News (2021)

16 December 2021

The Council of Financial Regulators announces via its quarterly statement, that it will examine de-banking and will take this emerging problem seriously. De-banking occurs when banks suddenly close the accounts of customers, or ban certain types of customers. For decades, sex workers have been de-banked. This development marks a slow progression as regulators and the financial services industry begin to take the issue of de-banking more seriously.

Read: Quarterly Statement by the Council of Financial Regulators – December 2021

14 December 2021

An anti sex work councillor and practicing Mormon has been preselected to represent the conservative Liberal Party in the Melbourne state electorate of Ringwood at the November 2022 state election. Cynthia Watson voted against the decriminalisation of sex work in 2021 at a 6 September 2021 City of Boroondara council meeting which sought to kick off a fear campaign against sex work in the suburbs. The elevation of people with strong anti-sex work views into politics is never helpful for the sex workers’ movement.

Cynthia Watson votes against sex work on 6 September 2021 (Item 5.2 in minutes)

Cynthia Watson interviewed by Mormon publication

3 December 2021

Sex work decriminalisation bill debate delayed until February 2022

After reaching the final sitting day of parliament for 2021, the Upper House failed to find time to debate the Sex Work Decriminalisation Bill 2021 (Vic). As such, debate on the bill is scheduled to resume on the first sitting day of 2022, 8 February, 2022. This means the means the earliest Victoria could decriminalise sex work would be February 2022. 

1 December 2021

The Banking Code Compliance Committee publishes its final report on inclusive and accessible banking. This is relevant to sex workers, as sex workers are often excluded from basic business banking services, and inclusive and accessible banking provisions in the Banking Code of Practice need to be strengthened to ensure sex workers are able to access banking services.

Report Summary

BCCC report: Banks’ compliance with Part 4 of the Banking Code: inclusivity, accessibility and vulnerability

1 December 2021

In November the 2021 Banking Code Reviewer, Mike Callaghan, published his Final Report.

The report takes the issue of sex industry discrimination seriously, making numerous recommendations about how the Code could be improved to better protect sex workers. The report contains an entire chapter, ‘Customers denied banking services’ on page 101, which finds that;

‘Banks should not have a ‘blanket’ denial of banking services on the basis that they are concerned that the Anti Money Laundering provisions may come into play….This is a major issue for legal businesses denied banking services. The Code should include a provision that a customer will not be denied banking services, or have an account closed, without the bank first raising it with the customer and giving the customer an opportunity to respond.’ ⁷

This report is a huge milestone in Sex Work Law Reform Victoria’s efforts to elevate and draw attention to the issue of financial discrimination against the sex industry. 

November 2021

Banking Code Compliance Committee Review Final Report Published

Sex workers experience frequent denial of services on the part of banks. One way to address this problem is to reform banking regulation. Phil Khoury, the Banking Code Compliance Committee Reviewer, publishes his Final Report with a wide range of bold recommendations designed to improve the way banks treat small business customers (including sex workers). 

Mr Khoury’s recommendations call for more transparency in public naming of individual banks who breach regulations, as well as ensuring the Committee has a greater number and diversity of small business experts. Paragraphs 56, 65, 83, 88, 89, 91, 120, 121, 130 and 189 relate to small business (and therefore sex workers). Recommendations 4, 5, 9, 15 and 17 relate to small business (and therefore sex workers).

Read Independent Review of the Banking Code Compliance Committee: Final Report

22 November 2021

Melton City Council passes motion to spend $2000 on sex work campaign targeting parents and grandparents

Melton City Council is located on the far outer fringe of Melbourne, in an area of high suburban growth. The council voted in support of the motion, with 8 voting in support and 1 vote against (Councillor Vandenberg).

The very public campaign, including a survey which will run for four months, is yet another example of a council fear mongering over ‘sex work in the suburbs’ and the welfare of children.

Media report: Council concerns over sex work in Melton [Star Weekly]

Meeting minutes: Go to 22 November 2021, item 12.

Screenshot of motion

November 2021

Submissions to Review of the Banking Code Compliance published

The Banking Code Compliance Committee monitors and enforces breaches of banking regulation, including breaches in which banks refuse to provide services to small businesses (including sex industry businesses). As sex workers and sex industry businesses are classified as small businesses, banking regulation reforms benefiting small businesses in general, benefit sex workers. Phil Khoury conducted the Review of the Banking Code Compliance Committee. Eight submissions are published; four related to small business; of those four, two related to sex industry small businesses. 

List of all 8 submissions

19 November 2021

Campaigner for sex worker rights awarded South Australian Women’s Honour Roll

The South Australian Premier, Steven Marshall, awards Georgia Davies-Thain with the South Australian Women’s Honour Roll, a prestigious award handed out every two years to women in the community for their commitment to effecting change. Ms Davies-Thain is the coordinator and policy officer at SIDAC (the Sex Industry Decriminalisation Action Committee).

It is rare in Australia for sex workers’ rights activists to receive formal public recognition for their work.

Read Premier’s Media Release

12 November 2021

The Victorian Law Reform Commission recommends jury training in sexual assault cases involving sex workers

The Victorian Law Reform Commission publishes its final report ‘Improving the Justice System Responses to Sexual Offences’. Recommendation 78 relates to sex work.

  1. New jury directions should be introduced in the Jury Directions Act 2015 (Vic) to address misconceptions about sexual violence on:
  • the many different circumstances in which non-consensual sexual activity may take place, including between a consumer of sexual content or services and the worker providing the content or services

Read report ‘Improving the Justice System Response to Sexual Offences‘

29 October 2021

AUSTRAC Denounces Debanking

Financial discrimination against the sex industry is also known as de-banking and is a widespread problem which occurs against a number of industries. Financial service providers frequently use the high risk of money laundering to justify de-banking practices. Australia’s financial crimes fighting agency, AUSTRAC is responsible for tackling money laundering. AUSTRAC publishes a statement critical of banks who debank entire industries, highlighting the injustice of such practices. 

Read AUSTRAC statement 2021: de-banking

27 October 2021

Victoria’s Lower House debates the Sex Work Decriminalisation Bill 2021 (Vic).

Hansard (see pages 76, 92 and 128)

October 2021 

Senate Publishes Final Report on Technology and Finance

Sex workers routinely experience ‘debanking’ – the refusal of financial service providers to provide basic services to sex workers. A Select Committee from the Australian Senate publishes its Final Report, which includes an entire chapter on ‘debanking’. Recommendation 10 and the ‘Debanking’ chapter most relate to sex workers experience banking discrimination. 

Read Select Committee on Australia as a Technology and Financial Centre: Final Report

25 October 2021

AUSTRAC CEO acknowledges sex workers experience de-banking

Legally operating sex workers routinely experience de-banking, where banks refuse to provide basic banking services, justifying such financial discrimination on a heightened risk of money laundering. Australia’s peak body to fight money laundering is AUSTRAC. During a Senate Estimates Committee, AUSTRAC CEO Nicole Rose PSM acknowledged that legal sex workers experience de-banking, stating that ‘So debanking in itself is a real concern for AUSTRAC because, yes, we’re the regulator and we expect that there’s due diligence done by regulated entities taking on people and giving them bank accounts.’

See page 36 of the transcript of LEGAL AND CONSTITUTIONAL AFFAIRS LEGISLATION COMMITTEE (25 October 2021)

14 October 2021

Bitcoin trader settles discrimination complaint against ANZ Bank

In common with sex workers, bitcoin traders experience banking discrimination. Allan Flynn is a Canberra based bitcoin trader who lodged a complaint with the ACT Civil and Administrative Tribunal alleging he was unlawfully discriminated against by ANZ Bank on the basis of his ‘occupation’. Mr Flynn settles his dispute with ANZ Bank out of tribunal. Mr Flynn’s separate anti-discrimination complaint against Westpac Bank remains active.

Read Sydney Morning Herald story, ‘ANZ settles debanking case brought by bitcoin trader(behind a paywall)

13 October 2021

Sex work decriminalisation bill second reading

The Sex Work Decriminalisation Bill 2021 (Vic) receives a second reading and Statement of Compatibility in the Legislative Assembly. Debate is adjourned by a fortnight. See pages 2-10 of Hansard for more information. 

12 October 2021

Sex work decriminalisation bill tabled

Minister for Consumer Affairs, Melissa Horne tables and reads in the Sex Work Decriminalisation Bill 2021 (Vic) in the Legislative Assembly. See pages 1-2 of Hansard for more information. 

10 October 2021

The Victorian Parliament passes a new law making it cheaper, faster and easier for applicants to lodge anti-discrimination law claims in court. On 10 October 2021 the bill obtianed royal assent. This benefits sex worker who routinely experience discrimination in their lives. The Victorian Civil and Administrative Tribunal and Other Acts Amendment (Federal Jurisdiction and Other Matters) Act 2021 (Vic) gives the Victorian Civil and Administrative Tribunal cross-vesting powers so that anti-discrimination law disputes can be heard in the Magistrates’ Court of Victoria. The law also keeps court fees lower, and requires VCAT to assist applicant to apply to the Magistrates’ Court.

Read the Victorian Civil and Administrative Tribunal and Other Acts Amendment (Federal Jurisdiction and Other Matters) Act 2021 (Vic)

Follow the Bill’s progress through parliament

Read Second Reading Speech (Minister for Crime Prevention, Natalie Hutchins)

VCAT Guide to New Cross-Vesting Laws

7 September 2021

Monash University Student Newspaper Covers Sex Work

Journalist SOHANI GOONETILLAKE from Mojo news (Monash University student publication) interviews key sex workers’ rights advocates about how Victoria came to decriminalise sex work and what it all means for sex workers. Ms Goonetillake interviewed Fiona Patten from the Reason Party, Dean Lim from sex worker group Working Man, Estelle Lucas from sex worker charity Red Files and Cheryl Overs, one of the founding members of Scarlet Alliance.

Blow jobs are real jobs: sex workers speak out amid political change

20 August 2021

Queensland’s Attorney General refers the state’s sex work laws to the Queensland Law Reform Commission. This suggests a continued building in the momentum across Australia for the decriminalisation of sex work

Read ABC Article: Queensland sex workers say outdated laws leave many unsafe and reluctant to report crime

20 August 2021

Adult content website OnlyFans announces it will prohibit pornographic videos on the site from October 2021. Solo nude photos and videos will still be permitted. The website, with 130 million users globally, became increasingly popular as an alternative source of income for Victorian sex workers during the coronavirus pandemic in 2020 and 2021. The policy change followed mounting pressure from banks and payment processor companies. 

Read Bloomberg article: OnlyFans to Bar Sexually Explicit Videos Starting in October

13 August 2021

The Age reports on the Victorian Government’s announcement to decriminalise sex work within two years

Following a Victorian Government press release  laying out a two year plan to decriminalise sex work, the Age speaks to Minister for Consumer Affairs, Melissa Horne, Fiona Patten, MP and a spokesperson from Sex Work Law Reform Victoria. 

Read The Age article Victoria to decriminalise sex work in ‘world leading’ move’

11 August 2021

Historian Barbara Minchinton speaks on ABC Radio National program Late Night Live about her recently published book about Melbourne’s thriving sex industry in the late nineteenth century. Ms Minchinton dug up evidence beneath Little Lonsdale St in Melbourne to uncover a flourishing and wealthy sex industry

Listen to podcast: Excavating the brothels of 19th century Melbourne

9 August 2021

Victoria Police lodge an application with the Melbourne Magistrates’ Court to have Melbourne’s largest strip club officially classified as an ‘illegal brothel’ or a proscribed premises. If the police application is successful, it would shut down the strip club completely. The Men’s Gallery strip club owner Peter Iwaniuk, hired high profile human rights lawyer Greg Barns, SC to defend the matter in court. The matter was adjourned to 5 November, 2021. 

Read The Age article ‘Police move to close strip club accused of ‘facilitating prostitution’

14 July 2021

Fiona Patten is interviewed by Sydney Criminal Lawyers about Victoria’s move to decriminalise sex work. In 2020 the Victorian Government tasked crossbench MP Fiona Patten with conducting a review of Victoria’s existing sex work laws

Victorian Government Sex Work Review website

Sydney Criminal Lawyers interview with Fiona Patten (transcript)

2 July 2021

The Age newspaper reports a sex work decriminalisation bill is expected to be tabled in the Victorian Parliament by the end of the year. The opposition is yet to hold a position on the issue of sex work decriminalisation

Read The Age article Laws on sex work ‘enshrine’ prejudice

22 June 2021

Late in the evening, the Australian Senate passed the Online Safety Bill 2021. The bill expands the powers of the eSafety Commissioner to take down consensual adult content online and on social media platforms. A number of proposed amendments designed to better protect porn performers and sex workers from government over reach were not adopted in the final version of the bill which passed.

Read article ‘Parties unite to deliver greater internet censorship powers to government-appointed official

31 May 2021

South Australian Chief Health Officer Publicly Supports Sex Work Decriminalisation

South Australia is once again considering decriminalising sex work. In 2020 the Statutes Amendment (Repeal of Sex Work Offences) Bill (SA) was referred to a Select Committee of the South Australian Legislative Council for inquiry and report. On 31 May 2021, South Australia’s Chief Health Officer, Professor Nicola Spurrier gave evidence at a time when state and territory governments across Australia had been tackling the global coronavirus pandemic for more than 12 months. The Chief Health Officer publicly supported decriminalising sex work, arguing South Australia’s existing legislation which criminalises all forms of sex work creates barriers to sex workers accessing healthcare and barriers to combatting preventable diseases.

Download transcript of Nicola Spurrier’s speech about sex work and public health 

27 April 2021

Privacy Guide for Sex Workers Published

The Office of the Victorian Information Commissioner (OVIC) deals with privacy and freedom of information issues in Victoria. We are proud to have worked with OVIC in the creation of a new guide for sex workers about privay and the law. ‘Sex Workers’ Privacy Rights’ is now live on the OVIC website. 

13 February 2021

Following a fresh outbreak of coronavirus in Victoria, the Victorian Government orders the state return to Stage 4 coronavirus restrictions. This means that once again all forms of sex work become banned state wide.

11 February 2021

Hustler publisher Larry Flynt dies. The porn entrepreneur built Hustler magazine into an adult entertainment empire while championing freedom of speech rights. Personalities like Larry Flynt helped build mainstream acceptance of adult entertainment and sex work in the English speaking world and beyond.

Read ABC article: Hustler publisher Larry Flynt dies in Hollywood home aged 78 following a life of controversy and tragedy

4 February, 2021

Government Services Minister Stuart Robert indicates the Australian Government’s plans to prevent National Disability Insurance Scheme (NDIS) funds being used on sexual therapy, which was not explicitly banned under the taxpayer-funded scheme. This follows a 2020 unanimous federal court ruling that found it was legal to use taxpayer funding on sexual therapy because the NDIS Act did not specifically preclude it.

Read The Australian article: ‘Government plans to ban sexual services from NDIS

1 February, 2021

As the Federal Government moves to expand its powers to take down online pornography, Australia’s sex work radio show, Behind Closed Doors interviews Australian porn performer Kim Cums and porn legal expert Jarryd Bartle to explain how porn is currently regulated, and what the proposed laws (Online Safety Bill 2020) will mean for sex workers and porn performers alike.

Listen on Apple Podcasts: Kim Cums and Jarryd Bartle: Say NO to Part 9 of the Anti-Porn Laws!’

Read more about the bill: Consultation on a Bill for a new Online Safety Act

27 January, 2021

Sex work decriminalisation gets a big boost in New York State, USA with Manhattan DA Candidate Eliza Orlins issuing a detailed sex work policy supporting decriminalisation. While New York is far from Victoria, Australia Ms Orlins policy is one of the most significant developments in the USA on this front. Sex workers’ rights movements in different countries rely on and impact one another.

Read more in Daily Beast article: Manhattan DA Candidate Eliza Orlins Has a Plan to Make New York City Safer for Sex Workers

© Sex Work Law Reform Victoria 2022