Sex Work Decriminalisation

By 7 June 2022March 17th, 2024No Comments

New law says sex workers deserve a fair go in the City of Boroondara

Lisa Dallimore and Matthew Roberts

The City of Boroondara’s engagement with the sex industry has been non-existent for decades, with the conservative council effectively outlawing all brothels and home-based sex work. But this will change with new state-wide laws being introduced throughout 2022 and 2023.

In March, the Sex Work Decriminalisation Act 2022 became law, meaning sex work will be decriminalised in Victoria in stages. Victoria will be only the fourth jurisdiction in the world to decriminalise sex work, a move supported by sex workers’ rights groups, but strongly opposed by Council. All Victorian councils must now remove local laws which discriminate against sex workers. Street based sex work is now legal in most locations in Victoria, including with the City of Boroondara.

There have always been sex workers living and working in Boroondara, and the new laws are designed to enhance the safety of their work conditions. From December 2023, planning schemes will regulate brothels in a similar manner to hairdressers, and will also permit home based sex work. Brothels will be permitted in more zones overall, although brothels in some zones will still require planning permits and will still be prohibited in residential areas. Existing planning, council, advertising, tax, health, and occupational health and safety laws will regulate sex work in the same way they currently regulate other types of businesses.

Last year the City of Boroondara passed a motion opposing these reforms and endorsed a community awareness campaign about the changes. Six months on, no such awareness campaign has materialised.

Sex work was decriminalised in New South Wales 27 years ago, and from the perspective of local communities, little changed. Following decriminalisation in Victoria, there will be no expansion of the size of the sex industry; as it is, street solicitation has been steadily declining for decades. There will be no change to the impact of sex work activities on the community, and any associated disturbance will remain unlawful.

The only change will be who to call in the case of any disturbance arising from sex work activities: after 1 December 2023, residents will contact their local council instead of the police.

The news laws also strengthen anti-discrimination protections afforded to sex workers. It’s about applying Australian values of a fair go – to sex workers as they live their lives. We will soon see the end of Boroondara’s blanket ban on brothels and home-based sex work, a move welcomed by sex workers.

Lisa Dallimore and Matthew Roberts work with Sex Work Law Reform Victoria, a not-for-profit led by sex workers lobbying for the legal rights of sex workers in Victoria.