Reporting Financial Discrimination


What is Discrimination?

Direct discrimination occurs if a person treats another person unfavourably because of a protected attribute. Examples of  protected attributes include gender, age, marital status, disability, race or sexual orientation. Anti-discrimination legislation makes it illegal to disciminate against individuals on such grounds.

Discrimination may occur in many environments – within schools, universities, government agencies, workplaces, religious institutions and real estate agencies. 

What is Financial Discrimination?

Financial discrimination occurs when lawfully operating businesses or individuals are refused insurance or financial services by banks, insurance companies, or other financial service providers. Financial discrimination against sex workers or sex industry businesses can occur because of their occupation/industry. In Victoria, discrimination based on ‘occupation, trade or calling’ is lawful, meaning that businesses can legally discriminate against a sex worker or sex industry business on the grounds of occupation. 

Sex Work Law Reform Victoria is lobbying to change this.

Discrimination Laws Nationwide 

Laws concerning discrimination are state-based laws as opposed to federal or commonwealth laws, which vary across Australia’s eight states and territories. At present ‘profession, trade, occupation or calling’ is a protected attribute only in the Australian Capital Territory, meaning that elsewhere in Australia it is legal to discriminate against individuals on such grounds. 

How to Report Financial Discrimination

The Australian Small Business and Family Enterprise Ombudsman (ASBFEO) is a national organisation which, amongst other things, supports small businesses and sole traders with issues they face accessing services and negotiating with service providers. Individual sex workers are considered to be sole traders. 

In 2019, the ASBFEO released a statement regarding financial discrimination against sex industry businesses and sex workers.

Sex workers can report financial discrimination to the ASBFEO (logo used with permission)

The ASBFEO will help all sex workers and sex industry businesses in cases of financial discrimination. Reports of discrimination will help them build an evidence base revealing the extent of the problem. Here’s what you can do if a bank refuses you service because you’re a sex worker or a small business in the adult industry:

How to Report Financial Discrimination

Step 1

Ask for a formal internal review and a response in writing from the bank.

Step 2

Make a complaint to the bank’s designated complaints department. As part of this process, you might want to refer to the ASBFEO’s statement.

Step 3

Notify the Australian Small Business and Family Enterprise Ombudsman (ASBFEO) in writing, providing them with the bank’s decision and their reasons. Email or lodge a dispute form on their website here.

Sex workers and adult industry small businesses in all Australian states and territories can report instances of financial discrimination to the ASBFEO.


Financial discrimination can also be reported to these state Small Business Commissioners (NSW, Victoria, South Australia or Western Australia).






Last updated: 23 December 2019