Sex work is set to finally be decriminalised in Victoria after a decades-long struggle. This reform means the Victorian Government now recognises sex work as the legitimate form of labour that it is.

Decrminalising sex work also means the industry will be formally regulated like other industries, so sex workers will have the same rights as other workers do in Victoria.

“Every Victorian deserves to feel safe in their place of work – decriminalisation will ensure that sex work is safe work and go a long way towards breaking down the stigma sex workers continue to experience,” the state’s Consumer Affairs Minister Melissa Horne said in a statement on Friday.

A major proponent of the the “fair, decent and fundamental reform” has been Fiona Patten, a state MP from the Reason Party (formerly known as the Sex Party) and a former sex worker herself.

In 2019 Patten was selected by the Labor state government to lead a review of sex work regulation and figure out how to best decriminalise the industry.

“This is a case of making the world better by removing a discriminatory law, not imposing a new law. It simply extends to all sex workers the occupational health and safety, welfare and taxation coverage of any other employee,” Patten wrote on Facebook after the news was announced on Friday afternoon.

“It is based in large part on listening to sex workers, as well as legal and public policy experts. The collective view of all the sex worker groups was that decriminalising the industry was by far the best way to give them the best occupational health and safety outcomes.

“These changes will allow them to make a true profession out of their work – to pay tax, demand better conditions and be more open with their friends and family about what they do.

“It’s not a new view. In 1985 when regulation of the sex industry was first being investigated by Professor Marcia Neave, the Prostitutes Collective of Victoria was calling for a decriminalisation.”

The full decriminalisation of sex work will now bring Victoria in line with other jurisdictions like NSW, Queensland and the ACT. Meannwhile, brothels are still illegal in states like Western Australia and South Australia.

Image: Getty Images / Marco Ravagli