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



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


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.


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Author Biographies

Frances Simmons

Frances Simmons is a lawyer, registered migration agent and researcher at Anti-Slavery Australia, a specialist legal service for trafficked people at the University of Technology Sydney Law Faculty where she represents trafficked people in immigration and compensation matters. She also works as an immigration consultant representing asylum seekers and as a casual academic. The views expressed here are her own and not necessarily those of her employers.

Fiona David

Fiona David is an independent consultant, specialising in the law and research on migrant smuggling and trafficking in persons. Fiona has worked on these issues since 1999, with clients including the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime, the International Organization for Migration and the Australian Institute of Criminology. She has provided expert evidence in a number of trafficking in person cases in Australia.




How to Cite

Simmons, F., & David, F. (2012). The Road to Effective Remedies: Pragmatic reasons for treating cases of “sex trafficking” in the Australian sex industry as a form of “labour trafficking”. Anti-Trafficking Review, (1).