What are the laws surrounding Prostitution & Sex Work in Australia?

Is prostitution legal in Australia

Prostitution explicitly involves the practice of engaging in sex with another person in return for payment. It often carries a strong negative connotation and has largely been replaced by the term “sex work”. Sex work is broadly used to describe sexual services involving consenting adults who have not been illegally obtained, coerced, groomed or trafficked.

In the 1970s, Australia, alongside many developed countries, began to decriminalise prostitution and sex work. These efforts were made in order to curb corruption & abuse of power, prevent organised crime from engaging in sex trafficking and promote greater safety for sex workers.

Are the sex work laws the same in all states?

Currently, sex work is mainly legal in Australia. However, every state in Australia has different laws surrounding sex work.

In New South Wales, Northern Territory and now Victoria, sex work is primarily decriminalised and is regarded as regular work and operates outside of criminal law.

Whilst in Queensland, Tasmania and the Australian Capital Territory, sex work is legal and regulated but operates within criminal law, with most activities exempt from criminal penalties.

However, in South Australia and Western Australia, prostitution remains legal but not regulated, and organised activities such as brothels and pimping are illegal.

What are the laws surrounding sex work in New South Wales?

New South Wales was the first place in the world to decriminalise adult sex work and had the most liberal prostitution laws in Australia. The sex work industry primarily operates as a regular business that is governed by Local Council regulations.

What are the exceptions in New South Wales?

There are some notable prohibitions on sex work in New South Wales, many involve


  • The sex worker must be over the age of 18.
  • The client must be over the age of 16 in order to consent to sex.
  • A person must be over 18 to enter a brothel.


  • An adult cannot live wholly or partly off the earnings of the sex work of another person.
  • A person cannot cause or induce somebody into sex work by coercive conduct or undue influence.
  • A person cannot procure or entice someone to perform sex work by means of any fraud, violence, threat, abuse of authority, or by the use of any drugs or alcohol.


It is an offence in NSW for anyone to advertise sexual services, a sex industry business or sex worker employment opportunities. However, these laws are rarely enforced, and it is common to see Adult listings in newspapers and online.

Council Zoning

Private soliciting by sex workers or clients cannot be done in view of schools, churches, hospitals or dwellings.

Additionally, sexual service premises, such as ‘brothels, erotic massages, swingers clubs, strip clubs & adult cinemas’, must be regulated by the Local Council. Some of the requirements include:-

  • That there must be written consent by the owner of the property;
  • That property has zoning permitting its use as a sexual service premise;
  • That there is a valid development approval permitting sex work.

Although offences involving prostitution are not as common as they once were, Lyons Law Group has extensive experience in dealing with all criminal offences. Contact us for a consultation, and we will assist you in obtaining the best possible result for your case.


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