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A Brief History of Brothels in Queensland

The sex work industry in Qld is widely acknowledged as the one of the most restricted in the country.  Legalised for the most part to counteract the risks and dangers of the illegal prostitution industry, it remains one of the least progressive of the Australian States in which prostitution has been legalised.

The path to legalisation in Qld has been a long and challenging one.   From the early 1900’s prostitution fell under the purview of the Vagrants, Gaming and Other Offences Act.  Under this regulation, from 1931 through to the 1980’s, penalties for offences relating to prostitution increased by a massive 400%.  The theory of deterrence by threat of fine and imprisonment proved ineffectual, with prostitution flourishing and, in reality, this period became rampant with police corruption and misconduct.  The ensuing 1987 Fitzgerald Inquiry resulted in the creation of the CJC (now CCC), who’s recommendations included legalising brothels, legalising private workers in their own home, and the establishment of a Registration Board.  Unfortunately, these recommendations were not enacted by the Government of the time.  Finally, in 1999, under a new government, the Prostitution Bill was passed and the Prostitution Act came into effect in mid 2000, along with the formation of the Prostitution Licensing Authority.

The first brothels to open in Queensland under this new legislation were located in South-east Queensland, as follows:

17.8.2001 ……. Purely Blue …………… Bowen Hills

9.3.2002 ………. Black Orchid …………. West Burleigh

10.3.2002 ……. Essential Pleasures … Molendinar

12.3.2002 ……. Silks on Upton ………. Bundall

12.4.2002 ……. Pentagon Grand ……. Molendinar

2.5.2002 ………. Truely Elegance …….. Geebung

17.5.2002 ……. The Viper Room …….. Yeerongpilly

Since legalisation of brothels in Queensland, there have been two persistent barriers facing legal brothel owners: inability to provide outcalls, and inability to compete with illegal operators.  These issues were investigated as part of the two reviews that have been undertaken by the CMC to the Prostitution Act 1999 – the 2004 Regulating Prostitution: an evaluation of the Prostitution Act 1999 and the 2006 Regulating Outcall Prostitution, resulting in some changes being made to the Act, however neither of these reviews resulted in meaningful change in relation to these barriers. In fact, the 2006 recommended that, at that time, laws surrounding outcalls from legal establishments should not be amended as requested by service providers and establishment representatives.  Further, despite the existence of a Queensland Police Prostitution Enforcement Task Force, the number of illegal operators – most generally operating from massage parlours – continue to grow exponentially, impacting the financial viability and sustainability of the legal operators.

These barriers, in addition to the effect of Covid-19 on operators, have placed legal operators in a precarious position.  To this end, now is the time for review of the Act against the current climate, to ensure the longevity and viability of the legal industry.