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Sex work is legal and regulated. Independent sex work is legal, but brothels are illegal; prostitution is not regulated. History[ edit ] Sex work in Australia has operated differently depending on the period of time evaluated. For this reason discussion is divided into three distinct periods: convict, late colonial, and post-federation.
Pre-colonial "prostitution" among Aboriginal peoples is not considered here, since it bore little resemblance to contemporary understanding of the term. The late colonial period viewed prostitution as a public health issue, through the Contagious Diseases Acts.
Since Federation in , the emphasis has been on criminalising activities associated with prostitution. Although not explicitly prohibiting paid sex, the criminal law effectively produced a de facto prohibition.
Some of the women transported to Australia had previously worked in prostitution, while others chose the profession due to economic circumstances, and a severe imbalance of the sexes. While the Bigge Inquiry refers to brothels, these were mainly women working from their own homes.
But criminal law relating to prostitution only dates from around These laws did not make the act of prostitution illegal but did criminalise many activities related to prostitution. These laws were based on English laws passed between and , and related to soliciting, age restrictions, brothel keeping, and leasing accommodation. A May Australian Institute of Criminology report recommended that prostitution not be a criminal offence, since the laws were ineffective and endangered sex workers.