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Sex work in NSW

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Sex work is legal

Sex work, running a sex industry business and being a sex worker are all legal in NSW—but only if they are done according to NSW laws and regulations.

Anyone over 18 may provide sexual services to a person over the age of consent in exchange for money, goods or favours.

‘Brothels’ or sex services premises are regulated by local councils, just like other businesses. Street sex work is lawful as long as it is not near or within view of a dwelling, school, church or hospital. A dwelling is any home or residence not attached to a shop or commercial premises. 

The legal age for a sex worker is 18

No one may employ a person under 18 as a sex worker. The law says someone under 18 is a child. It is a serious crime to:

  •     force a child to participate in sex work
  •     benefit from child prostitution and/or
  •     allow premises to be used for child prostitution.

The clients of under-age sex workers can also face serious criminal offences. If you operate sex services premises you must make sure that sex workers are over 18.

The under-age sex worker cannot be charged as they are not committing an offence by working, only the person who employs them is. But Police and the Department of Community Services (DoCS) can use child protection laws to protect children who they believe are at risk of harm.

The legal age for a client

Clients must be over 16.  But someone under 18 cannot enter a sex services premises or ‘brothel’.  SWOP recommends that, for their own protection, sex workers should be cautious and only accept clients who are 18 or older.

The definition of a brothel or sex services premises

In NSW, the law defines a brothel (sex services premises) very broadly. They are premises that:

  • are used for prostitution (sex work) or
  • have been used for prostitution and are likely to be used for it again or
  • have been advertised or represented as being used for prostitution, and are likely to be used for prostitution.

If sexual services are advertised or available in a premises it is legally defined as a brothel—no matter what the business is set up for, and even if the premises is only used by one sex worker.

For more information: See 'Brothels or sex services premises' to read about the legal definition of brothels and sex services premises.  

What the laws and regulations focus on

The definition of brothels and sex services premises is important. In NSW the law focuses on the premises, or where sex work takes place. It is important that sex workers understand these laws. 'Brothels and sex services premises' explains these laws in more detail.

'Other laws you should know' looks at the other laws and regulations that affect certain types of sex work, such as:

  •     escort
  •     B&D
  •     massage and
  •     private work.

'Street-based sex work' explains the laws that regulate street work.

'The Public Heath Act and working with HIV' discusses sex workers’ rights and responsibilities if they work while having a Sexually Transmitted Infection (STI) or HIV.


Disclaimer This document is presented for the purposes of providing information, and is not a substitute for independent professional legal advice. Nothing containedn this document is intended as a substitute for your own legal professional’s advice. SWOP and the Law and Justice Foundation (NSW) do not accept any liability for any illness, loss or damage incurred by use of, or reliance upon, the information in this article.Persons using this article should carefully evaluate its accuracy, currency, completeness and relevance for their purposes, and should obtain anyappropriate professional advice relevant to their particular circumstances. SWOP and the Law and Justice Foundation (NSW) cannot guarantee and assumes no legal liability or responsibility for the accuracy, currency or completeness of the information