Co-designed strategy for sex workers

On 1 December 2023 the second and final stage of Victoria’s Sex Work Decriminalisation Act 2022 comes into force, and fully repeals the Sex Work Act 1994 (Vic), the framework for Victoria’s historical licensing system.

Sex work decriminalisation brings important new anti-discrimination legal protections for sex workers in Victoria. As a result of decriminalisation, almost all aspects of the sex industry will now be subject to the same regulations as other industries. This enables sex workers to engage their rights as workers and community members in a way not previously possible.

While there is some diversity of approaches to sex industry regulation across states and territories, all jurisdictions have historically criminalised sex work, to the degree that sex workers can and have been imprisoned simply for working. Sex work remains criminalised in four out of six Australian states.

Since our beginnings in the 1970s, Southside Justice has always worked with sex workers, particularly in our local community of St Kilda, a long-established locus of street-based sex work in Victoria. We have long advocated for the full decriminalisation of sex work, particularly street based sex work. We have worked in collaboration with peer organisations, like the Prostitutes Collective of Victoria, and Vixen, and community health services like Better Health Network’s RhED program. Ultimately, decriminalisation has been a product of the tireless and sophisticated advocacy of sex workers themselves over decades, and today is a day to celebrate this huge achievement sex workers have won for themselves, and for a fairer, safer community.

At Southside Justice our Sex Worker Legal Program is already assisting sex workers who want to, and now feel able to, deal with issues including discrimination, dated or spent convictions, workplace rights and conditions, and we fully expect the demand will only continue to increase.

To guide us through serving the community amid increasing and diversifying legal need, we co-designed our strategy for the next two years of the program together with Vixen, Victoria’s peer sex worker organisation, with the support of Nous Group, and funding from the Victorian Legal Services Board and Commissioner.

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