What Are the Laws Governing Prostitution in Sydney?

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Unlike many other cities and countries around the world, prostitution in Sydney and NSW is legal, but there are a number of regulations governing the sex industry, and how sex workers operate.

What is the minimum age for a sex worker?

In Sydney, anybody who is over the age of 18 is legally allowed to provide sexual services in exchange for money, favours or goods.

It is illegal for persons under the age of 18 to work in the sex industry or for anyone to employ them as a sex worker.

If an employer is found to be employing workers under the age of 18, they can face serious legal consequences.

Clients of sex workers under the age of 18 can also face criminal charges.

It is also an offence for clients under the age of 18 to enter a brothel. If a brothel or other licensed sex premises is found to be providing services for clients under the age of 18, they can face penalties.

Where can prostitution take place in Sydney?


There are a number of licensed brothels and sexual services premises in NSW.

They operate under strict guidelines and are regulated by the local councils.

The term brothel is a broad definition which covers a range of different types of venues including:

  • One worker premises – this can be a single sex worker, working from home or a room in a building.
  • Massage parlours which may offer sexual services such as oral sex and hand relief.
  • A full-service brothel with multiple workers.
  • A sauna or a gentleman’s club.

Any venue which is used for prostitution, has been used for prostitution (and is likely to be used again in the future) or that has been advertised as being used for prostitution can be classified as a brothel.

Street work

Street-based sex work is not an offence in NSW, but there are laws regulating how and when street sex workers can solicit for clients and where they can perform sexual services.

Soliciting is defined broadly as approaching or inviting a person to buy or sell a sexual service.

Prostitutes can solicit for clients and clients can also solicit for sexual services. Soliciting is illegal on, near or within view of a road or footpath.

It is also illegal within view of or near a school, church, hospital or dwelling (that is not attached to shops or commercial premises).

It is technically legal to solicit in licensed premises, but many licensees find this unacceptable and in some situations, it can potentially be a violation of liquor licensing laws.

Any manner of solicitation by clients or prostitutes which is done in a manner that harasses or distresses the other person is considered a criminal offence.

It is against the law to engage in sexual activity in or within view of a public place. This can include in vehicles, parks or isolated industrial areas. Street-based sex work is regulated by the NSW police.

What penalties do I face if I break prostitution laws in Sydney?

If you run a business or work on a premises which is believed by the council to be a brothel and you don’t have permission to provide sexual services, the council can potentially close you down.

Brothels which are found to be employing underage staff or that don’t comply with health and safety laws can also be closed down, and the management may find themselves facing penalties from a fine to a long-term prison sentence.

Street-based sex workers who are caught soliciting illegally or engaging in sexual acts in a public place can also face criminal conviction.

Most solicitation offences are treated as summary offences, which means they will be dealt with in the local court with a maximum prison sentence of two years.

The maximum penalty for unlawful soliciting is three months’ imprisonment and/or a fine of $660, and the maximum penalty for performing a sex act in or within view of a public place is six months imprisonment.

If you have been charged with a prostitution offence, make sure you find an experienced criminal lawyer with a proven track record of defending prostitution-related charges.

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Ugur Nedim

Ugur Nedim is an Accredited Criminal Law Specialist with 25 years of experience as a Criminal Defence Lawyer. He is the Principal of Sydney Criminal Lawyers®.

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