The Road to Effective Remedies: Pragmatic reasons for treating cases of “sex trafficking” in the Australian sex industry as a form of “labour trafficking”

Frances Simmons, Fiona David


Internationally, it is widely recognised that labour law and associated protections are a critical part of any comprehensive response to trafficking in persons. In this article, we argue that while Australia has taken some important steps to incorporate labour protection systems into the anti-trafficking response, there is still more work to be done. In particular, the federal, and state and territory governments have yet to take up the opportunity to link anti-trafficking efforts with initiatives aimed at improving the working conditions of workers in the sex industry. We suggest this reflects a common—but unjustified—assumption that “labour trafficking” and “sex trafficking” are distinct and different species of harm. As a result of this distinction, workers in the Australian sex industry—an industry where slavery and trafficking crimes have been detected— are missing out on a suite of potentially effective prevention interventions, and access to civil remedies. We argue that there is a need to provide practical and financial support, so that the national industrial regulator, the Fair Work Ombudsman, can work directly with sex worker advocacy groups, to examine opportunities and barriers to accessing the labour law system, particularly for migrant sex workers.


trafficking in persons, labour law, prostitution, sex work, labour trafficking, Australia

Full Text: