Brothel Worker Laws

Unsplash: Valerie Elash

This page has been fact checked by a community legal servicePlease note Sex Work Law Reform Victoria does not provide legal advice. For more information about sex work laws, please see our legislation page. For legal advice contact your local community legal service

Sex Work Law Reform Victoria expressly disclaims any liability to any person of any action taken or not taken in reliance on the contents of this document.

Brothel Work (licensed brothels)

You are a brothel worker if you work in a licensed brothel. You meet and provide a sexual service to your clients in the brothel, and the brothel takes a ‘cut’ of the money you earn. For a list of licensed escort agencies in Victoria, see RhED’s brothel listing page.  RhED is a Melbourne based community health centre providing information to the sex industry

Key Points

      • You are only allowed to work for licensed brothels.
      • You don’t need a SWA number to work in a brothel.
      • You must use condoms.
      • You cannot work if you have certain sexually transmissible infections (STIs).

The following table refers to STIs. An STI is a sexually transmissible infection.

In the ‘Law’ column below, SWA refers to the Sex Work Act 1994 (Vic).

In the ‘Penalty’ column below, there are a range of penalties that can be imposed depending on whether you have committed the offence before.

The following table refers to the BLA. BLA means Business Licensing Authority, a division of Consumer Affairs Victoria. This table is a summary of the wording of the legislation and should be treated as a guide only. Please refer to the legislation for details.

Brothel Sex Work – What’s Legal?

WHAT YOU CAN DO   

 

WHAT YOU CAN’T DO

WHAT YOU MUST DO

PENALTY 

LAW 

Work in a licensed brothel even if you don’t have a SWA exemption number. Only business operators are required to be licensed or hold an SWA exemption number. You don’t need need an SWA number to work in a licensed brothel

       

 

You can’t work, or be in, an unlicensed (illegal ) brothel. You are only allowed to work for licensed brothels  

Up to 1-6 months’ jail or

up to $1,652 – $9,913 fine

(up to 10-60 penalty units)

s15 of SWA

WHAT YOU CAN DO

    

WHAT YOU CAN’T DO

WHAT YOU MUST DO

PENALTY 

LAW 

Also work for a licensed escort agency or do private work (private work requires a SWA exemption number)

     

s23 of SWA

   

You must use a condom for full sex, blow jobs or any other activity with a similar risk of acquiring or transmitting STIs. Yo must take all other reasonable steps to minimise the risk of acquiring or transmitting an STI.

Up to a $3,304 fine

(up to 20 penalty units)

s18A(1) of SWA

s18A(2) of SWA

WHAT YOU CAN DO

    

WHAT YOU CAN’T DO

WHAT YOU MUST DO

PENALTY 

LAW 

 

You can’t work if you know you have certain STIs which includes HIV

 

Up to a $3,304 fine

(Up to 20 penalty units)

s20(1) of SWA and r6 of SWR

Brothels must be licensed and display their license at the business and quote their license on their advertisements.

You can also ask to see the license or request the BLA to check the license for a fee. 

     

ss55(1), 55(2) and 60 of SWA and r11 of SWR

WHAT YOU CAN DO

    

WHAT YOU CAN’T DO

WHAT YOU MUST DO

PENALTY 

LAW 

   

If you leave or enter a suspected unlicensed brothel you must, if asked by a brothel inspector, provide your name, address, and answer questions (either orally or in writing).

You don’t need to give evidence of your name and address if you have a reasonable excuse for not doing so. An example of a ‘reasonable excuse’ would be if you don’t have your ID on you. 

Up to a $1,652 fine

(Up to 10 penalty units)

ss61DA(1) and 61DA(3) of SWA

s61DA(6) of SWA

WHAT YOU CAN DO

    

WHAT YOU CAN’T DO

WHAT YOU MUST DO

PENALTY 

LAW 

 

You can’t see a client under 18 years of age. You may stil be liable even if you did not know they were under 18. 

 

Up to 10 years’ jail

s5(1) of SWA

 

STI = sexually transmissible infection

BLA = Business Licensing Authority, a division of Consumer Affairs Victoria

SWA = Sex Work Act 1994 (Vic)

SWR = Sex Work Regulations 2016 (Vic)

PEA = Planning and Environment Act 1987 (Vic)

Fines updated annually on 1 July

Between 1 July 2019 and 30 June 2020 one penalty unit = $165.22

 


We work with a local community legal service in the development of our legal guides. The legal guides are the result of a robust resource development process involving:

  • fact-checking;
  • community consultation;
  • needs assessment;
  • content development;
  • focus testing;
  • peer review

In resource development we involve community to ensure that resources meet the needs identified by sex workers themselves, that the resources are accessible, and we work in partnership with legal professionals to ensure accuracy, which we believe is crucial for community safety.

Last updated: 28 October 2019

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