Sex Work In 2024: How Did We Get Here?

Attitudes towards sex work are rapidly evolving and public figures discuss it more openly; despite this, it’s still illegal in two Australian states.

Sex work is often referred to as the world’s oldest profession, and the way politicians and influencers speak about it has changed.

Raelene Francis, Emeritus Professor of History at ANU and author of Selling Sex, says sex work in Australia is as old as the European Settlement in 1788.

Francis told The Briefing about the history of sex work in Australia and how it’s evolved:

Francis said sex work has become more accessible in recent years, particularly with the internet, as it doesn’t always necessarily involve person-to-person contact.

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“A lot more women [are] being prepared to engage in some kind of commercial sex, who wouldn’t have done it before,” Francis said.

There are 338 Brothel Keeping and Sex Worker Services businesses in Australia as of 2024, an increase of 3.8% from 2023.

Despite this, it’s still illegal to conduct sex work in South Australia and Western Australia.

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