Decriminalisation of sex work

At the time of writing, the Victorian Government was conducting a review to consider the decriminalisation of sex work in order to achieve better public health and human rights outcomes


Suzan Gencay

Lawyer, Victoria Legal Aid

Is sex work legal?

Last updated

1 July 2020

In Victoria, under the SW Act, sex work can legally be carried out under licensing conditions applicable to brothels, escort agencies and small owner-operated businesses. Sex workers must be over 18 and choose to provide sexual services.

If you are not working for a licensed escort agency or in a licensed brothel, to engage in legal sex work, you must register with the Business Licensing Authority (BLA) (see ‘Contacts’ at the end of this chapter) and receive a ‘Sex Work Act exemption registration number’. This is also known as being an exempt sex work service provider. You can work independently as a private escort or jointly with another sex worker as a small owner-operated business. You cannot see clients at your home. You can also work in a licensed escort agency or brothel.

To maintain your registration as a sex worker who does not work for a licensed escort agency or in a licensed brothel, you must lodge an annual statement with the BLA confirming your intention to keep working. If you do not lodge your registration it will be recorded as ‘not current’ and you will be unable to work legally. To have your information removed from the register of exempt sex work service providers, you must apply to deregister.

It is illegal to force someone to participate in sex work. Street sex work is unlawful, as is working in a premises that does not have a planning permit from the local council. You also cannot work without being registered with the BLA or work in unlicensed brothels or escort agencies.

To operate a brothel or escort agency you must apply to the BLA. Brothels must have a planning permit issued by the local council to operate under the Planning and Environment Act 1987 (Vic).

Back to
Fines, infringements and criminal law

Buy the chapter ‘Sex work’