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FAQ

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The following is a list of RhED’s most frequently asked questions. If you would like further information on any issue, please do not hesitate to contact us on (Freecall) 1800 458 758 or email us.

Please note that the following information is of a general type and should not be taken as a substitute for professional medical or legal advice.

Is sex work legal?

Sex work is a legal job in Victoria, if you adhere to the Sex Work Act (1994). No matter where you work:

  • you must be over the age of 18 to do sex work, and
  • the choice to do sex work must be yours, that is, it is against the law for anyone to force you or bully you into sex work.

Many different laws affect the way you can do sex work legally, but the main one is the Sex Work Act 1994. You can get your own copy of the Sex Work Act from Information Victoria for a small fee (phone 1300 366 356) or download it from the Victorian Parliamentary website at http://www.austlii.edu.au/au/legis/vic/consol_act/swa1994129/. You may also want to look at the Business Licencing Authority website: www.bla.vic.gov.au for information about how sex work is regulated in Victoria.

What are sexual services?

The definition of sexual services adopted in Victoria has three main activities under it. They are:

  • Taking part with someone in an act of sexual penetration. This includes oral, anal and vaginal sexual penetration. If you put a tongue, finger or other part of the body or an object, into a vagina, anus or mouth – or let any of these things be done to you – it’s an act of sexual penetration (Crimes Act 1958).
  • Masturbating someone. To be considered masturbating, their genitals can be clothed and they don’t have to cum.
  • Letting someone view acts of sexual penetration or masturbation when there is any form of physical contact between any watcher and any watched or when any watcher is allowed or encouraged to masturbate.

If you get money or goods for doing any of these things, you are doing sex work.

Is street sex work legal?

Street sex work is ILLEGAL in Victoria and is the most dangerous form of sex work. In March 2001, the Attorney General’s Street Prostitution Advisory Group (AGSPAG) was established to examine the issue of street sex work in the City of Port Phillip. The Advisory Group developed a Final Report that outlines a program for reform to increase community safety. A copy of the Final Report and further information about its recommendations (including the proposed trial of tolerance areas) is available from RhED. Email or telephone 1800 458 752 to obtain a copy.

How is sex work legislated in Victoria?

In Victoria, sex work services are regulated by the Sex Work Act 1994, the Sex Work Regulations 2006, and the Public Health and Wellbeing Act 2008.

How do I become a Private Escort Agency ('Private Worker') or operate a Private Brothel?

Private worker (exempt escort agency)

As a sex worker, you (and up to one other sex worker) can operate as private workers (exempt escort agencies).

Private workers (‘Exempt Escorts”) can only provide a visiting sexual service. It is illegal to work from your own home; the service must be provided in the client’s home or at a hotel/motel that the client books and pays for. Under the ‘address of premises’ on the application form you should put “visiting service only”.

Private workers are exempt from needing a licence from the Business Licensing Authority.

You do, however, need to register with the BLA as an Exempt Escort Agent. You can work for yourself or with one other sex worker in a private escort business. If you are working with another sex worker, they need to be included on your registration as well.

Private workers (exempt escorts) must renew their licence annually.

When you finish working in the sex industry and wish to have your name removed from the BLA Register, you will need to contact the Business Licensing Authority in writing.

 

Private brothels (exempt brothel)

As a sex worker, you (and up to one other sex worker) can operate a private brothel, provided you:

  • are registered as an Exempt Brothel Operator with the Business Licensing Authority, and
  • have a permit to operate a brothel granted by a local council under the Planning and Environment Act 1987.

To fulfil the Planning Act requirements, you will need to operate from a premise in an industrial area (100m from nearest resident, 200m from a church, playground, school or any place where children spend time regularly). Applying to the Council for a planning permit can be a costly exercise.

To become a private escort agency or private brothel operator you need to register with the Business Licensing Authority at The Shop Front, Victorian Consumer and Business Centre, 113 Exhibition Street, Melbourne. You will need to complete a Registration as an Exempt Brothel/Escort Agency form available from the BLA’s website: www.bla.vic.gov.au or by telephoning 1300 135 452 and lodge it with proof of identification showing your current address (driver’s license, passport, statutory declaration form). There are no costs associated with lodging a registration form to operate a Private Exempt Escort Agency or Brothel.

When you have completed the form, you will be issued with a SWA Exempt Escort Number or SWA Exempt Brothel Number. This is the number you use to advertise your service. A good place to advertise is in the local paper – for more tips on advertising click here (link to advertising tips for private workers).

Your name will be placed on a register that is held by the Business Licensing Authority and can only be accessed by staff assisting the BLA, Consumer Affairs Victoria, Victoria Police and authorized officers of local government. Under Federal law, in certain circumstances, federal agencies can apply to access the register and information related to your exempt registration, including the following: Australian Federal Police, Department of Immigration, Taxation Department and Centrelink. These authorities must place a request to the Business Licensing Registrar with a reason to access the Register. The general public cannot access the register.

RhED includes a list of exempt escort workers and exempt brothel workers in our magazine ‘RED’, free of charge. If you would like to be listed in our magazine contact us on 1800 458 752 with your working name, SWA number and mobile phone number.

Private brothels (exempt brothels) must renew their licence annually.

When you finish working in the sex industry and wish to have your name removed from the BLA Register, you will need to contact the Business Licensing Authority in writing.

What services will I be required to provide as a sex worker?

The basic service in a brothel is massage, oral sex and full penetrative sex. Special services incorporating fantasies can be negotiated between the client and the sex worker. There are a small number of establishments that provide a massage service with oral sex. Condoms must be used for all sexual services. RhED has a Starting Out Kit available for workers. For more information phone RhED 1800 458 752 or email sexworker@sexworker.org.au

How much can I charge as a 'Private Worker'?

As a private worker, it is up to you to set your fees according to the service you provide. The majority of private workers provide a minimum hour service and charge anything between $180-$400. To ensure that you make enough money to earn a living, you should set yourself a minimum price that you will not go below no matter how much the client may try and negotiate.

How do I apply for a Brothel and/or Escort License?

In Victoria, anyone can apply for a brothel and/or escort license (Sex Work Provider License) with the Business Licensing Authority at 113 Exhibition Street, Melbourne (1300 135 452). Brothels are limited to six rooms under current law. There are application costs and annual licence fees. For a guide to applying for a brothel and/or escort license and the relevant forms contact the Business Licensing Authority on 1300 135 452 or visit their website here

RhED includes a list of legal brothels and escorts in our magazine ‘RED’ and on our website, free of charge. You may wish to join the Smiley Faces Project (click here to find out more). To be awarded a Smiley Face, a brothel establishment allows RhED to deliver materials to its establishment. This is helpful for people entering the sex industry or sex workers visiting Melbourne from interstate and overseas. If your brothel has a Smiley Face, then the sex workers know that they are able to access RhED outreach workers and RhED materials. If you would like to be included in our listings contact us on 1800 458 752 with the name of the brothel, address, SWA number and phone number. We also offer advertising space in RED to legal brothels and escorts.

How much will I get paid if I work in a brothel?

Brothels vary from small suburban houses to large purpose built establishments and prices vary within each establishment. As a rule of thumb, a client will pay between $80-$150 for a half hour booking and $180-$300 for a one hour booking. The sex worker should receive 60% of this fee.

Do brothels and escort agencies supply condoms and lube?

Condoms must be used for all sexual services and you must be provided with a free supply of condoms and lubricants at no charge in a legal brothel (Public Health and Wellbeing Act 2008). There must be a sign in reception that says “Only safe practices are engaged in on these premises” with a picture of a male wearing a condom (Sex Work Regulations 2006). Under health regulations, the brothel and escort proprietors must also make sure that condoms are used in ‘sexual encounters’. They must store condoms and dispose of them in the right way. You are not required to provide services to a client who refuses to wear a condom (or if you suspect the client has an infectious disease).

Why does my agency ask me to give them proof of my attendance for STI checks?

If you work for an escort agency or brothel, the Sex Work Act (Section 19) makes it an obligation for owners and managers to monitor the health of sex workers who work for them. Owners and managers can be fined up to $5000 for being ‘presumed to have known’ their worker/s were infected with an STI. The defence of owners and managers is that they believed the worker/s had three monthly medical examinations proving otherwise, or that the owner or manager believed on reasonable grounds that the worker/s had no STIs.

If you would like information on where to get free and confidential STI testing phone RhED 1800 458 752 or email sexworker@sexworker.org.au

Do I have to tell the agency, or anyone else, my STI test results?

No, you are under no obligation to provide details of your tests. What most workers do is ask their doctor for a Certificate of Attendance. This certificate merely indicates that you have seen a doctor for STI checks. This certificate does not have any results printed on it – make sure your doctor understands this.

What if my agency asks me for other tests, for example, drug tests?

If you are asked to take any such tests you have every right to refuse. Such a request is an infringement on your right to privacy. If you are worried about this kind of practice in your agency, contact RhED on 1800 458 752 or a solicitor for advice. Remember, any information you do give your employer regarding your health is confidential. Your employer/s are obliged (by law) not to discuss or make available to others such information, without your consent.

How do I apply to be an Approved Brothel Manager?

All Victorian brothels need to be supervised by either the licensee or an approved brothel manager at all times they are open for business. To become an Approved Brothel Manager in Victoria you need to apply for Approval as a Brothel Manager with the Business Licensing Authority at 113 Exhibition Street, Melbourne 1300 135 452. Application forms and guides to making an application can be found at http://www.bla.vic.gov.au/

As you have to complete a detailed form regarding your knowledge of the Sex Work Act and Regulations, it is advisable that you obtain your own copy of the Act and Regulations from Information Victoria for a small fee (phone 1300 366 356) or you can download it from the Victorian Parliamentary website http://www.austlii.edu.au/au/legis/vic/consol_act/swa1994129/

RhED is able to provide linkages to brothels seeking management support.  For more information phone RhED 1800 458 752 or email sexworker@sexworker.org.au

Do I need to pay tax if I'm a sex worker?

The Australian Taxation Office (ATO) administers laws that cover all people who earn money. All money earners are ‘obliged’ to pay their share of tax. Taxation law is complex, so get advice from an accountant, tax lawyer or ATO (13 28 61 or www.ato.gov.au ).

How much tax you end up paying will depend on what you claim as legitimate work related expenses. Get advice about claims from a tax adviser or accountant; in the meantime keep receipts and records of all expenses.

How much tax, how you pay and when you pay also depends on whether you are an employee or whether you are a self-employed contractor. Get advice from a tax accountant or the ATO if you have any doubts about your employment status.

If you are a contractor who is self-employed you are entitled to apply for an Australian Business Number or ABN. You cannot apply for an ABN if you are an ‘employee’. Application forms can be obtained from the ATO’s publications department on 1300 720 092, from the ATO website address http://www.ato.gov.au/businesses , and the Australian Business Register website http://www.abr.gov.au/ABR_BC/ . All ABNs are recorded in the Australian Business Register, which is publicly accessible.

RhED can provide you with a list of sex worker friendly accountants and financial advisers.

For more information phone RhED 1800 458 752 or email sexworker@sexworker.org.au

Do I need to pay GST if I'm a sex worker?

Your employment status affects your liability for the Goods and Services Tax (GST). If you are an employee you do not need to account for GST. However, the situation can be complex depending on where you work, how the fee is collected from the client, how GST is collected from the client and how payments are distributed between the establishment, the sex worker and the ATO. For further information from the ATO go to http://www.ato.gov.au/Business/GST/In-detail/Your-industry/Other-industries/GST-and-the-sex-industry—questions-and-answers/

If you have any doubts at all you should discuss your situation with an accountant and/or the ATO on 13 24 78. It’s better to find out from the start, and from an expert, than to risk a bad result from a tax audit. RhED can provide you with a list of sex worker friendly accountants and financial advisers. You can also get more information about the GST from the ATO website: www.ato.gov.au.