Considering a safe and regulated sex work industry

Published Saturday, 28 August, 2021 at 07:00 AM

Attorney-General and Minister for Justice, Minister for Women and Minister for the Prevention of Domestic and Family Violence
The Honourable Shannon Fentiman

The Palaszczuk Government will seek advice on a decriminalised framework for the sex work industry to improve health, safety, human rights and legal protections for workers.

Attorney-General and Minister for Justice Shannon Fentiman today announced she had made a formal referral to the Queensland Law Reform Commission (QLRC) to review and investigate the issue of regulating a decriminalised sex work industry in Queensland and released the Terms of Reference for its review.

“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,” Minister Fentiman said.

“The review will consider how best to provide appropriate safeguards to protect sex workers.

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

“A key focus of this review is the safety of workers and putting in place proper regulation so the industry doesn’t operate in the shadows.

"Sex workers shouldn’t have to choose between working legally and being safe at work.

“The QLRC will consult with industry workers and licensees, their representative bodies, and other stakeholders as part of the comprehensive process.”

The Queensland community will have an opportunity to engage with the QLRC on this issue. The QLRC is an independent statutory body that undertakes law reform reviews and provides recommendations, including the drafting of legislation.

Currently there are two legal forms of regulated sex work in Queensland, which include:

  • work provided in a licensed brothel, not including outcalls from the premises; and
  • sole operators, working alone from a premise, providing in-house or outcall services.

Any other form of sex work is illegal in Queensland. This includes escort agencies, unlicensed brothels, massage parlours, street workers (publicly soliciting) and two or more sex workers providing prostitution from a single premises.

In Queensland there are few licensed brothels and most sex work in Queensland occurs outside of the regulated or licensed sector.

The review by the QLRC will consider:

  • An overarching framework and draft legislation;
  • Appropriate safeguards to deter the exploitation of vulnerable people in the sex work industry;
  • Compatibility with the Human Rights Act 2019;
  • Public health and safety implications; and
  • Potential impacts for the sex work industry.

As part of its review, the QLRC will also consider regulatory arrangements in other jurisdictions, including the Northern Territory and New South Wales, which have decriminalised sex work industries.

Minister Fentiman said the review formed part of a commitment by the Palaszczuk Government.

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

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

“These barriers include appropriate access to health, safety and legal protections – which are rights that should be afforded to every Queenslander.”

The Commission will provide its report, including any draft legislation required by 27 November 2022.

Further information about the QLRC and its review can be found at:


Media contact:          Inga Williams              0439 949 719