Last updated 29 August 2016

Prostitution in Queensland is regulated by the Criminal Code Act 1899 (Qld) (Criminal Code) and the Prostitution Act 1999 (Qld) (Prostitution Act).

Prostitution occurs when a person engages in a sexual act with another person pursuant to a commercial arrangement.

Certain provisions of the Criminal Code apply to prostitutes, their clients and other persons involved in prostitution (e.g. the owners of premises used for prostitution). However, not all acts of prostitution are outlawed. Engaging in prostitution is not in itself unlawful (Kelsey v Hill [1995] 1 Qd R 182). For example, a prostitute who uses their own premises for their own prostitution (single worker establishments) does not commit an offence under law (Bell v Stewart; ex parte Bell [1993] 1 Qd R 40).

A client visiting such an establishment commits no offence. Also, a prostitute who visits a client’s place commits no offence. However, a prostitute or client may be liable for the offence of soliciting if they approach a prospective client in a public place.

A range of other offences relating to prostitution in ch 22A of the Criminal Code include:

  • procuring another person to engage in prostitution
  • knowingly participating, directly or indirectly, in the provision of prostitution by another person. This prohibition would apply to pimps, drivers and persons who finance the establishment of a premises used for prostitution
  • leaving a place suspected on reasonable grounds of being used for the purposes of prostitution by two or more prostitutes without reasonable excuse, unless the premises is a licensed brothel
  • knowingly allowing premises (other than a licensed brothel) to be used for the purposes of prostitution by two or more prostitutes
  • knowingly allowing a child or an intellectually impaired person to be at a place used for the purposes of prostitution by two or more prostitutes.

The Prostitution Act is designed to be a complete system for the regulation and licensing of brothels in Queensland. Essentially, the legislation limits the size, location and number of brothels and regulates the persons who own and work in the brothels and the activities that occur in the brothels, including the consumption of alcohol. The Prostitution Act established the Prostitution Licensing Authority (PLA). The PLA is authorised to investigate licence applications and the persons associated with the ownership and operation of the brothel and premises. The PLA also conducts inspections and compliance checks on established licensed brothels.

The Prostitution Act also provides for local authorities (e.g. councils) to deal with the process of licensing brothels. For more information and how to apply for a licence visit the PLA website.

Since the passing of the Prostitution Act, approximately 23 brothels have obtained a licence, and a number of applications remain outstanding, however, unlicensed brothels continue to operate in Queensland. The lack of applications may in part be due to the significant costs involved in making an application and the severe restrictions placed on licensed brothels. In particular, the restrictions on the number of prostitutes (five) that are allowed to operate from a licensed brothel make it considerably less financially rewarding to operate under this legislation. In addition, alcohol is banned from licensed brothels.

The location of the brothel must meet all the criteria specified in the Prostitution Act and the Sustainable Planning Act 2009 (Qld), including requirements that the brothel must be a certain distance from certain locations (e.g. currently a brothel must be at least 100 m from a school measured by a straight line between each place). A brothel must keep certain records and is subject to scrutiny and police powers of entry and inspection.