Sex Worker Legal Program’s Impact Report

The Sex Worker Legal Program is building trust with sex workers and our service users feel supported

This report highlights the key achievements of Southside Justice’s Sex Worker Legal Program (SWLP) during its initial 18 months of operation, from July 2022 to January 2024.

SWLP commenced as a state-wide service for all sex workers in Victoria, following a two-year grant of funding from the Victorian Government following the Sex Work Decriminalisation Act (2022). SWLP is Victoria’s first funded, dedicated, free legal program for sex workers and one of just two legal programs for sex workers across Australia.

Southside Justice subsequently secured a three-year grant of funding from the Victorian Legal Services Board to further support the operation of the program. In its first 18 months, SLWP has:

  • Provided sex workers across Victoria with legal advice and case work services
  • Delivered training for the legal sector about decriminalisation and reducing stigma and discrimination
  • Participated in multiple consultations about implementing decriminalisation
  • Strengthened our partnership with Vixen, Victoria’s peer sex worker organisation, including co-designing a three-year strategy for SWLP, a Monitoring, Evaluation and Learning Framework and service guidelines.
  • Strengthened referral pathways and relationships with pro bono partners and community organisations.

After many years of harm caused by criminalisation, stigma and discrimination, and decades of sex worker advocacy and organising, Victoria has decriminalised sex work and introduced discrimination legal protections for sex workers. Legal reform is the crucial first step in recognising sex work as work, so that sex workers can advocate for their rights as workers and confidently participate in all aspects of community life.

Decriminalisation will bring about significant changes to the sex industry in Victoria. In this context, support services like SWLP exist to help ensure these changes are strongly grounded in a rights-based framework that promotes wellbeing, safety and inclusion for sex workers and the whole community.

What was delivered?

  • 159 discreet services delivered (advice, information, supported referral)
  • 30 ongoing case work files opened
  • 67 people assisted, representing an 113% increase over 18 months
  • Three online training sessions delivered to over 100 practitioners in the legal sector about sex work decriminalisation and reducing stigma and discrimination.

What was our impact?

SWLP is building trust with sex workers and our service users feel supported

Our data shows that Victorian sex workers are seeking our assistance at an increasing rate. This is encouraging data suggesting that the service’s reputation and relationships are growing stronger, and that sex workers’ awareness of their legal rights may be increasing.

The results of our SWLP’s service user feedback survey show:

  • 100% of respondents stated that they would recommend the service to other sex workers
  • 100% of respondents agreed that they felt more confident than before about accessing legal help
  • 100% of respondents felt welcome and safe accessing our service.

What have we learned?

Delivering the SWLP has brought to the surface a very diverse range of legal problems sex workers are dealing with including online image-based abuse, personal safety, discrimination, underpayment and contractual disputes, workplace health and safety.

We have needed to demonstrate significant flexibility to address community need and connect our service users with the right advice and support wherever possible.

The community we serve are even more diverse than the legal issues we are seeing, and we have reflected on how we can be as accessible, culturally safe and responsive as possible in that context.

In 2024, in response to feedback elicited through implementing our MEL framework, SWLP will focus on making our service more accessible by working with community to translate program information into key community languages.

View the report and how we helped Lauren make their rights at reality here

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