In , within six years of the founding of the colony, it was reported that there were now "large numbers of females who are living by a life of prostitution in the city of Adelaide, out of all proportion to the respectable population". The Police Act  set penalties for prostitutes found in public houses or public places  This was consistent with the vagrancy laws then operating throughout the British Empire and remained the effective legislation for most of the remainder of the century, although it had little effect despite harsher penalties enacted in and Following the scandal described by WT Stead in the UK, there was much discussion of the white slave trade in Adelaide, and with the formation of the Social Purity Society of South Australia in along similar lines to that in other countries, similar legislation to the UK Criminal Law Consolidation Amendment Act was enacted, making it an offence to procure the defilement of a female by fraud or threat the Protection of Young Persons Act.
While current legislation is based on acts of parliament from the s and s, at least six unsuccessful attempts have been made to reform the laws, starting in Parliament voted a select committee of inquiry in August,  renewed following the election. The committee report recommended decriminalisation. A number of issues kept sex work in the public eye during and The next development occurred on 8 February when Ian Gilfillan Australian Democrat MLC stated he would introduce a decriminalisation private members bill.
He did so on 10 April  but it met opposition from groups such as the Uniting Church and it lapsed when parliament recessed for the winter.
Another bill came in and then Mark Brindal , a Liberal backbencher, produced a discussion paper on decriminalisation in November , and on 9 February he introduced a private member's bill Prostitution Decriminalisation Bill to decriminalise prostitution and the Prostitution Regulation Bill on 23 February. He had been considered to have a better chance of success than the previous initiatives due to a "sunrise clause" which would set a time frame for a parliamentary debate prior to it coming into effect.
He twice attempted to get decriminalisation bills passed, although his party opposed this. It had little support and lapsed when parliament recessed. No further attempts to reform the law have been made for some time, however in a governing Labor backbencher and former minister, Stephanie Key , announced she would introduce a private members decriminalisation bill.
She presented her proposals to the Caucus in September ,   and tabled a motion on 24 November "That she have leave to introduce a Bill for an Act to decriminalise prostitution and regulate the sex work industry; to amend the Criminal Law Consolidation Act , the Equal Opportunity Act , the Fair Work Act , the Summary Offences Act and the Workers Rehabilitation and Compensation Act ; and for other purpose".
The proposal was opposed by the Family First Party that had ten per cent of the votes in the Legislative Council , where Robert Brokenshire now opposed decriminalisation. Key introduced another Bill  in May Prostitution has existed in Tasmania since its early days as a penal colony, when large numbers of convict women started arriving in the s.
Some of the women who were transported there already had criminal records related to prostitution. Prostitution was not so much a profession as a way of life for some women to make ends meet, particularly in a society in which there was a marked imbalance of gender, and convict women had no other means of income.
Nevertheless, the concept of 'fallen women' and division of women into 'good' and 'bad' was well established. In an attempt to produce some law and order the Vagrancy Act was introduced. Other attempts were the Penitent's Homes and Magdalen Asylums as rescue missions.
In like other British colonies, Tasmania passed a Contagious Diseases Act based on similar UK legislation of the s ,  and established Lock Hospitals in an attempt to prevent venereal diseases amongst the armed forces, at the instigation of the Royal Navy. The Act ceased to operate in in the face of repeal movements. However, there was little attempt to suppress prostitution itself.
What action there was against prostitution was mainly to keep it out of the public eye, using vagrancy laws. More specific legislation dates from the early twentieth century, such as the Criminal Code Act Crimes against Morality , and the Police Offences Act Prior to the Act, soliciting by a prostitute, living on the earnings of a prostitute, keeping a disorderly house and letting a house to a tenant to use as a disorderly house were criminal offences.
Sole workers and escort work, which was the main form of prostitution in the stat, were legal in Tasmania. Reform was suggested by a government committee in The Bill proposed registration for operators of sexual services businesses. Consultation with agencies, local government, interested persons and organisations occurred during , resulting in the Sex Industry Regulation Bill being tabled in Parliament in June It passed the House of Assembly and was tabled in the Legislative Council, where it was soon clear that it would not be passed, and was subsequently lost.
It was replaced by the Sex Industry Offences Act Essentially, in response to protests the Government moved from a position of liberalising to one of further criminalising. The Act that was passed consolidated and clarified the existing law in relation to sex work by providing that it was legal to be a sex worker and provide sexual services but that it was illegal for a person to employ or otherwise control or profit from the work of individual sex workers.
A review clause was included because of the uncertainty as to what the right way to proceed was. The Act commenced 1 January Prostitution is legal, but it is illegal for a person to employ or otherwise control or profit from the work of individual sex workers.
The Sex Industry Offences Act  states that a person must not be a commercial operator of a sexual services business — that is, "someone who is not a self-employed sex worker and who, whether alone or with another person, operates, owns, manages or is in day-to-day control of a sexual services business".
Street prostitution is illegal. This law explicitly outlines that it is illegal to assault a sex worker, to receive commercial sexual services, or provide or receive sexual services unless a prophylactic is used. In , the Justice Department conducted a review of the Act and received a number of submissions, in accordance with the provisions of the Act. In June , the Attorney-General Lara Giddings announced the Government was going to proceed with reform, using former Attorney-General Judy Jackson 's draft legislation as a starting point.
However, her Attorney-general, former premier David Bartlett , did not favour this position  but resigned shortly afterwards, being succeeded by Brian Wightman. Wightman released a discussion paper in January This was seen when Whistleblowers Tasmania invited Sheila Jeffreys to conduct a series of talks including one at the Law Faculty at the University of Tasmania.
The government invited submissions on the discussion paper until the end of March, and received responses from a wide range of individuals and groups. The Government's top priority is the health and safety of sex workers and the Tasmanian community.
Victoria has a long history of debating prostitution, and was the first State to advocate regulation as opposed to decriminalisation in New South Wales rather than suppression of prostitution. Legislative approaches and public opinion in Victoria have gradually moved from advocating prohibition to control through regulation.
While much of the activities surrounding prostitution were initially criminalised de jure , de facto the situation was one of toleration and containment of 'a necessary evil'. Laws against prostitution existed from the founding of the State in The Vagrant Act  included prostitution as riotous and indecent behaviour carrying a penalty of imprisonment for up to 12 months with the possibility of hard labour Part II, s 3.
This Act was not repealed till , but was relatively ineffective either in controlling venereal diseases or prostitution. The Police Offences Act  separated riotous and indecent behaviour from prostitution, making it a specific offence for a prostitute to 'importune' a person in public s 7 2. Despite the laws, prostitution flourished, the block of Melbourne bounded by La Trobe Street, Spring Street, Lonsdale Street and Exhibition Street being the main red light district, and their madams were well known.
An attempt at suppression in was ineffectual. The Police offences Act  prohibited 'brothel keeping', leasing a premise for the purpose of a brothel, and living off prostitution ss 5, 6.
Despite a number of additional legislative responses in the early years of the century, enforcement was patchy at best. Eventually amongst drug use scandals, brothels were shut down in the s. All of these laws were explicitly directed against women, other than living on the avails. In the s brothels evaded prohibition by operating as 'massage parlours', leading to pressure to regulate them, since public attitudes were moving more towards regulation rather than prohibition.
Community concerns were loudest in the traditional Melbourne stroll area of St. A Working Party was assembled in and led to the Planning Brothel Act ,  as a new approach.
Part of the political bargaining involved in passing the act was the promise to set up a wider inquiry. The inquiry was chaired by Marcia Neave , and reported in The recommendations to allow brothels to operate legally under regulation tried to avoid some of the issues that arose in New South Wales in It was hoped that regulation would allow better control of prostitution and at the same time reduce street work.
The Government attempted to implement these in the Prostitution Regulation Act This created an incoherent patchwork approach. In a working group was set up by the Attorney-General, which resulted in the Prostitution Control Act PCA  now known as the Sex Work Act  This Act legalises and regulates the operations of brothels and escort agencies in Victoria.
The difference between the two is that in the case of a brothel clients come to the place of business, which is subject to local council planning controls. In the case of an escort agency, clients phone the agency and arrange for a sex worker to come to their homes or motels.
A brothel must obtain a permit from the local council Section 21A. A brothel or escort agency must not advertise its services. Section 18 Also, a brothel operator must not allow alcohol to be consumed at the brothel, Section 21 nor apply for a liquor licence for the premises; nor may they allow a person under the age of 18 years to enter a brothel nor employ as a sex worker a person under 18 years of age, Section 11A though the age of consent in Victoria is 16 years.
Owner-operated brothels and private escort workers are not required to obtain a licence, but must be registered, and escorts from brothels are permitted. If only one or two sex workers run a brothel or escort agency, which does not employ other sex workers, they also do not need a licence, but are required to be registered.
However, in all other cases, the operator of a brothel or escort agency must be licensed. The licensing process enables the licensing authority to check on any criminal history of an applicant.
All new brothels are limited to having no more than six rooms. However, larger brothels which existed before the Act was passed were automatically given licences and continue to operate, though cannot increase the number of rooms.
Sex workers employed by licensed brothels are not required to be licensed or registered. Amending Acts were passed in and , and a report on the state of sex work in Victoria issued in The Act is now referred to as the Sex Work Act In further amendments were introduced,  and assented to in December The stated purposes of the Act  is to assign and clarify responsibility for the monitoring, investigation and enforcement of provisions of the Sex Work Act; to continue the ban on street prostitution.
When the oppositional Coalition government was elected in it decided to retain the legislation. Sullivan and Jeffries also wrote in the report that the legislation change of created new problems:.
Ongoing adjustments to legislation became necessary as state policy makers attempted to deal with a myriad of unforeseen issues that are not addressed by treating prostitution as commercial sex—child prostitution, trafficking of women, the exploitation and abuse of prostituted women by big business. The reality is that prostitution cannot be made respectable.
Legalisation does not make it so. Prostitution is an industry that arises from the historical subordination of women and the historical right of men to buy and exchange women simply as objects for sexual use. It thrives on poverty, drug abuse, the trafficking in vulnerable women and children Legalisation compounds the harms of prostitution rather than relieving them.
It is not the answer. In November , 95 licensed brothels existed in Victoria and a total of small owner-operators were registered in the state Of these, were escort agents, two were brothels, and two were combined brothels and escort agents. Of the 95 licensed brothels, rooms existed and four rooms were located in small exempt brothels. Of licensed prostitution service providers i. However, a study conducted by the University of Melbourne, Melbourne Sexual Health Centre and Victoria's Alfred Hospital , concluded that "The number of unlicensed brothels in Melbourne is much smaller than is generally believed.
A total of advertisements, representing separate establishments, were analysed. As of April , street prostitution continues to be illegal in the state of Victoria  and the most recent review process of the legislation in terms of street-based sex work occurred at the beginning of the 21st century and a final report was published by the Attorney General's Street Prostitution Advisory Group. Kilda , located in the City of Port Phillip, is a metropolitan location in which a significant level of street prostitution occurred—this remained the case in The Advisory Group consisted of residents, traders, street-based sex workers, welfare agencies, the City of Port Phillip, the State Government and Victoria Police, and released the final report after a month period.
The Advisory Group seeks to use law enforcement strategies to manage and, where possible, reduce street sex work in the City of Port Phillip to the greatest extent possible, while providing support and protection for residents, traders and workers.
It proposes a harm minimisation approach to create opportunities for street sex workers to leave the industry and establish arrangements under which street sex work can be conducted without workers and residents suffering violence and abuse A two-year trial of tolerance areas and the establishment of street worker centres represents the foundation of the package proposed by the Advisory Group.
Tolerance areas would provide defined geographic zones in which clients could pick-up street sex workers. The areas would be selected following rigorous scrutiny of appropriate locations by the City of Port Phillip, and a comprehensive process of community consultation.
Tolerance areas would be created as a Local Priority Policing initiative and enshrined in an accord. The concluding chapter of the report is entitled "The Way Forward" and lists four recommendations that were devised in light of the publication of the report. The four recommendations are listed as: Alongside numerous other organisations and individuals, SA released its response to the recommendations of the Committee that were divided into two sections: Opposition to all of the recommendations of the Victorian Parliamentary Inquiry 2.
In terms of HIV, a journal article by the Scarlet Alliance SA organisation—based on research conducted in —explained that it is illegal for a HIV-positive sex worker to engage in sex work in Victoria; although, it is not illegal for a HIV-positive client to hire the services of sex workers.
Additionally, according to the exact wording of the SA document, "It is not a legal requirement to disclose HIV status prior to sexual intercourse; however, it is an offence to intentionally or recklessly infect someone with HIV.
In the state of Victoria, there are 3. According to her report, there has been an overall growth in the industry since legalisation in the mids and that with increased competition between prostitution businesses, earnings have decreased; 20 years ago there were to women in prostitution as a whole, as of the report, there were women in the legal trade alone and the illegal trade was estimated to be 4 to 5 times larger.
These legal businesses are commonly used by criminal elements as a front to launder money from human trafficking, underage prostitution, and other illicit enterprises. In addition, hoteliers, casinos, taxi drivers, clothing manufacturers and retailers, newspapers, advertising agencies, and other logically-related businesses profit from prostitution in the state.
One prostitution business in Australia is publicly traded on the Australian stock exchange. Sullivan's claims have been widely disputed. Like other Australian states, Western Australia has had a long history of debates and attempts to reform prostitution laws. In the absence of reform, varying degrees of toleration have existed. The current legislation is the Prostitution Control Act Despite the fact that brothels are illegal, the state has a long history of tolerating and unofficially regulating them.
Prostitution in Western Australia has been intimately tied to the history of gold mining. Like other Australian colonies, legislation tended to be influence by developments in Britain. The Police Act was no different, establishing penalties for soliciting or vagrancy, while the Criminal Law Amendment Act dealt with procurement.
Brothel keepers were prosecuted under the Municipal Institutions Act , by which all municipalities had passed brothel suppression by-laws in Prostitution was much debated in the media and parliament, but despite much lobbying, venereal diseases were not included in the Health Act The war years and the large number of military personnel in Perth and Fremantle concentrated attention on the issue, however during much of Western Australian history, control of prostitution was largely a police affair rather than a parliamentary one, as a process of 'containment'.
In addition to the above the following laws dealt with prostitution: Prostitution Bills were also introduced in  and Much of the debate on the subject under this government centred on the Prostitution Amendment Act ,  introduced in by the Alan Carpenter 's Australian Labor Party Government. Although it passed the upper house narrowly and received Royal Assent on 14 April , it was not proclaimed before the state election , in which the Carpenter and the ALP narrowly lost power in September, and therefore remained inactive.
The Act was based partly on the approach taken in in New Zealand and which in turn was based on the approach in NSW. It would have decriminalised brothels and would have required certification certification would not have applied to independent operators. Therefore, the Act continued to be in force. Brothels existed in a legal grey area, although 'containment' had officially been disbanded, in Perth in and subsequently in Kalgoorlie. In opposition the ALP criticised the lack of action on prostitution by the coalition government.
His critics stated that Porter "would accommodate the market demand for prostitution by setting up a system of licensed brothels in certain non-residential areas" and that people "should accept that prostitution will occur and legalise the trade, because we can never suppress it entirely" and that it is "like alcohol or gambling — saying it should be regulated rather than banned.
Porter challenged his critics to come up with a better model and rejected the Swedish example of only criminalising clients. However he followed through on a promise he made in early to clear the suburbs of sex work. Porter released a ministerial statement  and made a speech in the legislature on 25 November ,   inviting public submissions.
The plan was immediately rejected by religious groups. By the time the consultation closed on 11 February , submissions were received, many repeating many of the arguments of the preceding years. This time Porter found himself criticised by both sides of the debate, for instance churches that supported the Coalition position in opposition, now criticised them,  while sex worker groups that supported the Carpenter proposals continued to oppose coalition policies,   as did health groups.
On 14 June the Minister made a 'Green Bill'  draft legislation available for public comment over a six-week period. Following consultation, the government announced a series of changes to the bill that represented compromises with its critics,  and the changes were then introduced into parliament on 3 November ,  where it received a first and second reading.
Sex workers continued to stand in opposition. Since the government was in a minority, it required the support of several independent members to ensure passage through the Legislative Assembly. Porter left State politics in June , being succeeded by Michael Mischin. Mischin admitted it would be unlikely that the bill would pass in that session. The Barnett government was returned in that election with a clear majority, but stated it would not reintroduce the previous bill and that the subject was a low priority.
Meanwhile, sex workers continue to push for decriminalisation. Christmas Island is a former British colony, which was administered as part of the Colony of Singapore. The laws of Singapore , including prostitution law, were based on British law. For the current situation see Western Australia.
After transfer of sovereignty to Australia in , Singapore's colonial law was still in force on the islands until For the current situation see New South Wales. From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia. Sex work is legal and regulated. Independent sex work is legal, but brothels are illegal; prostitution is not regulated. Human trafficking in Australia. Retrieved 15 April Historical Perspectives on law in Australia, ed D. Kirkby, Oxford University Press, Oxford, pp. Crimes Against Morality, in H.
Introduction to Crime and Criminology. Trends and issues in crime and criminal justice No. Prostitution laws in Australia, May ". Experiences of commercial sex in a representative sample of adults".
Archived from the original PDF on 24 October ABC News 1 Oct ". Submissions Archived 7 April at the Wayback Machine. ACL 11 May ". Archived from the original on 10 October Canberra Times 19 May ". Archived from the original on 29 June ABC 23 March ". Justice 13 July " PDF. February Archived 25 April at the Wayback Machine. ABC 6 June ". ACT sex industry is better protected under law.
Canberra Times 7 October ". Archived from the original on 2 November ABC 15 June ". The passing of convict society saw a change in the attitude of middle class people to prostitution.
While the sexual exploitation of convict women was widely acknowledged, it was accepted as a reflection of the immoral nature of the women themselves, who were not ordinary women but 'whores'. With the move to a 'free' society, prostitution came to be seen in the same light as many other aspects of working class culture: Alongside sporadic and largely unsuccessful efforts to 'rescue' prostitutes was an increasing array of legislation designed to control prostitution.
Similar concerns were evident in Kalgoorlie in the early s. Here the intensely masculine, frontier-style town, with large numbers of alluvial prospectors, was being replaced by a more family-oriented society based upon wage-labour in deep mines.
Such behaviour was considered inappropriate in the presence of increasing numbers of 'respectable' women and children so moves were taken by the police which eventually localised the brothels and severely curtailed the public movement of sex workers Davidson, , Other pressures also affected society's willingness to intervene in the lives of prostitutes.
Health considerations, for instance, became increasingly important in the context of British imperial expansion in the latter half of the nineteenth century. While venereal disease was not a new phenomenon in that century, governments saw it as an increasingly serious problem, especially as it affected the fitness of the nation's military personnel.
Prostitutes were targeted as the major carriers of VD and the most vulnerable to control. In Britain, the government enacted the controversial Contagious Diseases CD Acts of the s which aimed to provide a pool of disease- free prostitutes for the use of troops in English garrison towns.
The British military authorities also wanted similar legislation introduced in ports regularly visited by its troopships.
Other colonies, notably Victoria and Queensland, introduced such CD Acts without any direct pressure from the military, their intention being more clearly designed for the protection of the civilian male population Evans, ; Arnot, It is clear that many in the colonies saw the CD Acts not only, although primarily, as a health measure.
They were also a way of controlling prostitutes' behaviour generally. As the editor of the Perth Sunday Times argued in It is wanted in the interests of morality and public decency; it is wanted for the protection of the prostitutes themselves; it is wanted because syphilis is becoming dangerously prevalent and because the only effective means of checking it is to put the women of the town under some restraint Davidson, , p. Like the British legislation, the colonial laws provided for compulsory examination of prostitutes and their forcible detention in so-called lock hospitals if found to be suffering from a venereal disease.
Unlike the British legislation, however, the colonial versions were not geographically specific but applied to women throughout the colony as well as in the ports. The laws were obviously discriminatory, applying only to women and not to the men who must have infected them. While some politicians conceded the injustice and illogicality of this, none was prepared to extend the Act to cover men.
As the premier of Queensland, William Kidston, candidly admitted, 'In a Parliament, however, which was composed of 72 men, no seriously minded man would propose to introduce such an innovation' Evans, , p. Not all colonial governments were so insensitive to the civil rights of women. South Australia, for instance, prided itself on doing things differently from the former convict colonies, its Advocate General declaring that CD-style legislation was not in accordance 'with the sentiments of the Colony', representing as it did an infringement on the rights of women and official condoning of immorality Horan, , p.
Western Australian legislators were likewise sensitive to lobbying from religious, feminist and civil rights groups and deleted sections from the Health Act which provided for compulsory notification and treatment of venereal disease, fearing that this was a version of the CD Act Davidson, , pp.
Those colonies which did introduce and enforce the CD Acts were arguably influenced by their heritage of female convictism. As Kay Daniels says of Tasmania, the upper classes.
Decades during which the mere accusation that a woman was a whore had been sufficient to deny her protection and civil rights had no doubt blunted colonial sensibilities and left a society more anxious than most to draw a dividing line between the prostitute and the 'respectable' woman Daniels, , p. The issue of the control of venereal disease raises important questions about not just the legislation on a colony's statute books but also the ways in which it was administered.
Different emphasis and interpretation could result in radically different implementation of essentially similar laws, with significantly different consequences for individual sex workers.
In Queensland, for instance, the Act for the Suppression of Contagious Diseases of was not applied universally but only to particular centres of population, largely because of the cost, the limited facilities and the fear of a backlash of organised protest Evans, , p. However, within the gazetted areas women who found their names on the police list were subject to regular medical examinations and if diagnosed as having syphilis or gonorrhoea were incarcerated in special lock hospitals for periods of from three to six months.
Inmates in these hospitals were treated more like prisoners than patients, subject to strict rules and regulations in the hope that such discipline would bring them 'to a sense of their past degradation' Evans, , p. Recalcitrant patients could be placed in solitary confinement, placed on a diet of bread and water or even removed to the lock-up and visitors were not permitted. Medical treatment was largely ineffective, given that there was no effective cure until the introduction of Salvarsan treatment in gave relief to some victims of the disease.
More effective treatment was not available until the use of penicillin from the s. For Queensland prostitutes, the legislation was enormously intrusive, forcing them to keep on the move to avoid police notice or to relocate outside the gazetted areas. Once caught in the web of official notice life could become a tedious series of imprisonments in the dreaded lock hospital. By contrast to the Queensland situation the Victorian contagious diseases legislation, embodied in the Act for the Conservation of Public Health of , was never brought into operation.
According to Meg Arnot , pp. But, this did not mean that diseased prostitutes were free from official harassment. On the contrary, the Victorian police had ample flexibility under the vagrancy clauses of the Police Offences Act to cover this contingency. A similar strategy was employed by the Western Australian police after the deletion of the compulsory VD clauses from the Health Bill Davidson, , pp.
Concerns about the spread of venereal disease became especially acute in times of war when authorities became alarmed at the effect on the fighting potential of the armed forces. In such circumstances, officials were prepared to take drastic action in the interests of national security. In Perth, for instance, several cases of syphilis amongst recruits at Blackboy Hill during late were attributed to prostitutes in Roe Street brothels.
The police immediately instructed the Government Medical Officer, Dr Blanchard, to examine all the brothel inmates and report his findings. Any women found to be diseased were prosecuted as vagrants. This initial inspection was followed by regular fortnightly checks, paid for at the cost of a guinea a visit by the prostitutes.
The police and medical authorities had in effect introduced a system of regulation of the Roe Street inmates without any legislative sanction whatsoever.
The Second World War saw even more drastic official harassment of professional sex workers and so-called 'good-time girls' who provided sex for servicemen on a less commercial basis. Under the National Security Venereal Diseases and Contraceptives Regulations of September , the chief medical officer in each state was empowered to compel any person whom he had 'reasonable grounds' to suspect of suffering from a venereal infection to undergo a medical examination.
If found to be infected the person could be detained in a stipulated hospital or other 'suitable place'. Although men were also technically covered by these regulations, in practice it was women who were its main targets. The regulations were applied with special enthusiasm in Queensland, where large numbers of Allied troops were either based or passing through during the war. Queensland women designated as 'common prostitutes' were already subject to regular medical surveillance and compulsory confinement and treatment under the Public Health Act; the National Security Regulations extended this medical surveillance to the rest of the female population.
Information given by infected troops was used as the basis to 'contact and dispose of' any woman allegedly suffering from venereal disease Saunders and Taylor, , pp. Other aspects of the increasing State intervention in the prostitution industry had serious consequences for sex workers.
Changes to the vagrancy laws across Australia in the early s made living off the proceeds of prostitution an offence under the various Police Offences Acts. The targets of these laws were 'bludgers' or pimps, men constructed in the popular imagination as villains who debauched and enslaved innocent girls and young women, then lived off their immoral earnings. Concern about this practice was fuelled by sensationalist reports in the London press of an international 'white slave traffic' which lured innocent young girls to a life of shame in Continental and Oriental brothels.
Similar reports appeared in the press across the English-speaking world throughout the s and s, prompting legislation to deal with the organisers of this 'trade in human flesh'. In most cases these stories had racist overtones, with the villains being portrayed as 'foreigners' of one sort or another, corrupting the wholesome morals of women of British origin and descent.
Australia was no exception to this pattern. In Western Australia, for instance, the villains were usually French or Italian, with the occasional 'Afghan buck' thrown in for additional colour. A few sensational cases involving Italians added fuel to these beliefs Davidson, , pp. Ironically, the police were rarely successful in apprehending and convicting 'white slavers', although there is certainly historical evidence of the existence of syndicates who traded in prostitutes, with or without the full knowledge and consent of the women concerned Davidson, Indeed, a deputation of concerned feminists who lobbied the Premiers' Conference in Melbourne regarding the international traffic in women and girls were refused admission and told that the premiers did not believe in the existence of such a trade Davidson, , p.
The men who became the targets of this legislation were generally less villainous types - the husbands and relatives of prostitutes who willingly contributed their earnings to the upkeep of people they lived with and loved. Very often, too, the 'bludger' of popular imagination was in reality a necessary assistant to the prostitute, providing protection against violent clients and a less obvious way of soliciting custom.
The legislation rebounded on these women, who could no longer support family members or use their help without fearing the prosecution of their menfolk Golder and Allen, ; Arnot, , p. One can see this attack on 'bludgers' as the most extreme form of a move throughout Australian society from the late nineteenth century to sharpen the definition of men as breadwinners and women as dependents. All these State interventions in combination had profound effects on the ways in which prostitution could be practised in twentieth century Australia.
The increasing illegality of so many aspects of prostitution and related activities meant that police had more control over what prostitutes did and where they worked.
In Western Australia this power was used by the police, in collusion with magistrates, medical authorities and local governments, to establish red-light districts in major population centres such as Perth and Kalgoorlie. The breadth and flexibility provided for by the vagrancy laws meant that police could virtually dictate the behaviour of prostitutes and brothel-keepers on pain of imprisonment. While this policy meant severe infringements on the ability of sex workers to choose the location of their workplaces, it also had ramifications for the structure of the sex industry.
Before the policy of localisation ie: With the advent of the Hay Street brothels in Kalgoorlie and those of Roe Street in Perth, it became increasingly difficult for women to operate outside the tolerated brothels. In order to escape police harassment women had to become either brothel inmates or keepers. While this meant big profits for the few who became keepers, for the majority of sex workers the change spelt a 'proletariatisation' of their occupation as they gave up self-employment for the position of brothel employees, handing over half their earnings to the madam Davidson, Police ensured that organised criminals were kept away from the tolerated brothels by using the vagrancy provisions against 'bludgers' to deter any men other than customers from associating with the inmates.
A similar process of proletariatisation occurred in New South Wales over the same period, although it took a different form. Hilary Golder and Judith Allen describe how the increased police powers encouraged corruption in the police force, with individual officers accepting bribes to administer the law selectively. Organised criminal gangs, already in existence to control the gambling industry as well as the opium and illicit liquor traffic, seized this opportunity to extract protection money from freelance prostitutes, brothel-keepers and individual pimps, since they were the only ones with enough capital to pay either the police or the new heavy fines.
Increasingly, sex-workers were forced to relinquish their former independence for the dubious protection of criminal networks. As Golder and Allen , p. Her work could be deployed and incorporated into the service context of the drug, liquor or gambling traffic, whether she liked it or not.
Increasingly she could be pushed into positions of risk, both as regards rival underworld gangs and the agents of the state. And where pimps survived, they tended to survive as employees of the criminal interests and acted in a managerial or supervisory capacity. The changes to the New South Wales Summary Offences Act in thus provided the structural preconditions for the rise of the rival 'gang queens', Tilly Devine and Kate Leigh, who dominated Sydney prostitution from the s to the s.
The changes which occurred in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries set the framework for the operation of prostitution for most of the twentieth century. Only since the late s have governments started experimenting with new ways of treating prostitution, generally moving towards less punitive models of legislation. These changes reflect changes in public attitudes towards sexual relations between consenting adults generally and a greater awareness of the deficiencies and injustices embodied in the previous approach.
The evolution of new approaches is an ongoing process and the end of the twentieth century promises to be another crucial period in the history of Australian prostitution as state governments and local councils grapple with the various civil rights, health and planning issues associated with prostitution Gerull and Halstead, What is certain is that we will continue to see 'the State' behaving in complex and sometimes contradictory ways. Different levels of government federal, state, local have different priorities and responsibilities and these are not always compatible.
Likewise, different state agencies eg: Although State activities have been enormously important in influencing the nature and experience of prostitution in Australian cities, they are by no means the only factor explaining changes in the industry over time.
For instance, the State does not simply apply its policies to a passive prostitution industry. Sex workers have been able in the past, and will no doubt continue in the future to resist and negotiate attempts to control them. Since the s this has been expressed most effectively through organised groups such as the Australian Prostitutes Collective and the Scarlet Alliance, but even before this there is evidence that prostitutes acted individually and collectively to protect their rights and to shape their working lives.
Roberta Perkins notes the way in which Sydney street prostitutes acted collectively to retain certain working conditions, such as the refusal of 'kinky' services to clients. Oral evidence from my own research on Kalgoorlie reveals a similar collective control of the services offered in Hay Street brothels until the late s Frances, Individual acts of resistance are harder for the historian using written sources to uncover, but occasionally we get glimpses which suggest that prostitutes did not always accept the official view of their lives and behaviour.
Prostitutes in Western Australia, for instance, complained to higher officials if they felt police officers were abusing their powers and these complaints appear to have been taken seriously and acted upon. Individual women also frequently abused arresting police in terms which reversed the supposed moral value of prostitute and policeman.
Thus a Parramatta woman shouted at police who arrested her in a hotel in Popular attitudes and practices regarding sexuality and morality must also be recognised as a factor in the changing nature of prostitution. Different class and demographic patterns also affect the type of clientele seeking the services of prostitutes and hence the type of services demanded.
Kalgoorlie sex workers, for instance, comment on the less complicated demands made by the miners and 'bushies' who form the bulk of their customers. Into 'good old fashioned sex', they make fewer demands on the women's time and ingenuity, in sharp contrast to the 'deviants' amongst the Perth businessmen who frequent prostitutes in that city Cohen, , p.
But even Kalgoorlie has seen an expansion in the variety of its services over the last 20 years. Ex-prostitute Rita, talking to me in , described how things had changed in the nine years since she began working in Hay Street: But now, there's that many perversions, that many things This transition reflects the changing nature of the demand for prostitutes' services. Essentially, prostitutes provide services which men cannot get easily elsewhere. Where there are large numbers of single men and few available women this tends to be simple sex, the kind they would expect to enjoy with girlfriends or wives.
In the past, clients were also drawn from single men who could not expect their girlfriends to contravene prevailing sexual mores by engaging in sex outside marriage and from married men whose wives did not want to have sex for fear of pregnancy or because of ill health. A relaxation of social taboos concerning extra-marital sex and better contraception has meant that more men can find sexual partners without having to resort to prostitutes. As non-prostitutes become more sexually adventurous, prostitutes are sought for increasingly bizarre kinds of services, a situation which is resisted and resented by many sex workers.
Other factors independent of legislation have affected the demand for and supply of prostitutes. Social and economic crises such as wars and depressions have had particular importance in this respect. In both the s and s depressions more women were drawn into prostitution, as both single and married women sought other ways to make money when they or their husbands were unable to find enough work at their regular occupations.
The population of Perth's Roe Street brothels rose from 50 to 70 during , as both single and married women took desperate measures to survive the economic downturn Davidson, , p. The increased numbers of women selling sexual services and the reduced spending power of men in the community meant that earnings for individual prostitutes and madams suffered considerably during this period.
The reverse happened during periods of economic boom, such as goldrushes and during wars, both of which brought large concentrations of men with money to spend. During wars especially the increased numbers of women, particularly young women, willing to engage in sex with soldiers was more than offset by the easy earnings available from men who were intent on having a good time before leaving for the battle zone. Many women took advantage of high wartime earnings to amass considerable amounts of capital which they used either to retire from prostitution or to expand their interests in the industry.
The Vietnam War was also a boom time for Sydney sex-workers, as Rita recalls: I had trips all over Australia. I had a ball. Money was no worry' Frances, Changing immigration policies were also important in influencing both the supply of prostitutes and customers. The female emigrant ships of the nineteenth century carried many single women who found their way on to the streets and brothels of Australia's young cities, inspiring the concern of reformers like Caroline Chisholm.
Mass immigration of men from particular ethnic groups at different periods in our history has created special demands for the services of prostitutes, since racial prejudice amongst Anglo-Celtic Australians often prohibited their mixing with non-prostitute women.
The Chinese and Pacific Island workers of the nineteenth century are the most obvious example, but later arrivals of Italian and Yugoslav workers in the twentieth century had a similar effect. Immigration restrictions could likewise restrict the supply of sex workers to meet these demands. While Japanese prostitutes played a large part in catering to non-white clients in the nineteenth century, especially in the north and on the Western Australian goldfields, the Immigration Restriction Act of meant that most returned home, along with their countrymen Sissons, Certain immigrant groups could also operate successfully as entrepreneurs in the prostitution industry.
The Japanese in northern Australia mentioned previously are one instance; the Maltese in the back lanes of East Sydney in the s is another see Perkins, While factors such as these explain the changing dimensions of prostitution over time, other themes have retained a remarkable constancy or resilience.
The gender bias of most of the laws about prostitution and their implementation is all too apparent from the preceding discussion. The class nature of prostitution and the enforcement of laws against it are also especially evident.
The economic forces propelling women into prostitution have acted most strongly against working class women, but not exclusively. Prostitutes have been drawn from all sections of society and have operated in ways which have usually reflected their different social origins.
Almost invariably, the targets of police harassment have been those least able to defend themselves: Middle class sex workers, operating as call girls, escorts or, in earlier times, in exclusive brothels, have had a much easier time of it, being able to work more discreetly and having more powerful friends to intervene on their behalf.
Even when middle class women did come under official notice, as happened during the venereal disease surveillance of the Second World War, they were treated differently from their working class sisters.
While the diseased street prostitute was sent to the lock hospital and treated as a prisoner, middle class sex workers contracting the disease were sent to private hospitals and treated as patients Saunders and Taylor, Racial and age biases have also been evident in the way the law has been administered.
Older women have generally been more vulnerable to arrest, both because they are generally forced to solicit more frequently to maintain their earnings and because the public and the police regard their presence as more offensive than that of younger women.
On the other hand, very young women were considered in need of protection and reclamation and were also more likely to receive official attention Golder and Allen, Racial discrimination is a more vexed issue. In some situations prostitutes of non-Anglo-Celtic descent were less likely to be prosecuted.
Japanese women, for instance, largely escaped prosecution in Queensland because they were seen to provide 'suitable outlets' for the sexual passions of 'coloured' male labourers. It was far preferable, in the eyes of the authorities, to have Asian women servicing this trade than European women Evans, , p. Japanese women in Western Australia also enjoyed a remarkably prosecution-free existence, probably for similar reasons, even though their customers were often white.
The logic here still seems to have been that it was better for Japanese women to perform this 'degrading' work than it was for Australian women. The high profile of Japanese, French and Italian women in Western Australia also encouraged politicians in the mistaken belief that 'our social conditions' meant that the supply of Australian women for prostitution had given out Davidson, , p.
A final recurring theme refers both to the historiography and the history of prostitution in Australia. Because of its illegal, clandestine nature, prostitution presents particular challenges and opportunities to the historian. The frequent contacts between some classes of prostitutes and officialdom mean that historians often have more knowledge about the lives of prostitutes in the past than about their more 'respectable' sisters, about whom few written records survive.
But such records present their own problems: And they present the picture from the official perspective rather than from the point of view of the woman herself. Occasionally historians are blessed with diaries or reminiscences of such women, but these are very rare indeed.
The historian of prostitution needs to be especially imaginative in the use of the surviving written record, listening hard for the voices of women who do manage to get recorded. For the more recent past the task is made easier by the use of oral history, where prostitutes can speak their own stories in their own words. The work of Roberta Perkins , on Sydney's 'working girls' from onward is an indication of how rewarding such research can be for the historian.
Similar studies in other Australian cities would greatly enhance our knowledge of the history of prostitution in this country since the Second World War. Such studies would not just provide analysis of changing trends; they could literally restore the voice of prostitutes to history. Interviews of this kind could provide the raw material for 'playback' oral testimony as a feature of our hypothetical museum of prostitution. An Economic History of Women in Australia, Gender Relations in Australia: So Much Hard Work.
Venereal Disease Legislation in Tasmania, in Hecate. Volume 5, Number 1, pp. Women and Identity in Australia, to Sex Industry and Public Policy: Proceedings of a Conference Held May Australian Institute of Criminology: Restructuring an Industry in Refractory Girl.
A History of the Transportation of Convicts to Australia, Women's Lives in North-Western Australia, University of Western Australia Press: The Argument about Australia's Origins. Volume 2, Number 1, pp. Essays on European Women in New Zealand. Aborigines in Cattle Country.
Women, Class and History: Macassan Trepangers in Northern Australia.The number of people trafficked into or within Australia is unknown. The Liberals claimed that organised crime and coercion were part of the NSW brothel scene. Sister Wives, Surrogates and Sex Workers: States and territories Capitals Cities. We clicked immediately and she kept me turned on and entertained for many hours. In Queensland, for instance, the Act for the Suppression of Contagious Diseases of was not applied universally but only to particular centres of population, largely because of the cost, the limited facilities and the fear of outcall girl escort directory backlash of organised protest Evans,p. Australian 16 November ".