23 December, 2020
The federal government publishes the Exposure Draft Online Safety Bill 2020, opening up consultations. The Bill aims to address online image-based abuse, however Part 9 expands federal government powers to take down online porn involving consenting adults.
Read more: Consultation on a Bill for a new Online Safety Act
22 December, 2020
Victorian MP Jacyln Symes is appointed Attorney General, replacing former Attorney General Jill Hennessy.
The Attorney General will play an important role as the chief law officer as Victoria prepares to decriminalise sex work in 2020.
21 December, 2020
Entrapment occurs when police or other authority figures attempt to get a sex worker to perform sexual acts inside a suspected illegal brothel. Feminist podcast Shut Up She’s Talking, interviews Quin, a sex worker who experienced three incidents of police and other authorities attempting to entrap her. “It shook me to the core.” Veteran sex workers’ rights activist Cheryl Overs is also interviewed. Podcast episode now available.
Listen to Consent….and the Women Left Behind with Cheryl and Quin on Apple Podcasts
Listen to Consent….and the Women Left Behind with Cheryl and Quin on Spotify
17 December, 2020
International Day to End Violence Against Sex Workers (Red Umbrella Day) is 17 December. In honour of Red Umbrella Day, Sex Work Law Reform Victoria makes the following statement:
‘December 17 – Red Umbrella Day – is the day we remember all the sex workers who have experienced violence. Violent crimes committed against sex workers remain under reported and still go unpunished. However, let us focus on the positive changes slowly yet surely being made to the way we are seen by the world and look forward to a time when a crime committed against a sex worker is considered by society to be as equally abhorrent as a crime committed against any other citizen. We acknowledge the ongoing effort made by sex workers’ rights groups and our allies to improve society’s perception of sex workers and our labour.’
16 December, 2020
Victoria’s Attorney General Jill Hennessy announces she will step down, with her replacement to be revealed shortly. The Attorney General will play an important role in passing any sex work decriminalisation laws in 2021.
Read Statement from the Premier (16 December, 2020)
14 December, 2020
A New Zealand sex worker is awarded a six-figure payout after filing a sexual harassment case against a business owner. New Zealand decriminalised sex work in 2003. This legal case is a reminder of how decriminalising sex work affords sex workers legal rights similar to other workers.
Read BBC article: “New Zealand sex worker given six-figure sum in sexual harassment case”
14 December, 2020
Victorian Government publishes its LGBTIQ+ Strategy Directions Paper
The LGBTIQ+ Strategy lays out the first whole of Victorian Government strategy for lesbian, gay, bisexual, trans and gender diverse, intersex and queer (LGBTIQ+) communities. It aims to contribute to ongoing efforts to improve equality for LGBTIQ+ communities. Sex workers were consulted in the development of the Directions Paper and the Paper refers to the sex workers, the need for peer-led support groups and ongoing consultation.
7 December, 2020
Law to ban cash for purchases of $10,000 or more abandoned
A controversial law that would have banned cash payments over $10,000 Australia-wide and imposed two-year jail sentences on people evading the ban is abandoned by the Australian Government. The Australian Government said the law was necessary to combat the black economy and money laundering. However, many of the government’s own Liberal Party members opposed the Bill as did the Greens and One Nation. Officially known as the Currency (Restrictions on the Use of Cash) Bill 2019 (Cth), the bill concerned the legal community and the sex industry. Many transactions in the sex industry remain cash transactions as sex work clients often prefer paying in cash to avoid them being linked to the sex industry.
Read ABC News Article about the defeat of the Cash Ban Bill
4 December, 2020
Re-opening sex industry businesses Guidelines published
The Victorian Government publishes Guidelines on how to safely re-open sex industry businesses as coronavirus restrictions ease. The “Industry Restart Guidelines” apply to strip clubs, brothels and sex on premises venues.
Read more on the Victorian Government website
24 November, 2020
The Australian Government proposes excluding sex work as a service eligible to be funded by the National Disability Insurance Scheme (NDIS). NDIS can be used by eligible disabled people to fund support services. Earlier in 2020, the Australian Government lost a legal fight to exclude sex work form the scheme. See page 5 of the Information Paper: Improving the National Disability Insurance Scheme Better Participant Experience and Improved Access and Planning.
Read: NDIS Information Paper (24 November, 2020)
Read Saturday Paper article: Exclusive: The seven-year plot to undermine the NDIS
23 November 2020
Sex industry re-opens as Coronavirus restrictions ease
For the first time in many months, all parts of Victoria’s sex industry are permitted to re-open as coronavirus restrictions ease across Victoria.
26 October 2020
NAB’s sex industry business ban now an outlier
The Australian Financial Review publishes an article about the National Australia Bank’s ban on sex industry businesses. The Bank has struggled to distinguish between private escorts and brothels, and refuses to bank brothels and escort agencies, considering it too risky and too much work.
Read NAB’s sex industry position an outlier (behind paywall)
15 October 2020
Fiona Patten, MP provides Sex Work Review update in radio interview
Fiona Patten, MP from the Reason Party appears alongside Lisa from Sex Work Law Reform Victoria, on Australia’s only sex work radio show, Behind Closed Doors. The two guests discuss which desired reforms were raised by sex workers, how Victoria’s Sex Work Review is progressing, and what to expect in 2021.
Listen on Apple Podcasts: Fiona Patten: Victoria’s Sex Work Review update
Stream on website: Fiona Patten: Victoria’s Sex Work Review update
15 October 2020
Australian Financial Review covers NAB and sex industry discrimination
Banking jouranlist James Frost form The Australian Financial Review publishes an article, NAB’s Sex Industry Woes about the bank’s policy of refusing to provide financial services to legal sex industry businesses across Australia. SWLRV is quoted “Banks should be able to manage their risk without discriminating by taking the trouble to assess each applicant on their individual merits and risk profile rather than just taking a broad brush to an entire industry.”
Read “NAB’s Sex Industry Woes (content behind a paywall)
Our webpage about banking discrimination
14 October 2020
Fiona Patten presents findings to government
Fiona Patten is due to present her findings/recommendations to the Victorian Government about the best way to decriminalise sex work in Victoria. In late 2019, the Victorian Government appointed Fiona Patten to lead the Review to make recommendations for the decriminalisation of sex work. The Review received confidential submissions from all stakeholders in mid-2020.
29 September 2020
Ingrid Stitt is appointed new Minister for Workplace Safety. The portfolio plays a part regulating Victoria’s sex industry as WorkSafe Victoria inspects licensed brothels.
26 September 2020
Martin Foley is appointed Victoria’s new Minister for Health. Mr Foley has for years publicly supported sex workers’ rights and LGBTIQ rights. The Minister for Health has responsibility for regulating some aspects of Victoria’s sex industry.
Victoria’s Minister for Health, Jenny Mikakos resigns following revelations at an inquiry into the handling of coronavirus. Ms Mikakos resigns effectively immediately from her ministerial role and from the parliament altogether. The Minister for Health has responsibility for regulating some aspects of Victoria’s sex industry.
Read ABC News article about resignation
25 September 2020
The Victorian Government grants Fiona Patten a two week extension to submit her recommendations on how to decriminalise sex work in Victoria. In 2019 Fiona Patten MP had been tasked with leading the Review to make recommendations for the decriminalisation of sex work. Ms Patten’s previous deadline was 30 September 2020. The new deadline is 14 October 2020. The Minister for Consumer Affairs, Gaming and Liquor Regulation has discretion as to whether to publish Ms Patten’s report.
15 September 2020
Brimbank Council opposes sex workers’ rights
Brimbank City Council covers suburbs from Sunshine to St Albans. At the September 2020 council meeting, councillors voted to endorse their submission to Fiona Patten’s Sex Work Review. In many ways the submission opposes sex work decriminalisation, supporting instead a licensing model of sex work.
In 2019, Brimbank City Council opted to pay private investigators to enter and gather evidence inside suspected illegal brothels. In the past, this has at times involved plain clothed private investigators requesting and receiving commercial sexual services from a sex worker. In these cases the sex worker is likely unaware that the person they assume is a client is in fact a private investigator paid by council for law enforcement purposes. During the September 2020 Council meeting Sex Work Law Reform Victoria asked whether Council could guarantee private investigators refrain from engaging in sexual activity with sex workers as a means of gathering evidence against them. No such guarantee was provided.
Sex Work Law Reform Victoria asked Council how many illegal brothels had been shut down and how much this had cost Council in private investigator fees. Council reported shutting down seven illegal brothels since May 2019, costing $12,100, money which will be refunded to Council according to a court order.
City of Brimbank Council 2020 Minutes Page
13 September 2020
Humanists Victoria updates their Policy Principles document, replacing the word ‘prostitution’ with ‘sex work’. Humanists Victoria advocates for humanist-minded policies in a range of ethical and social areas. They advocate for a clear separation between religion and government. In 2019 the group separately hosted talks by Fiona Patten and Sex Work Law Reform Victoria.
Humanists Victoria: Policy Principle 3.6
27 August 2020
In early 2020, the Victorian Government passed the Judicial Proceedings Reports Act. Advocates for survivors of sexual assault argue the new law gags thousands of sexual assault victims, prompting the Victorian Attorney General to order an urgent Review of the legislation.
Read ABC News Article “Campaign by abuse survivors prompts urgent review by Victoria’s Attorney-General”
19 August 2020
The Victorian Parliament’s Economy and Infrastructure Committee publishes its Report on its ‘Inquiry into sustainable employment for disadvantaged jobseekers’. The report refers to SWLRV’s submission on page 7 after we identified numerous benefits of placing disadvantaged jobseekers into sustainable employment.
Jobseeker Report refers to SWLRV (page 7)
18 August 2020
The City of Brimbank holds a monthly meeting in which a number of questions about sex work are posed during question time. The council admits it failed to consult with any sex workers or sex worker organisations before, during or after the publication of its recent submission to Fiona Patten’s Sex Work Review. The council’s submission largely endorses Victoria’s existing licensing system. Council also resolved to defer endorsing its submission.
Read Meeting Minutes 18 August 2020 (sections 9.8, 9.9, 9.11, 9.12 and 12.9)
17 August 2020
LGBTIQ publication The Star Observer publishes an article about coronavirus and sex work, highlighting the need for the Victorian Government to communicate more clearly what coronavirus restrictions mean for the sex industry. The article quotes from SWLRV and sex worker rights’ activist Cheryl Overs.
Read ‘SEX WORKERS CALL FOR COVID-19 CLARIFICATION’ by Jessi Lewis
6 August 2020
Principal lawyer Geoff Roberson from Stacks Law Firm provides legal commentary on an Australian Financial Complaints Authority (AFCA) determination which upheld National Australia Bank’s right to close the accounts of sex industry businesses.
Read: “Did the bank have the right to close the escort agencys business bank accounts? Which case won?”
Read AFCA’s Determination against the escort agency
5 August 2020
NSW Greens table a private members bill in the NSW Parliament which seeks to better protect sex work sex workers from discrimination by amending the Anti-Discrimination Act 1977 (NSW).
About Abigail Boyd (NSW Greens MP)
5 August 2020
Journalist Amber Shultz publishes article about rape law reform, sex work and whether non payment of sex work service fees constitutes rape. Lisa from Sex Work Law Reform Victoria provides comment.
Read Crikey.com.au article “No payment, no consent: sex worker advocacy groups say fraud and rape is on the rise”
5 August 2020
At 11:59pm the Victorian Government orders the greater Melbourne region to enter Stage 4 coronavirus restrictions, ordering many sectors of the economy to shut down.
Sex Work Law Reform Victoria publishes a clarification on what this means for the sex industry. At this time, no government agency had publicly clarified what the status of the sex industry was.
Read SWLRV Sex Work/Coronavirus Clarifier (August 2020)
5 August 2020
Under Stage 4 coronavirus restrictions, the Victorian Government orders many metropolitan Melbourne businesses close, impacting many industries, including the sex industry.
3 August 2020
The Victorian Pride Lobby publishes their submission to the Victorian Government’s LGBTIQ Strategy. Although the Victorian Pride Lobby lobbies for equality for LGBTIQ Victorians (rather than sex workers specifically), the submission contains recommendations consistent with sex work decriminalisation on page 6.
31 July 2020
Sex Work Law Reform Victoria makes submission to the “Inquiry into the Victorian Government’s Response to the COVID-19 Pandemic”. We identify a poor communication and a lack of communication about what coronavirus restrictions mean for the sex industry as ongoing problems.
29 July 2020
New Zealand academic Dr Lynzi Armstrong publishes an article about banking discrimination against sex workers in New Zealand. Article outlines the reasons why such discrimination occurs.
Read “Sex work discrimination unacceptable” article
29 July 2020
Thorne Harbour Health hosts an online event “Community Forum: Sex Work Decriminalisation” in which a number of sex workers from sex worker organisations speak.
Community health centre program RhED voluntarily publishes their submission to Victoria’s Review into the Decriminalisation of Sex Work on their website. RhED is a program of community health centre StarHealth. RhED’s submission supports the human rights of sex workers and supports the full decriminalisation of sex work. Sex Work Law Reform Victoria is referred to in the submission.
22 July 2020
A 26 year old man faces possible deportation after being sentenced to six year imprisonment term for the rape of a sex worker in the Le Boudoir brothel in Collingwood, Victoria.
“It is clear that sex workers are just as entitled to be protected from rape as anyone else,” said Victorian County Court judge George Georgiou.
Read “Chef faces deportation after six-year sentence for rape of sex worker” article in The Age
Rape and Sexual Assault Research and Advocacy website
17 July 2020
Submissions from all key stakeholders to Victoria’s Sex Work Review are due.
17 July 2020
Renowned sex workers’ rights activist Cheryl Overs appears on radio station 3CR to discuss her fight for sex work decriminalisation in Victoria dating back to the 1980’s and the current challenges in 2020.
Listen to “In Ya Face” interview with Cheryl Overs
10 July 2020
Male sex worker and activist Dean Lim is interviewed on radio station 3CR about his involved in a male sex worker consultation project in conjunction with the Michael Kirby Centre to prepare for submissions to Fiona Patten’s Sex Work Decriminalisation Review.
Listen to “In Ya Face” interview with Dean Lim
22 June 2020
Melissa Horne, MP appointed as new Minister for Consumer Affairs in Victoria. The role involves regulating and licensing sex work in Victoria. Ms Horne will consider Fiona Patten’s recommendations on how to decriminalise sex work from October 2020 onwards.
New Labor Ministry To Focus On Jobs
18 June 2020
South Australian Greens MP Tammy Franks introduces a sex work decriminalisation bill into the South Australian parliament.
Read the “Statutes Amendment (Repeal of Sex Work Offences) Bill 2020”
Read Tammy Franks press release (18 June, 2020)
Watch Tammy Franks 2nd Reading of the Bill on Youtube below
11 June 2020
Sex Workers’ Voices Victoria launches on Twitter. The project is a temporary collaboration between sex worker organisations (Sex Work Law Reform Victoria, RhED, Working Man and Red Files) and the Michael Kirby Centre at Monash University. The project aims to support sex workers to develop and describe their vision of how decriminalised sex work should look in Victoria.
1 June 2020
The Office of the Victorian Information Commissioner (OVIC) publishes our submission regarding freedom of information and the proactive and informal release of government documents. Our submission is critical of the Victorian Government’s approach to sex work laws and FOI laws. We used a case study to highlight a lack of transparency and lack of proper consultations with sex workers before amendments to the Sex Work Act 1994 were quietly passed in late 2019.
OVIC Explainer on Proactive and Informal Release of Documents
1 June 2020
The Victorian Government announces the selection of a new Chief Commissioner of Victoria Police, with current Deputy Commissioner Shane Patton to become Police Commissioner on 27 June.
The views of Victoria Police and in particular the personal views of the Chief Commissioner will influence the government’s decisions on how to decriminalise sex work.
26 May 2020
Australia’s only sex worker radio show, Behind Closed Doors makes a submission to the Inquiry into the Victorian Government’s Response to the COVID-19 Pandemic. The submission echos the overwhelming sentiment of the Victorian sex industry which is a sense of frustration at the lack of clarification provided by government about the status of sex work throughout the pandemic.
Read Behind Closed Doors submission
20 May 2020
“It’s sex discrimination: banks strip brothels and escort agencies of their rights”. Amber Shultz from Crikey.com.au reports on the extent of financial discrimination against the sex industry and the surprising way in which the financial services industries so open about the discrimination.
12 May 2020
Victorian crossbench MP David Limbrick questions Victoria’s Chief Health Officer (CHO) during the “Inquiry into the Victorian Government’s Response to the COVID-19 Pandemic”. Brett Sutton, the CHO, confirmed the government will give consideration and provide clarification to sex workers in relation to the easing of coronavirus restrictions on the various sectors of the sex industry.
12 May 2020
The Australian Federal Court rules the National Disability Insurance Scheme (NDIS) should fund people with a disability to access sex workers where there is a need for assistance with their sexual needs. Disability advocate Dr George Taleporos provides commentary on this landmark case.
Read Dr George Taleporos’ Opinion on Ruling
1 April 2020
The Victorian Law Reform Commission (VLRC) announces it will review and report on Victoria’s laws relating to rape, sexual assault and associated adult and child sexual offences. Guided by broad Terms of Reference, the Commission will report to the Attorney General by 31 August, 2020.
The Terms of Reference include identifying and overcoming barriers victims face when reporting such crimes. This is relevant to sex workers, who often complain of the many barriers they face reporting sexual assault to police.
Read “Improving the Response of the Justice System to Sexual Offences” VLRC website
Read “Rape and Sexual Assault Research and Advocacy” Press Release
27 March 2020
” ‘I’m clean and safe’: Brothels close but sex workers still ply trade”. Farrah Tomazin from The Age writes about how Victorian sex work laws and coronavirus restrictions intersect to permit many sex workers to continue to operate during a pandemic.
4 March 2020
City of Port Phillip council passes a Motion to support the decriminalisation of sex work. Councillor Tim Baxter tables the Motion which easily passes with only one vote against. A sex worker from Sex Work Law Reform Victoria proudly speaks in support of the Motion.
Although state/territory governments legislate to change sex work laws, local governments are key and influential stakeholders responsible for approving brothel locations and managing areas where street-based sex work occurs. This include providing bins, public toilets and managing traffic flow in areas of street-based sex work.
Read Councillor Tim Baxter’s sex work decriminalisation Motion
4 March 2020
Leading sex workers’ rights activist Cheryl Overs is interviewed on ABC Radio National’s “The Religion and Ethics Report” to discuss the difference between the legalisation and the decriminalisation of sex work and what we can learn from the way other countries regulate sex work.
Cheryl Overs teaches sex work policy and law at Monash University and co-founded the Prostitutes Collective of Victoria, Scarlet Alliance, and the Network of Sex Work Projects.
Listen to Interview on RN Website
1 March 2020
The Australian Banking Association’s new Code of Practice is released. The Code is a form of self-regulation by the banks requiring banks to treat their customers fairly. While there are some improvements benefiting disadvantaged bank customers, the new Code does nothing to end banking financial discrimination against the sex industry. The Code is reviewed every three years.
Read Announcement from the Australian Banking Association website
15 February 2020
An effort to decriminalize sex work in Washington, D.C. faces unlikely opposition: Local sex worker advocates. Washington, DC sex-work movement experiences rifts as it tries to move from the fringe to the mainstream. Should a sex worker rights campaign prioritise resources or diverse representation?
11 February 2020
Northern Territory formally announces the decriminalisation of sex work as Northern Territory Administrator, Vicki O’Halloran announces the assent of the Sex Industry Bill 2019 (NT).
Read the 11 February 2020 Minutes of Proceedings
11 February 2020
Saxon Mullins announces the official opening of the Advocacy at the Rape and Sexual Assault Research and Advocacy Initiative at a panel discussion in Melbourne. The Initiative is a collaborative network of researchers and advocates aiming to change community attitudes about sexual consent and assertively promote best practice in rape and sexual assault law reform.
Sexual Assault Research and Advocacy Initiative website
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