Private Sex Worker Laws

Unsplash: Maru Lombardo

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.

Private Work

You are a private sex worker if you’re self-employed, arrange your own advertising, meet your clients indoors and keep all of the money they pay you. You don’t have a boss and don’t give anyone else a ‘cut’ of your earnings.

Key Points

  • Victoria’s sex work licensing laws require all sex work businesses to have a government-issued registration number. For private sex workers this is known as an SWA exemption number. 

  • You must have a SWA Number and quote it on all your ads.*

  • Generally, you can’t see a client at your home (rented or owned) or at a hotel/motel booked in your name.

  • You must use condoms.

  • You cannot work if you have certain sexually transmissible infections (STI’s).

*Victoria’s sex work licensing laws require all private sex workers to have a government-issued registration number, known as a SWA number. Once you register your personal details on the government register, those details can be accessed by authorised members of Victoria Police. More information about SWA numbers can be found at the Consumer Affairs Victoria website.

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.

Private Sex Work – What’s Legal?

WHAT YOU CAN DO   

 

WHAT YOU CAN’T DO

WHAT YOU MUST DO

PENALTY 

LAW 

   

You must apply for a SWA exemption number to operate as private sex worker (that is, you are not running a brothel or escort agency

 

 

   

You must register with the BLA and quote the SWA exemption number they give you on all your ads

Up to a $4,956 fine

(up to 30 penalty units)

s24(1) of SWA

r11 of SWR

WHAT YOU CAN DO   

 

WHAT YOU CAN’T DO

WHAT YOU MUST DO

PENALTY 

LAW 

 

You can’t work without a SWA exemption number

 

Up to a $4,956 fine

(up to 30 penalty units)

s24(1) of SWA

   

Update SWA registration details each year

Up to a $4,956 fine

(up to 30 penalty units)

s24A of SWA

 

You can’t use a SWA number that is false or that you are no longer entitled to use

 

Up to $6,608 fine

(up to 40 penalty units)

ss 17, 24(1) of SWA and r11(3) of SWR

WHAT YOU CAN DO   

 

WHAT YOU CAN’T DO

WHAT YOU MUST DO

PENALTY 

LAW 

You can make outcalls – visit clients at their home or hotel/motel booked in their name

       
 

Generally, you can’t see a client at your home (rented or owned) or at a hotel/motel booked in your name.

Click here for more information on working from home.

 

Up to 5 years’ jail or

up to a $198,264 fine

(up to 1200 penalty units)

ss 3, 22(1), 22(1A) and 77(1) of SWA, s126(1) of PEA

WHAT YOU CAN DO   

 

WHAT YOU CAN’T DO

WHAT YOU MUST DO

PENALTY 

LAW 

 

Double bookings: as a private worker, you can only do an ‘incall‘ double booking if you and the other worker share an SWA number AND you are licensed to do ‘in calls’

 

Up to 5 years’ jail or

Up to $198,264 fine or both

(up to 1200 penalty units)

ss22-23 of SWA

Use a driver, but the driver cannot drive the client

       

WHAT YOU CAN DO   

 

WHAT YOU CAN’T DO

WHAT YOU MUST DO

PENALTY 

LAW 

Take calls from clients, make your own bookings, manage finances, and your safety

 

A private worker with an SWA must do all client-facing work themselves – such as taking calls, making bookings, negotiating and service delivery. 

Any non-facing work- such as security, driving the worker or finances – is not caught under the SWA

   

WHAT YOU CAN DO   

 

WHAT YOU CAN’T DO

WHAT YOU MUST DO

PENALTY 

LAW 

 

You can’t meet or talk to clients about prices or services in a public place

 

Up to 1-6 months’ jail;

Up to $826 – $4,130 fine or both

(up to 5-25 penalty units)

s 13(2) of SWA

 

You can’t meet or talk to clients about prices or services in a church or other place of worship, a hospital, a school (or other children’s service), or a public place where children are present

 

Up to 1-6 months’ jail;

Up to $1652 – $9,913 fine or both

(up to 10-60 penalty units)

s13(1) of SWA

WHAT YOU CAN DO   

 

WHAT YOU CAN’T DO

WHAT YOU MUST DO

PENALTY 

LAW 

 

You can’t have an agreement with someone to refer clients to you, or for you to refer clients to them. Unless you both work in the same business.

 

Up to 5 years’ jail or

up to $198,264 fine or both

(up to 1,200 penalty units)

s23 of SWA

Work with one other sex worker, sharing one SWA number. You must both register with the BLA

       

WHAT YOU CAN DO   

 

WHAT YOU CAN’T DO

WHAT YOU MUST DO

PENALTY 

LAW 

 

You can’t work with more than one other person using the same SWA number

     

Advertise your services online or in print

     

reg 11 of SWR

   

Include your SWA exemption number in your advertisements

Up to a $6,447 fine

(up to 40 penalty units)

s17(1) of SWA

r11(1) of SWR

WHAT YOU CAN DO   

 

WHAT YOU CAN’T DO

WHAT YOU MUST DO

PENALTY 

LAW 

 

You can’t mention the word ‘massage’ or words similar to ‘massage’ in your ads – or imply that your business is for massage services

 

Up to a $6,608 fine

(up to 40 penalty units)

s17(4) of SWA

 

You can’t describe the sexual services you offer in your ads

 

Up to a $6,608 fine

(up to 40 penalty units)

s17(1)(a) of SWA

WHAT YOU CAN DO   

 

WHAT YOU CAN’T DO

WHAT YOU MUST DO

PENALTY 

LAW 

You can include photos of your face in print advertisements

     

r11(4) -11(5) of SWR

You can include photos of your whole body in internet advertisements

     

r11(4) -11(5) of SWR

WHAT YOU CAN DO   

 

WHAT YOU CAN’T DO

WHAT YOU MUST DO

PENALTY 

LAW 

 

You can’t show pictures of a penis, vagina, bare buttocks, anus, breasts, female nipples, sexual acts, or a person under 18 years of age in your online ads

 

Up to a $6,608 fine

(Up to 40 penalty units)

s17(1)(b) of SWA and r11(5) of SWR

WHAT YOU CAN DO

    

WHAT YOU CAN’T DO

WHAT YOU MUST DO

PENALTY 

LAW 

 

You can’t show another person in your ad without their written permission

 

Up to a $6,608 fine

(up to 40 penalty units)

s17(1)(b) of SWA and r11(4)(c) of SWR

Include your sexual orientation, eg. ‘male clients only, gay escort’ in your ads

     

r11(6)(a) of SWR

 

You can’t advertise on TV or radio

 

Up to a $6,608 fine

(up to 40 penalty units)

ss17(1) – 17(2) of SWA and r11(4)(b) of SWR

WHAT YOU CAN DO   

 

WHAT YOU CAN’T DO

WHAT YOU MUST DO

PENALTY 

LAW 

Say that safer sex is practiced or that condoms are used in your ads

     

r11(6)(b) of SWR

 

You can’t state your health status or talk about your medical testing for STIs in your ads

 

Up to a $6,608 fine

(up to 40 penalty units)

s17(1) of SWA and r11(4)(d) of SWR

WHAT YOU CAN DO   

 

WHAT YOU CAN’T DO

WHAT YOU MUST DO

PENALTY 

LAW 

   

You must use a condom for full sex, blow jobs or any other activity with a similar risk of acquiring or transmitting STIs. You 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

Also work in licensed brothels or for licensed escort agencies

       

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 still 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: 29 October 2019