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The Victorian legislation is governed by the: Sex Work Act 1994, Sex Work Regulations 2006, Sex Work (Fees) Regulations 2004 and the Public Health and Wellbeing Act 2008.

This page is an explanation of sex work laws in Victoria.


  • [1] Brothel Work
  • [2] Licensed Brothels
  • [3] Small- Owner Exempt Brothels
  • [4] Escort Agencies
  • [5] Private Escorts
  • [6] Street Based Sex Work
  • [7] Advertising
  • [8] The BLA
  • [9] STI's & RhED
  • [10] VIXEN & The Festival of Sex Work
  • [11] Links

 [1]  Brothel Work A brothel is defined as any premises made available for the purpose of prostitution services at those premises. (Prostitution Control Act 1994)

 [2] Licensed (Commercial) Brothels Brothels are regulated by local council planning. This means the place you work from must meet the requirements of the Planning and Environment Act 1987 and have a planning permit issued by the Council. Councils primarily monitor compliance with planning requirements.

Currently brothels are limited to 6 rooms (Prostitution Control Act 1994). Some older brothels, established before June 1995, are larger.

You have the right to refuse to see a client if you think the situation is unsafe or you think the client may be violent. You can’t be fined or punished in any way (Sex Work Regulations 2006). 

You must be provided with a free supply of condoms and lubricants at no charge in a legal brothel (Public Health and Wellbeing Act 2008).

The proprietor of a brothel must provide clean linen and showers and baths with a continuous and adequate supply of hot and cold water for the use of you and your clients (Public Health and Wellbeing Act 2008). 

Unless your own client has just used it, you are not required to clean or disinfect a bath or shower in a brothel. If you do clean or disinfect the bath or shower your client just used - you must be provided with protective clothing. Apart from this circumstance you are not required to clean any bath, shower, toilet or spa unless you are employed as a cleaner (Sex Work Regulations 2006).

You should never have to pay a bond or a fine in a legal brothel. Contact Jobwatch (see the services directory) for legal advice if you told you have to pay a bond or a fine. 

 [3] Small Owner-Operated (Exempt) Brothels An exempt prostitution service provider can operate a brothel with up to one other person working in the brothel, apart from themselves. You don’t need a licence from the BLA. You do, however, need a permit to operate a brothel granted under the Planning and Environment Act 1987. 

Your business would need to be 100 metres away from any home and 200 metres away from any church, school, hospital, place of worship, children’s services centre or any place where children spend time regularly. (In the central business district bounded by Spring Street, Flinders Street, Spencer Street and Latrobe Street your business would need to be 50 metres away from the nearest residence.) The area must be zoned industrial.

To find a place you often have to disclose the nature of the proposed business to real estate agents. You must tell the owner that you will be setting up a small owner operated brothel and you will need their written approval to use the building as a brothel.

Once you have this permission you need to apply for a planning permit from the Planning Department of your local Council. Planning permits applications are often rejected at this level. If Council rejects the application you can appeal the decision at the Victorian Civil and Administrative Tribunal. You will almost certainly need legal advice through this process.

If you get a planning permit you register your name, date of birth, address, business name and address with the BLA as an exempt prostitution service provider.  You can have one other sex worker working with you as an exempt provider but their details must also be registered with the BLA. There is no fee to register. The BLA will also want your planning permit number, the name and address of the owner of the building and the letter of approval from the owner. The BLA will then issue you with a SWA number. The details you register are not available to the public and it is possible to ask for your details to be taken off the register at your request. 

   [4] Escort Agencies Escort Agency means a business of facilitating or providing sexual services to persons at premises not made available by the agency. You get your bookings from the agency, usually by phone.

If you work for an escort agency you might only visit the agency office once a week or so to hand over the agency’s share of your weekly takings.

When a client contacts the agency, the receptionist must describe you accurately so that expectations of you are in line with who you are. However, it’s up to you - not the agency or receptionist - to negotiate with the client the sexual services you will be providing.   The licensee must make sure you are supplied with a one way or two way electronic device, such as a mobile phone, radio intercom or a buzzer so you can contact the licensee or approved manager at any time while you are working (Sex Work Regulations 2006)

You have the right to refuse a booking if you think the situation is unsafe or the client may be violent. The agency should not force you to do the booking or fine or punish you for not doing a booking (Sex Work Regulations 2006 Part 2)

 [5] Private Escorts  You can work for yourself (or along with one other sex worker) in a private escort business. A small owner operator escort service is exempt from needing a licence from the BLA. 

You do, however, need to register with the BLA as an Exempt Escort. If you are working with another sex worker, they need to register as well. 

There are currently 1,461 exempt prostitution service providers who operate their own escort agency, with a maximum of one other person working in the escort agency, apart from themselves (BLA July 2001).

Link here for the complete lists of forms for the BLA 

Please Note Scarlet Alliance in no way endorses the individual registration of private workers - this information is provided to empower Victorian sex workers to make an informed decision about their rights.  Scarlet Alliance continues to argue against the registration of private workers, as it is an infringement of human rights and privacy, and is in contravention of international health convenants including the Ottowa Charter.

To register you need to give your real name and address, any and all names and phone numbers you will be using in any advertising, a passport size photo of yourself and a photocopy of a true form of I.D signed by a witness. (The information on the Register is not available to the public and can be removed on your request.)

Once you are registered the BLA will give you a SWA number (formerly known as a PCA number) and you can advertise for business* (subject to laws as described below under Advertising). 

You can employ a driver, a receptionist or security person but you can’t advertise for staff. Anyone who takes a cut of your booking money for finding clients risks penalties unless they have a licence as an escort agency.

It is also unlawful to provide sexual services to clients at your home unless you have a brothel licence or are approved as an exempt brothel (Prostitution Control Act 1994).

 [6] Street Work Street sex work is illegal and is heavily policed. Current police operations in St Kilda (the main street based area) target sex workers and clients. There are police in marked police cars as well as undercover police posing as both sex workers and clients in attempts to entrap. There has been broad ongoing discussions about the decriminalisation of street based sex work but no action from government.  

Attorney General’s Advisory Group into Street Prostitution 2002 This report marked the end of a broad consultation process involving sex workers, Rhed, legal and health experts, local council and people who live in areas where the street based sex industry is visible.  Many of the outcomes were positive and recommended legislative reform including the decriminalisation of street based sex work in some areas and the creation of ‘safe houses’.  Unfortunately the Labor Government in Victoria rejected the recommendations and no further action has been taken since the release of the report. Link

 [7] Advertising The Prostitution Control Act (1994, s.17) restricts advertising about sex work. It says that an ad must not:

  • describe sexual services
  • advertise through broadcasting or television
  • induce a person to work
  • use the words “massage”, “masseuse” or remedial.

Photographs in ads are restricted to head and shoulder shots and the person in the photo must supply written consent for their picture to be published in an ad.

The size of an advertisement that appears in print can’t exceed 18cms by 13cms. If you place two ads in one publication the two added together can’t exceed 18 cms by 13 cms.

An ad must not refer to race, colour or ethnic background of a sex worker or their health status or medical testing. 

An ad can, however, talk about the sexual orientation of the sex worker (for example, ‘female worker to male client’) and it can state that safe sex is practised and that condoms are always used.

 [8] The Business Licensing Authority The Business Licensing Authority is the place where people:

  • register as running exempt escort or exempt brothel businesses
  • apply to become registered as an Approved Manager of a brothel or renew an approval
  • lodge applications for licences if they want to run a brothel or escort agency.

The licensing scheme started in June 1995.

The Business Licensing Authority is an independent statutory authority. 

The BLA can refer relevant matters to the police, WorkCover, the Australian Taxation Office, the Department of Immigration and Ethnic Affairs, Consumer and Business Affairs Victoria and any other body.

Inspectors from Consumer and Business Affairs have powers to enter the workplace that are the same as the police. 

Consumer and Business Affairs Victoria and the police can take disciplinary action against licensees at the Victorian Civil and Administrative Tribunal (VCAT). (Authorised local government officers can also do this.)

Link here for a full look at all the BLA forms and links

   [9] STIs

You can get free and confidential STI testing from the Melbourne Sexual Health Centre, 580 Swanston Street, Carlton. You can also contact RhED for more information about STIs.

  • 10 Inkerman Street, St Kilda, VIC 3182
  • Ph 03 9534 8166
  • Fax 03 9525 4492

Scarlet Alliance response to Victorian Government Regulatory Impact Statement of Consumer Affairs Victoria Download The 2006 round of consultations included proposed changes to the sexual health testing regulations, and the development of Occupational Health and Safety Guidelines and a Voluntary Code of Practise for sex workers. The outcome is that the Victorian Health Minister now has the power to change the time frame of mandatory testing regimes for sex workers, but unfortunately has chosen not to.

Scarlet Alliance response to Victorian Government Proposed Licence Fee Increases in 2004 Download

 [10] SEX WORKER ACTIVIST GROUP Victorian Sex Industry Network
VIXEN run the Festival of Sex Work in Melbourne. You can follow their activism and get involved:

 [11] LINKS

updated 16 April 2015