The Victorian Government is decriminalising sex work to achieve better public health and human rights outcomes.
The Sex Work Decriminalisation Act 2022 is being implemented in two stages over a two-year period.
Stage 1 of decriminalisation commenced on 10 May 2022.
Changes to laws from 10 May 2022
Exempt small owner-operators
You are still considered an exempt small owner-operator sex work service provider. This will continue until the Sex Work Act 1994 is repealed in full in December 2023.
This means you must continue to comply with the conditions and requirements for exempt small owner-operator sex work service providers.
These conditions are that you:
- must work alone or with one other sex worker
- cannot be associated with any other sex work business
- cannot have clients directed to you by a third party
- cannot direct clients on to another sex work business.
If you receive in-calls, you must:
- have a planning permit and the consent of your landlord
- continue to comply with the requirements of your planning permit.
If you do not have a planning permit, you may be operating in contravention of the Sex Work Act 1994 and penalties may apply.
The current planning scheme controls will continue until the Sex Work Act 1994 is repealed in December 2023.
Working from home
You cannot work from home at this stage.
To receive in-calls, you must have a planning permit. Currently, planning permits are prohibited in residential areas. Therefore, you would be unable to obtain a permit.
The current planning scheme controls will continue until the Sex Work Act 1994 is repealed in full in December 2023. That is when home-based sex work will become lawful.
Sex Work Act (SWA) numbers
You no longer need a Sex Work Act (SWA) number to operate as an exempt owner-operator.
If your annual statement was due before 10 May 2022, you must still submit your annual statement as directed by the Business Licensing Authority.
If your annual statement is due on or after 10 May 2022, you do not have to submit your annual statement.
Hiring additional workers
To be exempt from the sex work licensing system, you can only work with one other person who is also a sex worker.
If you would like to expand your business beyond one other sex worker, you must apply for a sex work service provider licence from the Business Licensing Authority.
The requirement to be licensed will continue until the Sex Work Act 1994 is repealed in December 2023.
Operating a sex work business without a licence can incur significant penalties. This includes imprisonment for up to 5 years, a fine of up to 1,200 penalty units or both.
The current value of a penalty unit can be found on the Department of Justice and Community Safety website: justice.vic.gov.au/justice-system/fines-and-penalties/penalties-and-values
The sex work industry advertising controls under the Sex Work Act 1994 and regulations have been repealed.
Sex workers and sex work businesses no longer need to include an SWA number in their ads.
Sex work businesses are now able to:
- describe services offered or not offered in advertisements
- use terms associated with massage in advertisements, if that is a relevant description of services provided
- include references to safer sex practices in advertisements
- include photographs or other pictorial representations, including of nudity, in advertisements
Businesses must still comply with the requirements of the advertising host, as well as general rules that apply to all forms of advertising (such as under the Australian Consumer Law).
Sexual health tests
You are no longer required by the Sex Work Act 1994 to complete a sexual health screen every three months.
The frequency of sexual health assessments should be determined by the individual sex worker and their doctor. A sexual health assessment is not an alternative to practising safer sex.
Condoms and safer sex practices
It is no longer an offence if you do not engage in safer sex practices, such as using a condom.
Exempt small owner-operators are still considered ‘brothels’ or ‘escort agencies’ and subject to provisions in the Public Health and Wellbeing Act 2008 until December 2023. These provisions include taking reasonable steps to ensure condoms are used when appropriate.
Condoms and safer sex practices remain critical to protecting the health and safety of you and your clients at work.
Sexually transmissible infections
It is no longer an offence if you work while you have a sexually transmissible infection.
You should still take adequate precautions to ensure that transmission does not occur.
Under the Occupational Health and Safety Act 2004, you must take reasonable care of the health and safety of yourself and others in the workplace.
For any community member who tests positive for a notifiable sexually transmissible infection, there is a wide-ranging public health response in Victoria. This includes education, support, and contact tracing.
In the rare case that an individual engages in behaviours that put others at a serious health risk, the Chief Health Officer has powers to undertake a risk assessment and manage transmission risk.
Treatment and management plans for sexually transmissible infections should be determined by the individual sex worker and their doctor.
Information and support
Vixen is Victoria’s peer sex worker organisation, run 100% by and for sex workers.
Vixen provides peer education, support, outreach, advocacy and representation for sex workers in Victoria. Sex workers can contact or visit Vixen for peer education, support, information, referrals to sex worker friendly services, counselling (by appointment), community events and to connect with peers.
You can find out more information about how to access Vixen's services and view the up-to-date information hub for sex workers and sex industry stakeholders on the Sex Work Decriminalisation Act 2022 reforms in key community languages at their website: vixen.org.au
You can also contact Vixen by email at firstname.lastname@example.org
About the reforms
Find out more information about current licensing and registration requirements for sex work service providers at the Consumer Affairs Victoria website: consumer.vic.gov.au/licensing-and-registration/sex-work-service-providers
Find out more information about the Sex Work Decriminalisation Act 2022 on the Victorian Government website: vic.gov.au/review-make-recommendations-decriminalisation-sex-work