The good the Bad and the Ugly of regulating Victoria’s Sex Industry

It seems so bizarre that the Victorian Government took the courageous step way back in the last millennium (1994) to legalise Sex Work, when they heralded in what was touted as a breakthrough for both Sex Workers and the state as a whole. At the time the legislators involved believed with the evidence before them that they could wave a magic wand pass a few bills and enshrine in legislation the answers that the world’s oldest profession had for centuries been searching for.

The stake holders, Sex Workers, Community Leaders, Police officers and Medical Professionals poured over volumes of submissions from related parties and came up with recommendations that were to become the “Prostitution Control Act 1994”. Launched into law with great fanfare, the new legislation was to become a model that other state governments and indeed governments across the world would study as a model for their respective jurisdictions.

I recall as a fresh-faced 19yo Sex Worker in a Melbourne Brothel listening to the rumours circulating in the industry about how the rights of workers and clients would be improved in every aspect including Financially, Health, Safety and Working Conditions. The legislation which also covered Escort Services was believed to clean up the murky criminal aspect of the industry giving more power back to the Sex Workers. Almost every worker I knew was looking forward to the time when the bad old days would finally be behind us, the days where Pimps treated the Workers as slaves forcing them to work in often unsafe and unhygienic conditions with threats of violence or financial tactics designed to oppress and exploit the Workers.

Of course, there were the protagonists who claimed that the cost of complying with the red tape, licencing fees and the new health regimes would destroy the Brothel and Escort industries. But as an insider I can tell you the legislation was a breath of fresh air in the industry and within one year of its introduction workers could see and feel the benefits. Brothel owners had to lift their game,  clients became a little more respectful and the ugly underworld aspect of the industry was phased out largely because of the one licence policy and the strict vetting of the licencing process. The legislation was also designed to keep tabs on the people involved in the industry and a Licencing Department was formed (BLA) Business Licencing Authority charged with administering the sex Industry.

The honeymoon period lasted for a number of years and from the Workers and client’s perspective Brothels and Escorts had been brought out of the shadows. Unfortunately as is often the case the criminal aspect soon found ways of challenging the laws and testing the authorities and within ten years of the legislation being enacted the wheels were beginning to fall off and once again the talk of the slave trade, human trafficking and criminal elements were becoming commonplace and all the while the BLA, the department formed to administer the Victorian Sex industry had proven the old adage that they were a bureaucratic department that was as useless as tits on a bull.

By 2010 the underbelly of Melbourne’s Sex Trade had once again run rampant through the industry hiding in plain sight of the authorities operating a network of several hundred illegal brothels across every suburb of Melbourne completely ignoring the safe guards put in place to protect the community by the legislation which was designed to prevent brothels from operating close to Schools, places of worship and residential neighbourhoods.

In comparison, the legally licenced brothel industry totals just ninety-five across Melbourne which are monitored and must comply with all the red tape while the illegal industry operates several hundred unlicensed brothels seemingly without any fear of the authorities. These unlicensed Brothels are operated by criminals with practices reminiscent of those depicted in crime movies, where mainly ethnic minorities are forced to work under oppressive conditions and live constantly in fear for their safety should they speak out about their treatment. Unfortunately, clients are often unaware that the premises they are visiting are run by criminals and that they are indeed breaking the law and taking huge health risks simply by visiting an unlicensed brothel in Victoria. The only real way to determine if you are visiting a Legal brothel is to look for the Sex Work Act licence number (SWA 0000 b) where the SWA stands for Sex Work Act and the digits will be the licence number and the ‘b’ indicates Brothel this licence number will display on all advertising.

Although I have had a great life as a sex worker I fear that the next generation may be subjected to a much more dubious future if the authorities continue to allow illegal brothels to continue to flourish unchecked, at some point something will have to give and if the legal brothels are not supported, the legal brothel and escort Industry with all its benefits may well collapse and all that will survive will be the criminal run industry endangering the whole community.

As an Australian Sex Worker with some twenty-five years’ experience (yes, where did those years go?) beginning my career almost as the new laws came into existence, I have enjoyed huge financial rewards from the business as both an escort and brothel worker. As I tell my friends and the clients who ask, the employment in the sex Industry can be very rewarding if you can enjoy it and are prepared to treat it as a business. In my twenty-five years, I have tried other forms of work on more than one occasion but have never found anything that matches the satisfaction or the income that comes from building a bond with another human being as you do in sex work.


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