Home » Prostitution in the Australian news

A roundup of prostitution news in Australia

This collection of newspaper articles and TV reports show some of  the issues around prostitution in Australia. The material is arranged according to the diferent states, since prostitution laws vary with each state. There is a brief introduction to each state with links to the relevant legislation.


New South Wales


South Australia

West Australia

Australian Capital Territory

Northern Territory



Victoria: Brothel prostitution was legalised in Victoria in 1994 with the Prostitution Control Act 1994. In 2011, the act was ammended through the Sex Work and other Acts Ammendment Bill and it is now referred to as the Sex Work Act 1994. Brothels are regulated through  Consumer Affairs Victoria  (as are estate agents and motor vehicle traders) Street prostitution remains illegal. The aim of the legislation was to remove the criminal element in the industry, especially the use of underage and trafficked women, and to provide better regulation.

The articles collected here show clearly the failure of the legislation to stop the growth of unregistered brothels and that underage and trafficked women are  found in legal as well as illegal brothels. They also show that corruption exists between the brothel owners and council officers in at least two areas of Melbourne.

The Flesh Trade: A series of investigative articles by Maris Beck and Nick McKenzie on prostitution in Melbourne, published in The Age newspaper in October 2011.

Short video highlighting brothels implicated in sex trafficking in Melbourne

9 Oct 2011 Police get greater powers to crack down on illegal brothels

9 Oct 2011:Chinese illegal brothel syndicates charged with bribery

10 Oct 2011 Links between legal brothels and sex slavery

11 Oct 2011 Brothel fire bombing linked to turf war 

11 Oct 2011  The reality of Melbourne’s sex industry

12 Oct 2011 Migration agents suspected over sex slavery 

13 Oct 2011 Concerns over how to enforce the regulation of brothels

Bribery: There have been several cases of local officials being bribed by illegal brothel owners in order to prevent closure of the brothels

30 Sept 2012:Bribery charges laid against former council officer

12 Sept 2012:Brothel owner charged with briberyhttp://www.theage.com.au/victoria/accused-brothel-madam-to-face-bribery-charges-20120912-25rt8.html

16 Nov 2011:Former council officer jailed for taking bribes from illegal brothels  http://www.theage.com.au/victoria/council-worker-jailed-over-brothel-bribes-20111116-1ni1a.html

Recent ongoing case of arrest of illegal brothel owners linked to sex trafficking syndicates

3 Jul 2013:Illegal brothel owners arrested – only charged with living of the earnings of crime http://www.theage.com.au/victoria/police-arrest-brothel-syndicate-members-in-raids-across-city-20130702-2pa5e.html

15 Jul 2013:Bail refused  http://www.theage.com.au/victoria/court-takes-no-chances-on-alleged-sexworker-ring-20130715-2q07r.html

16 Jul 2013:http://www.theage.com.au/victoria/illegal-brothel-owners-likely-to-evade-jail-20130716-2q20m.html

Sex slavery cases

13 April 2012: Sex slavery case dropped, but brothel manager deported.  http://www.theage.com.au/victoria/brothel-slavery-case-dropped-20120412-1wwnf.html

17 Aug 2009 First conviction for sex slavery in Victoria has sentence reduced http://news.theage.com.au/breaking-news-national/judge-cuts-womans-sex-slavery-jail-term-20090817-en6t.html

Abraham Papo Case: In 2009 Abraham Papo, a 27 year old Melbourne man, was murdered outside a brothel in South Melbourne. He had gone there to try and help a young Korean woman who was working at the brothel and who was being threatened. In 2011, an ABC Four Corners program uncovered trafficking and other crimes connected to this brothel. In 2012, a worker at the brothel was arrested and charged with the murder of Papo and  was found not guilty in Oct 2013.

The following links cover the key events of this case.

8 Oct 2011: In depth article about the case http://www.theage.com.au/national/why-did-abraham-papo-die-20111007-1ldrk.html

17 Oct 2011: ABC Four Corners program “Sex Slavery” which looks at the case  http://www.abc.net.au/4corners/stories/2011/10/06/3333668.htm

17 Jul 2012  Arrest of suspecthttp://www.theage.com.au/victoria/arrest-in-brothel-kill-case-20120717-22772.html

18 Jul
2012  http://www.theage.com.au/victoria/papo-killing-exposes-holes-in-justice-system-20120717-228jp.html

26 Feb 2013:Information from hearinghttp://www.theage.com.au/victoria/man-died-in-bid-to-free-sex-slave-20130225-2f2ax.html

28 Oct 2013 Brothel worker cleared of murder  http://www.theage.com.au/victoria/brothel-worker-cleared-over-killing-20131028-2wbl4.html 

28 Oct 2013 The cleared brohel worker is accused of links to a sex trafficking ring.  http://www.theage.com.au/victoria/cleared-brothel-worker-accused-of-link-to-sextrafficking-syndicate-20131028-2wbtf.html

Other newspaper articles relating to Victoria

4 May 2016 Accused drug dealer owns several illegal brothels.  

17 July 2015 Brothel owner who hid woman in wall cavity fined, but still allowed to own brothels 

6 Feb 2015 Brothel owner who hid women in wall cavity to face penalties

17 Dec 2014 Woman found in wall cavity during brothel search

31 Oct 2014 Sex trafficking on the rise according to Victorian police 

6 June 2014 Police raids on illegal brothels in Melbourne – claims of underage and trafficked women.  http://www.theage.com.au/victoria/police-raid-illegal-brothels-in-brunswick-and-coburg-two-women-arrested-20140606-39oej.html 

2 May 2014 Consumer Affairs Victoria report show that international students are working as brothel managers in Victoria. http://www.theage.com.au/victoria/more-international-students-working-as-brothel-managers-20140502-zr337.html 

8 Feb 2014 70% of brothel owners who were audited were found to be breaking workplace laws. http://www.news.com.au/national/breaking-news/vic-brothels-shortchanged-workers/story-e6frfku9-1226821250844 

3 Mar 2013: Sex Industry Police Unit hampered by lack of resources – no charges in first year of operation  http://www.theage.com.au/victoria/brothel-owners-say-police-sex-unit-shooting-blanks-20130302-2fdew.html

3 Oct 2012: Study finds lack of support for trafficked women  http://www.abc.net.au/news/2012-10-03/study-critical-of-support-for-trafficked-women/4292686

13 Aug 2012: Illegal brothels run from city hotels http://www.watoday.com.au/victoria/sex-and-the-city-brothels-in-cbd-hotels-investigation-finds-20120813-2444o.html

1 Dec 2011: UN Special Rapporteur says legalisation has failed in Victoria  http://www.theage.com.au/victoria/un-official-urges-human-trafficking-unit-20111130-1o719.html

13 Jul 2011: Brothel worker threatened with gun for refusing unprotected sex  http://www.theage.com.au/victoria/prostitute-to-sue-brothel-over-gun-20110712-1hc7n.html

NSW:  Prostitution in NSW is decriminalised, with brothels coming under local council planning regualtions like any other business. Some activities remain illegal, such as child prostitution. The details of prostitution related offences are found in the Summary Offences Act 1988 (Part 3)

The collection of articles show that despite decriminaliation, illegal brothels, under the guise of massage parlours, are increasing, and sex trafficking is a serious problem.

24 May 2015 North Sydney Council launches legal action against illegal brothel that has already been served with two closure orders

5 April 2015 A consultancy group that investigated illegal brothels has closed after 10 years because there is no legal framework for using the evidence.

19 March 2015  Article about private investigators hired by councils who go undercover in illegal brothels to obtain evidence for prosecutions. It highlights the large number of massage parlours that are in fact illegal brothels.

9 March 2015 Council loses case to have illegal brothel closed 

26 Oct 2014  Exploitation of Asian women in illegal Sydney brothels.

28 Sept 2014 Illegal brothel operates from site previously shut down by court. A  local council building inspector received free services in return for his silence on nature of the business.

28 Sept 2104 Editorial on illegal brothels in NSW 

21 Sept 2014  Councils hire undercover operators to provide evidence of illegal brothels

26 May 2014 Widespread corruption and crime are problems in the NSW decriminalised system.http://www.smh.com.au/comment/smh-editorial/brothels-nsw-government-must-address-corruption-20140526-zro14.html 

30 Mar 2014  Asian women on student visas forced to work in Sydney brothels up to 20 hrs a day. http://www.smh.com.au/nsw/trafficking-women-lured-with-student-visas-forced-into-sex-slavery-20140329-35q88.html 

29 March 2014 Visa scams trap Asian women in brothels

8 Mar 2014 Brothel owners who have been banned in Victoria for employing underage prostitutes are now operating brothels in NSW  http://www.dailytelegraph.com.au/news/nsw/brothel-owners-banned-in-victoria-for-employing-underage-prostitutes-now-running-big-brothels-in-sydney/story-fni0cx12-1226848537447 

1 Dec 2013: Expansion of illegal brothels in Sydney  http://www.theage.com.au/nsw/brothel-barons-expand-as-councils-fail-to-act-on-illegal-activities-20131130-2yi9m.html

24 Nov 2013 Major health insurer stops rebates to massage parlours that have been providing sexual services 

17 Nov 2013  Illegal brothels expand in Sydney. http://www.smh.com.au/nsw/new-redlight-zone-as-illegal-sex-trade-expands-north-20131116-2xnlb.html 

25 May 2012 Six charged over child prostitution ring in Sydney

Chee Mei Wong case. In 2013, Chee Mei Wong was charged with sexual slavery offences involving Malaysian students who were required to work 20 hour shifts in a Sydney brothel to pay off $5000 debt bondage. She was found guilty of the charges and sentenced to 6 years jail.

5 Feb 2013 Report from  trial  http://www.smh.com.au/nsw/students-forced-into-sex-acts-court-told-20130204-2dumq.html 

6 Feb 2013 Evidence from one of the trafficked women  http://www.smh.com.au/nsw/sex-worker-lured-with-study-tour-court-told-20130205-2dwit.html 

10 Feb 2013: Further trial  report  http://www.theage.com.au/nsw/the-lure-of-a-fresh-start-ended-at-a-north-shore-brothel-court-told-20130209-2e563.html

3 April 2013 Chee Mei Wong found guilty of keeping 6 Maylaysian students in sexual servitude http://www.smh.com.au/nsw/madam-convicted-of-enslaving-students-at-north-shore-brothel-20130402-2h55w.html 

5 July, she is jailed for six years.  www.smh.com.au/nsw/jail-for-brothel-keeper-who-enslaved-women-20130705-2phgf.html

Summary of the Chee Mei Wong case by the Human Tafficking Working Group, University of Queensland

28 May 2012: Australia’s biggest brothel getting planning permission in Sydney. It will have 40 rooms.  http://www.theage.com.au/business/australias-biggest-brothel-poised-to-get-planning-nod-20120528-1zdq2.html

25 May 2012 Child prostitution ring in Sydney uncovered  http://www.theage.com.au/nsw/six-charged-over-sydney-child-prostitution-ring-20120525-1z8hz.html

10 May 2010: Brothel owners charged with keeping sex slaves

QLD  Brothel prostitution and single operators were legalised in Queensland in 1999 with the Prostitution Act 1999. The Act was ammended in 2010.Brothels are licensed by the Prostitution Licensing Authority (PLA). Street prostitution, unlicensed brothels, massage parlour prostitution and outcalls from licensed brothels remain illegal. Some of the problems in Queensland are the growth of the industry in mining towns because of the mining boom, and the continuing illegal sector.

16 Apr 2013  A Brisbane woman is jailed for 9 years for trafficking her nine year old daughter from Thailand to work in her prostitution business. This is the first successful conviction for child sex trafficking in Australia.   http://www.theaustralian.com.au/news/nation/brisbane-mother-jailed-for-child-trafficking-of-daughter-nine/story-e6frg6nf-1226621533056

30 Sept 2013 New brothel, with mostly Asian women, is to be closely scrutinised for signs of sex trafficking.  http://www.ipswichadvertiser.com.au/news/tight-watch-qld-brothel-mostly-asian-sex-workers/2036226/ 

10 Jul 2012: Sex trafficking increases in Qld mining towns

30 Jan 2011 The PLA chairman gives evidence of the flourishing illegal sector.  http://www.couriermail.com.au/news/queensland/illegal-prostitution-exploding-in-queensland/story-e6freoof-1225996684163

15 Aug 2009 Research by Qld academics shows most prostitution is in illegal brothels.  http://www.abc.net.au/news/2009-08-15/prostitution-laws-failing-sex-workers/1391654

South Australia:  Brothels are illegal in South Australia as is soliciting in public places, receiving money from the prostitution of another person and procuring.  There have been several attempts recently to decriminalise prostitution, the latest in July 2015 with the Statutes Amendment (Decriminalisation of Sex Work) Bill 2015

11 Nov 2013 The 2013 Bill likely to fail through lack of time http://www.adelaidenow.com.au/news/south-australia/sa-labor-mp-steph-keys-third-attempt-at-decriminalising-prostitution-and-sex-work-destined-to-fail/story-fni6uo1m-1226757581984 

16 May 2013: Yet another attempt by MP Steph Key to decriminalise prostitution in SA.  http://www.adelaidenow.com.au/news/south-australia/south-australia-labor-mp-steph-key-makes-new-attempt-to-decriminalise-prostitution/story-e6frea83-1226644447085

15 Nov 2012: The 2012 Sex Work Reform Bill fails by one vote.  http://www.adelaidenow.com.au/news/south-australia/push-to-decriminalise-prostitution-in-south-australia-fails-by-one-vote/story-e6frea83-1226517390642

West Australia:  Prostitution in this state comes under the Prostitution Act 2000. While prostitution itself is legal, many activities associated with it, such as brothels, soliciting in a public place and pimping, are illegal. The Prostitution Bill 2011 was introduced to regulate the industry and allow brothels in non residential area. Following a period of consultation it was presented, with changes, in parliament in Nov 2011. It failed to gain majortity support. One of the major problems in West Autralia is the growth of prostitution associated with the mining boom.

1 Mar 2014 Liberal MP Peter Abetz wants WA to adopt the Nordic model.  https://au.news.yahoo.com/thewest/news/a/21763602/throwaway-girls-why-mp-wants-sex-trade-reform/

17 Feb 2012: Fly-in fly-out mine workers driving demand in Geraldton  http://au.news.yahoo.com/thewest/a/-/news/12936946/sex-worker-reveals-industry-truth/

8 Feb 2012: Prostitution in Geraldton  http://au.news.yahoo.com/thewest/a/-/news/12843315/illegal-sex-trade-confirmed/

20 Aug 2011: Women from Hong Kong coming to WA on working holiday visas to work in sex industry  http://au.news.yahoo.com/thewest/a/-/breaking/10076082/women-encouraged-to-come-to-wa-to-work-as-masseurs/

ACT: Prostitution was decriminalised in 1992 with the passage of the Prostitution Act 1992.  Brothels and escort agencies are legal but must be registered, as must the prostitutes, through the Office of Regulatory Services  A major review of the legislation took place in 2011 and the report  was presented in 2012. No chnges have yet been made.

In early 2014, two ACT politicians, Giulia Jones and Vicki Dunne went to Europe to look at prostitution in various countries. On their return, Giulia Jones called for the establishment of exit programs, and an investigation into illegal prostitution and advertising of sexual services in the ACT

11 Apr 2012: Brothel owner found guilty of keeping sex slave

10 Apr 2012: Brothel owner charged with slavery http://www.theage.com.au/act-news/brothel-madam-in-control-20120410-1wm9d.html

1 Oct 2010: Review of legislation followin the death of a 17 year old woman in a Canberra brothel  http://www.abc.net.au/news/2010-09-30/sex-trade-laws-under-review/2279780

Northern Territory: Brothel prostitution is illegal under the Prostitution Regulation Act 2004 but sole operators are legal but unregulated. Street prostitution is illegal. Escort agencies are legal and must be registered with the Northern Territory Licensing Commission. Sole operators and workers in escort agencies must be registered with the police. One of the major problems in the Northern Territory is the targetting of indigenous women for sex by white men.

4 May 2013:
Homeless Aboriginal women targeted for sex by white men in Darwin  http://www.news.com.au/national/paul-toohey-darwin/story-e6frfkp9-1226634776568

Tasmania: The Sex Industry Offences Act 2005 regulates prostitution in Tasmania. Prostitution is legal, but brothels and street prostitution are illegal. Self employed operators are legal and may operate with one other person. There have been reviews of the legislation in 2008 and 2012, but to date, no legislative changes have occurred.

21 August 2013 Prostitution of 12 year old leads to law change in Tasmania


2014 Article about the women trafficked from Asia to Australia for sexual servitude.   http://www.theaustralian.com.au/news/features/asian-slaves-to-the-australian-sex-industry/story-e6frg8h6-1226814033674 

2013 Single mothers have their welfare benefits reduced and some resort to prostitution and strip. http://www.theage.com.au/federal-politics/political-news/brothels-say-welfare-cuts-push-mums-to-sex-work-20130120-2d19x.html 

Sex industry wants foreign sex workers to come to Australia on 457 visa http://www.news.com.au/national/foreign-prostitutes-wanted-on-457-skilled-work-visas/story-fncynjr2-1226660651907

On 6 April 2016, France voted to adopt the Nordic model. Read the statemenet by CATW International on this historic legislation. 

A collection of newspaper articles that show the problems associated with prostitution in New Zealand

Under Age Prostitution. Despite one of the key aims of the legislation being the elimination of under age prostitution, this remains a major problem. Most of the underage prostitution takes place on the streets, but there have been some prosecutions of brothel managers for employing under age girls in brothels.

Sept 2013 Radio Australia interview with NZ member of parliament who says that legalisation has encouraged street prostitution among Pacific Island girls

June 2013 Concerns for the safety of underage street prostitutes in Auckland

April 2013 Call to change the law so that street prositution is illegal. This is seen as the only way of  elimainating under age prostitution.

Mar 2013 Report of girls as young as 13 earning $600 a night on the streets in Aukland

Mar 2013 The NZ Prime Minister admits that legislation has failed to stop under age prostitution. 

July 2012 A New Plymouth brothelkeeper convicted of employing 15 year old. He loses his appeal in the Supreme Court

June 2012 A 16year old street prostitute in Manukua (Auckland) is raped at knifepoint

Dec 2010 Teenagers in South Auckland sent to work as prostitutes by their parents.

Dec 2010 A Christchurch brothel manager given light home detention sentence for employing underage girls 

June 2010 Auckland police concerns about girls as young as 12 working on the streets 

June 2010 Auckland’s Dirty Secret – a short You Tube clip on underage street prostitution in Auckland

Jan 2008 Evidence of widespread underage prostitution throughout New Zealand 5 years after legalisation 

Community Concerns. There are widespread reports of community concerns regarding street prostitution, location of brothels in residential areas and the proximity of brothels to schools etc. Several towns and cities have sought to place restrictions on the location of brothels.

Mar 2013  Lyttelton (the port of Christchurch) bans large brothels.

Jan 2012 A brothel opens next to a primary school in Auckland

Dec 2011  Illegal brothel in Auckland suburb closed after community resistance 

April 2011  A survey shows 66% of respondents want brothels banned from residential area. 

Illegal Brothels and Workers. Despite the decriminalization of prositution, illegal brothels are still a problem as well as the employment of women on temporary visas.

April 2015 A women is jailed for 27 months for recruiting women from Thailand to work in brothels.

Mar 2013 Christchurch illegal brothel owner fined $8000 for operating a brothel without the required council consent.

Dec 2011 Illegal brothels flourish in Hamilton

Jun 2011 Motel owners warned against letting out room to foreign prostitutes during Rugby World Cup

May 2011 Concerns over influx of foreign prostitutes during Rugby World Cup

Apr 2011. An influx of Chinese prostitutes drives the illegal sector.

Oct 2010 South Korean prostitutes work illegaly in New Zealand on temporary visas.

Trafficking: New Zealand has been identified as a destination country (mostly of women from Asia) and also a source  for trafficking within the country. New Zealand legislation does not recognise the internal trafficking of persons as a crime.

Jun 2014  The US State Department Trafficking in Persons report names New Zealand as a destination country for trafficking in persons as well as a source country for underage sex trafficking of Maori and Pacific island children.

Jun 2012 The US State Department Trafficking in Persons report names New Zealand as both a source and destination country for trafficking in persons

Sept 2011  US State official critisises New Zealand’s definition of trafficking which does not include trafficking within the country