Prostitution laws in Australia


The subject of prostitution has long vexed criminal justice authorities in Australia, as in most other countries throughout the world. Law-makers are faced with the onerous task of attempting to appease the conflicting demands of various segments of society. On the one hand law-makers in Australia wish to uphold the principles of a liberal democratic society by allowing consenting adults to freely engage in sexual conduct, while on the other hand they are anxious to consider the demands of residents who object to the ‘nuisance' aspects of prostitution, as well as those who object to prostitution on religious, moral or other grounds. The issue of AIDS has, in recent years, added a new element to the prostitution debate and has sparked concern in the community regarding the potential for prostitutes and their clients to spread the disease.

The confusion felt by law-makers about how best to cope with prostitution is reflected in prostitution laws themselves, which are clouded in ambiguity and contradiction. This confusion creates problems for both law enforcers and those employed in the industry who are often unaware of the precise legal status of some aspects of prostitution. Furthermore, the majority of Australian citizens are also ignorant of the legal status of prostitution in their state or territory.

This Trends and Issues represents an attempt to clarify the laws relating to prostitution in each state and territory in Australia. In order to obtain a practical insight into the problems associated with prostitution the perspectives of both prostitutes and the police were sought. The authors believe that there is an immediate need for governments to consider reforms of prostitution based on a realistic understanding of the issues involved. They have presented a range of legislative and policy options which could be employed to redress current problems faced by both prostitutes and police.