Sex work will be decriminalised in Victoria with a raft of reforms set to be implemented over the next two years.
The decriminalisation will mean sex workers will have access to the same rights as any other Victorian employee, regardless if they work for themselves, a small employer or a large company.
The Victorian Government in a statement said a range of reforms will be implemented over the next two years to increase safety, reduce stigma and improve access to government health and justice services.
"Decriminalisation recognises that sex work is legitimate work and should be regulated through standard business laws, like all other industries in the state," it read.
"The current sex work regulatory system – which has not been updated for close to three decades – is out-of-date and no longer fit-for-purpose."
The changes will bring Victoria into line with other jurisdictions – including NSW – where sex work was decriminalised in 1995.
The government said sex workers have reported current working conditions as unsafe in both the licensed and unlicensed sectors, with issues involving violence in the workplace, deterrents to reporting violence and a lack of compliance with safe-sex measures.
"Every Victorian deserves to feel safe in their place of work – decriminalisation will ensure that sex work is safe work and go a long way towards breaking down the stigma sex workers continue to experience," Consumer Affairs Minister Melissa Horne said.
In 2019, Northern Metropolitan Region MP Fiona Patten led a targeted review of sex work regulation and how to decriminalise the industry.
The government has considered the recommendations and vowed to remove offences and criminal penalties for consensual sex work and repealing public health offences.
They will also repeal the Sex Work Act 1994 to regulate sex work and update planning, public health and anti-discrimination laws to support a decriminalised system.
Only sex work between consenting adults will be decriminalised.
There will still be criminal offences to protect children and workers from other forms of non-consensual sex work.
"Replacing criminal sanctions with standard industry regulations has been proven elsewhere to improve workers, access to workplace health and safety, healthcare and justice," Workplace Safety Minister Ingrid Stitt said.
Feedback to inform the implementation of the sex work decriminalisation reforms is welcome via: engage.vic.gov.au/sex-work-decriminalisation