How We Started
In December 2015 Victorian community health centre Inner South Community Health (now StarHealth) joined with sex worker group Vixen Collective to call for the decriminalisation of sex work (see press release and photograph below). However, The Decriminalise Sex Work Campaign failed to gain traction and came to a standstill.
In 2017 a small group of sex workers, some of whom had met while volunteering for StarHealth’s program RhED (Resourcing Health and Education for Sex Workers), realised the need for an effective, concerted campaign to bring about the decriminalisation of sex work in Victoria. Early in 2018 we ran seven consultation workshops attended by a diverse range of sex workers, with the aim of educating the sex work community about the legal system in general, and about sex work legislation in particular.
By mid 2018 our group was meeting regularly. We defined ourselves as an activist, advocacy, and political lobby organisation, and named ourselves Sex Work Law Reform Victoria. We then started work on this website, which was launched in October 2018, one month before the Victorian state election. The timing was important because we wanted to see sex workers’ rights on the political agenda during the election campaign.
We incorporated in mid 2019, thus becoming a not for profit organisation.
Why We Started
Advancing sex workers’ rights is notoriously slow and difficult. Passion and energy alone aren’t sufficient to effect substantial change: a long-term political strategy and organised lobbying are essential. Nothing like this was happening in Victoria at the time, which is why we formed our organisation. We also identified the need for sex workers to engage constructively, not only with our own community, but also with stakeholders outside the sex industry. Listening to people outside the sex industry and understanding their perspectives are important aspects of the push for decriminalisation. Such is our approach.
We wish to be at the forefront of the development of sex work policy and continue to advocate for the legal rights of sex workers. We will continue to act in accordance with our core mission:
‘Advocating for equality before the law for all sex workers in Victoria.’
Throughout 2020 we engaged with Fiona Patten’s Sex Work Review, helping to ensure that the most diverse range of sex workers’ voices is heard. In early 2022, the Victorian Parliament passed the Sex Work Decriminalisation Act 2022 (Vic), which will decriminalise sex work over two years by repealing hundreds of criminal laws. We are proud to have played a big part in making this change happen. Our main mission as an organisation has been accomplished.
As an organisation we will continue to grow and have impact and reach on debates in this area.
SWLRV will continue to challenge all laws and practices which have a negative impact on the lives of sex workers and the sex industry as a whole.
Fighting for the legal rights of marginalised groups will be an ongoing endeavour, even once decriminalisation is achieved. There will still be much work to be done in other areas of law reform, for instance, confronting the practice of financial discrimination against the sex industry on the part of financial service providers. In the interest of transparency, we will be calling on all financial service providers to make public their policy on providing services to lawfully operating individual sex workers and lawfully operating sex industry businesses.
© Sex Work Law Reform Victoria 2022
Last updated: 15 July 2022