The Sex Industry in New South Wales: a report to the NSW Ministry of Health

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Project Supporters

NSW Ministry of Health

Currently recruiting
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About the Project

This is a comprehensive report on the decriminalised sex industry in NSW.


The NSW Government is currently reviewing its legislative approach to sex work. In 1995 NSW was one of the first jurisdictions to complete the process of decriminalising its sex industry while not imposing a licensing system.  The NSW Ministry of Health commissioned the Kirby Institute to evaluate the effects of law reform including the current status of the sex industry in NSW.


This report aims to;

  • Describe the size and structure of the sex industry in NSW, including demographics of the sex workers.
  • Evaluate the sexual behaviour and health of sex workers in NSW and the effectiveness of health promotion programs.
  • Review  the current law and court statistics relating to prostitution in NSW
  • Review local government responses to sex work including development approvals for brothels.
  • Make recommendations on legislative and public health approaches to sex work.
Design & Method

Analysis of law and court statistics, key informant interviews, sex worker survey at work, analysis of longitudinal data from SSHC, and survey of local government approvals.




This report determined that decriminalisation of the NSW sex industry has resulted in improved human rights, netted savings for the criminal justice and health systems, and enhanced surveillance and health promotion programs for sex workers. Licensing was found to impose unnecessary expense and to be a threat to public health. 


Report published in 2012

Project Members
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Professor and Program Head
Ph +61 (0)2 9385 9956
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Research Officer
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Associate Professor
Ph +61 (0)2 9385 0861
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Professor and Program Head
Ph +61 (0)2 9385 0961
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QIP and GRHANITE manager
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Other Investigators

Project Member: Christine Harcourt
Other Investigators: Sandra Egger, Christopher Fairley, Marcus Chen, Sepehr Tabrizi

Project Collaborators: External

Faculty of Law, UNSW

Melbourne Sexual Health Centre

School of Population Health, University of Melbourne

Royal Women’s and Royal Children’s Hospital , Melbourne

Sexual Workers Outreach Project (SWOP)

Sydney Sexual Health Centre (SSHC)

Scarlet alliance- Australian Sex Workers Association