News (2022)

13 May 2022

The Australian Research Centre in Sex, Health and Society from La Trobe University publishes its academic paper, ‘Understanding the health and social wellbeing needs of sex workers in Victoria’. Obtaining qualitative data, and funded by Victorian Department of Health, the researchers interviewed 31 diverse sex workers and 17 key stakeholders, including people from Sex Work Law Reform Victoria.

View publication

10 May 2022

The first commencement date of the Sex Work Decriminalisation Act 2022 (Vic) passes. On 1 March 2022, the Victorian Parliament voted to decriminalise sex work progressively throughout 2022 and 2023. On this day, 10 May 2022 the following changes in the law will apply in Victoria:

  • street based sex work will be decriminalised in most locations and at most times of the day.
  • anti-discrimination laws will be strengthened with discrimination based on ‘occupation’ being unlawful for the first time.
  • sex industry specific advertising controls will be repealed. All general state and federal advertising laws will continue to apply to sex work, as they apply to every other industry.
  • self-employed sex workers will no longer be required to register with the Victorian Government in order to work. All sex workers, like all sole traders, will continue to be required to register for an Australian Business Number for the purposes of paying tax.

6 May 2022

The ACT Supreme Court conducts a Directions Hearing between bitcoin trader Allan Flynn and Westpac Bank. The bank had previously closed all of Mr Flynn’s accounts used to conduct bitcoin trading. Mr Flynn applied to a tribunal, alleging unlawful discrimination on the basis of his occupation as a bitcoin trader. The case was then escalated to the Supreme Court. The case will be significant for sex workers, as the ‘occupation’ ground for discrimination, is the same area of law sex workers can use to defend themselves in similar discrimination complaints. The bitcoin legal case is expected to last for up to four months at the Supreme Court. Case Number: SC/0108/22 Case Name: Westpac Banking Corporation v Flynn & Anor.

3 May 2022

In revealing its 2022 budget, the Victorian Government reveals $11.3 million spending to supporting the successful implementation of the recently announced changes to sex work laws. Throughout 2022 and 2023, Victoria will decriminalise sex work. The Victorian Equal Opportunity and Human Rights Commission will receive over $1 million to help address anti-discrimination complaints. WorkSafe Victoria will receive $5.3 million. St Kilda Legal Service will also receive funding to assist sex workes with their legal isues. 

This is a welcome move from the Victorian Government. In order to improve sex workers’ welfare and right changes to the law and support for implementing and enforcing laws is needed.

Read Premier of Victoria Press Release

Read Budget Paper 3

29 April 2022

The County Court of Victoria sentences Mr Leon Pompei to seven years imprisonment for the rape and strangulation of a sex worker in a Melbourne brothel. The victim worked at the Presidential Suite brothel in the Melbourne suburb of Seaford. Judge Lyon noted the fact Mr Pompei continued to show no remorse. County Court Case ID: CR-20-00256.

12 April 2022

The Queensland Law Reform Commission opens submissions to it review of Queensland’s sex work laws. The Commission’s Discussion Paper says, ‘The [Queensland] Government has decided to decriminalise the sex work industry…..and the Commission’s task is to consider what the legal framework for a decriminalised sex work industry should look like.’

This is a wonderful development for Queensland sex workers and suggests momentum is building across Australia for all states and territories to decriminalise sex work.

Discussion Paper

News.com.au Article: Queensland Law Reform Commission: public urged to have their say on sex worker rights

25 March 2022

The Belgian Federal Parliament votes to decriminalise sex work, making the country of 11 million people the first country in Europe to do so. 

Read Global Network of Sex Work Projects Announcement

17 March 2022

The Australian Capital Territory Civil and Administrative Tribunal (ACAT) publishes an order in relation to the anti-discrimation case brought by a bitcoin trader. Canberra bitcoin trader Allan Flynn applied to ACAT, arguing Westpac Bank unlawfully discriminated against him after it closed all of his accounts. Mr Flynn argued the discrimination occurred on the basis of his ‘occupation’ as a bitcoin trader. Sex workers rely on a very similar law when fighting anti-discrimination cases.

ACAT found that as the bank relies on a Commonwealth law in its defense, the Supreme Court has jurisdiction rather than a tribunal. The tribunal therefore made no finding as to whether discrimination had occurred or not. 

17 March 2022

Swan Hill Rural City Council comes out opposing the Victorian Government’s sex work decriminalisation reforms, concerned for the welfare of children, planning scheme changes and the additional resources needed to implement such changes. 

ABC Article: Sex work decriminalisation could cause ‘serious ramifications’, Swan Hill Rural City Council warns

4 March 2022

The Banking Code Compliance Committee publishes its latest quarterly report on breaches of the Banking Code of Practice. Table 2 in the report identifies a 9% increase in bank’s breaching the ‘inclusivity and accessibility’ Part of the Code. This Part is most applicable to sex workers, as the exclusion of sex workers from basic business banking services constitutes a lack of ‘inclusive and accessible’ banking.

Banks’ compliance with the Banking Code of Practice (January – June 2021)

1 March 2022

The Sex Work Decriminalisation Act 2022 (Vic) receives royal assent and becomes law. The Governor of Victoria’s final tick of approval is confirmed in the Victorian Government Gazette. However, the law won’t actually apply until two key enactment dates, which are 10 May 2022 and 1 December 2023.

Victoria Government Gazette (1 March 2022)

25 February 2022

3CR community radio LGBTIQ  show ‘In Ya Face’ covers local councils, sex work and LGBTIQ rights in an interview with Dr Sean Mulcahy, on the Victorian Pride Lobby’s ‘Rainbow Local Government Campaign’. Dr Mulcahy singles out the City of Boroondara and the City of Melton as the poorest performers for sex workers’ rights. Go to the 16 minute, 5 second mark.

In Ya Face (26 February 2022)

25 February 2022

Local government news service, Victorian Local Governance Association Connect interviews lawyer Tony Raunic from Hunt & Hunt Lawyersabout what the what the passage of the Sex Work Decriminalisation Bill 2021 and the accompanying changes to planning schemes means for local councils and the sex industry. Mr Raunic emphasises the bills intent to prohibit councils from discriminating against sex workers, that regulation will still apply to sex workers and that there will be political pressure on some councils to ban all forms of sex work. He also addresses the question: will council officers inspect the houses of sex workers and require proof of sexual health medical checks? The Youtube video below will automatically start playing at the correct mark, the 5 minute and 30 second mark.

Hunt & Hunt Lawyers have a guide to the sex work bill on their website.

24 February 2022

The NSW Greens Party proposes an amendment to their NSW sex worker anti-discrimination bill, the Anti-Discrimination Amendment (Sex Workers) Bill 2020 (NSW)

The bill, tabled in 2020, has failed to progress in the parliament since late 2020. The amendment seeks to expand the legal definition of ‘sex worker’ in the bill to include both sex workers or relatives or associates of sex workers. 

Read amendment

24 February 2022

Australia’s only sex work radio show interview Marayann Phoenix about her experience doing sex work around the world and her years of activism in Victoria fighting for sex workers’ rights. She was one of the founding members of the the Prostitutes’ Collective of Victoria.

Listen to Episode

23 February 2022

The Age columnist Julie Szego, opines about how the Victorian Labor Party has embraced liberalism and sensible small business regulation of the sex industry with the passage of the Sex Work Decriminalisation Bill 2021. 

Read Article: Labor’s liberal streak leaves opposition flailing

23 February 2022

The Victorian Department of Justice and Community Safety announces further regulation reforms to advertising and council planning laws will be unveiled on 10 May 2022 and 1 December 2022. The reforms follow an additional consultation with the sex industry and local councils in August 2021. This consultation received 698 complete online surveys and 159 written submissions and online video consultations with over 101 stakeholder groups. The majority of contributions supported decriminalising sex work in Victoria. 

The resulting additional regulatory reforms will repeal sex industry specific regulations. Any regulation which singles out or discriminates against the sex industry will also be repealed or reformed. This is overwhelming good news for Victorian sex workers. 

22 February 2022

The Legislative Assembly of the Victorian Parliament rubber stamps the Sex Work Decriminalisation Bill 2021, providing it with the final approval it needs before receiving royal assent. See page 4 of hansard.

Hansard: 22 February 2022

21 February 2022

Occupational health and safety consultant, Kevin Jones blogs about what the passage of the Sex Work Decriminalisation 2021 bill means for WorkSafe Victoria. 

Read ‘Safety at Work Blog: Work, Not Sex, Won the Day’

(behind a paywall)

15 February 2022

A South Australian parliamentary committee fails to reach consensus on whether to endorse the latest sex work decriminalisation bill in that state. The Select Committee on the Statutes Amendment (Repeal of Sex Work Offences) Bill 2020 (SA) published its final report, noting the committee was divided on the bill, and the majority of submissions opposed to the bill (opposing sex work decriminalisation). Disappointingly, this marks another set back for sex workers’ rights in South Australia.

Read Final Report

15 February 2022

Sex worker friendly social media platform, Switter, shuts down. The passage, in 2021, of the Online Safety Act was always expected to increase pressure to exclude sex workers and sex worker friendly platforms from the internet and social media. The closure of Switter is perhaps the first example of such a closure. The Online Safety Act 2021 was a federal Act, being debated and passed in the federal parliament. It had nothing to do with the Victorian Parliament, which supported sex workers by passing passing a law to decriminalise sex work in early 2022. 

Digital Rights Watch statement: In solidarity with Switter

10 February 2022

Sex workers avoided HIV epidemic, with negligible rates of infection. HIV can now be eradicated from Australia.

The Australian Business Journal: In Australia, the number of HIV diagnoses dropped to a historic low, making eradication of the disease possible in the near future

10 February 2022

The Victorian Parliament votes to decriminalise sex work! The Upper House of the Victorian Parliament voted 24 in favour, 10 opposed.

Read: SWLRV Press Release

Former sex worker turned member of Parliament, Fiona Patten’s speech

Victorian Government Press Release

4 February 2022

Australia’s peak financial crime fighting body, AUSTRAC, publishes a guide to fighting sex slavery. The guide encourages banks to monitor the accounts of people to search for signs of suspicious transactions which could indicate sex slavery. Examples of transactions include purchases for lingerie or beauty products. The guide provides a caveat, ‘Similar payment may be made to legitimate brothels and legal sex workers. It’s important to consider a range of financial indicators which may indicate forced sexual servitude is taking place rather than legal sex work.’ AUSTRAC failed to consult with any sex worker or sex industry group in developing this guide.

DETECTING AND STOPPING FORCED SEXUAL SERVITUDE IN AUSTRALIA: Financial Crime Guide

14 January 2022

Since the year 2000, the Victorian Government funds a new sex worker program. Six months worth of funding will flow from the Victorian Department of Health to Scarlet Alliance to provide support to Victorian sex workers. 

Read Scarlet Alliance Joint Statement 

© Sex Work Law Reform Victoria 2022