Prostitution in Australia - History

History

The history of prostitution in Australia is best considered in three periods: the convict period to 1840, the late colonial period and the Federal period (after 1901). It is generally agreed that prostitution was unknown in the pre-colonial period, but arose once early settlers arrived and started exchanging sexual services from aboriginal women with European goods, exploiting a preexisting aboriginal wife exchange system.

During the convict period English common law was operative, and dealt with brothel keeping, disorderly houses and public nuisance. The late colonial period concentrated on prostitution as a public health issue, through the Contagious Diseases Acts. Finally the Federal period was driven by prohibition through criminalising activities associated with prostitution. Although not explicitly prohibiting the act of sexual exchange, the criminal law effectively produced a de facto prohibition.

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