavery.

Sexual slavery is:

  • threatening
  • 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 must display prescribed sexual slavery signage in your premises.

The sign must be displayed in a conspicuous place in:

  • the reception area of the brothel, and
  • each room of the brothel where sex work takes place.

The sign is in English and includes translations in Chinese (both traditional and simplified), Korean, Russian and Thai. It must be clearly visible and legible.

The sign must have black print on a white background with font size no smaller than 12 point. Consumer Affairs Victoria can provide you with A3 sized signs.

Failure to display the sign is an offence under section 60A of the Sex Work Act 1994 and may lead to a penalty of 10 penalty units. For more information, view our Penalties page.

Download a copy of the Sexual slavery sign (Word, 74KB).

Safer sex signage

Safer sex signage, depicting an adult male wearing a condom, will help you meet your OHS obligations as it promotes safe sex practices. It should be visible to clients in the reception area and every room used for sex work.

You can get safer sex signs that comply with this legal requirement from the Inner South Community Health Service Resourcing Health and Education (RhED) program.

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