Queensland to review sex work decriminalisation agenda

By Melissa Coade

Monday August 30, 2021

Shannon Fentiman
The Queensland government has a new women’s safety and justice taskforce underway to assess women’s experience in the criminal justice system. (AAP Image/Glenn Hunt)

Workers rights for Queensland’s sex workers will be among some of the issues up for debate in a state review that will consider whether to regulate the industry. 

In a statement announcing that the state government was seeking advice on a decriminalised framework for the sex work industry, Queensland attorney-general Shannon Fentiman said policies to improve the health, safety and human rights of sex workers were also on the table. 

“We need to ensure appropriate and modern laws are in place for the industry and its associated safe working arrangements, and that these are also in the best interests of the community,” Fenitman said.

Currently, there are two kinds of regulated sex work in Queensland: work with a licensed brothel and sole operators who work alone providing in-house or outcall services. All other forms of sex work including escort agencies, unlicensed brothels, massage parlours and street workers are illegal in the state. 

According to the government, most of the state’s sex work occurs outside of the regulated or licensed sector. 

The Queensland Law Reform Commission (QLRC) will review and investigate the issue, with the terms and reference now released to the public. The commission’s final report and any draft legislation will be delivered to the government by November 2022.

The attorney-general said that it was important to ensure modern laws were enacted for workers in the industry and its associated safe working arrangements. She pointed out that regulating this space was also in the best interests of the community. 

“The review will consider how best to provide appropriate safeguards to protect sex workers,” Fentiman said. 

“Feedback from the sector has been that current laws criminalise safety strategies used by sex workers.”

Industry workers and licensees will be invited to participate in the QLRC’s review, as well as any other stakeholders. 

“This is an important step forward allowing us to consider what reform will benefit the industry and the agencies that provide support and regulation,” Fentiman said.

“It is our hope that these recommendations will help reduce the barriers sex workers and businesses face.”

As part of its review, the commission will also consider regulatory frameworks in other jurisdictions like New South Wales and the Northern Territory for a regulated sex worker industry. The review will also consider what compatibility a potential framework will have with the Human Rights Act 2019, and public health and safety implications.


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