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Sex worker, bad work conditions

Sun, Korea, 22

Name: Sun*
Age: 22
Country of Origin: South Korea
Visa type: 12 month working holiday visa

Why did Sun come to Australia?

Sun had started studying Chinese language at a University in Korea but dropped out because she wasn't able to afford to continue. Sun started doing sex work - the pay was reasonable and the hours flexible. However, sex work is illegal in Korea, so there was the constant threat of being arrested, fined or imprisoned.

Another sex worker introduced Sun to an 'agent' who promised to help her in finding safe and legal sex work in Australia with a place to live, good working conditions and a fair rate of pay. Sun thought this would be a great opportunity. Sun calculated that if she worked in Australia for 1 year she would be able to save up enough to pay for her studies and still have some left over. Sun also wanted to experience a different culture and learn some English. The agent said he would organise everything.

What happened when Sun got to Australia?

When Sun got to Sydney, she was placed in a sex parlour where the owner told her she had to repay a $25,000 debt for her flight and visa. Sun would not be paid any money until her debt was paid off. Sun worked 14 hours a day, 6 days a week. Sun was also pressured to work on her day off and to perform sexual services without a condom. Sun lived in an apartment adjoining the parlour and was not permitted to leave the premises unsupervised.

The boss threatened Sun with deportation if she complained too much, refused a customer or tried to go to the authorities for help.

How does Australian law see this?

Sex work is decriminalised in New South Wales and so Sun has not committed any offence by coming to work in the sex industry.

The parlour owner may have committed trafficking, slavery or slavery-like offences under the Criminal Code Act 1995 (Cth).

It's an offence to traffic someone to Australia by coercion, threat or deception, for the purposes of exploitation.

It's also an offence to cause another person to enter into debt bondage. It's likely that debt bondage is relevant in Sun's case as she has to work to repay a manifestly excessive debt (as compared to the real cost of flights and her visa).

Additionally, the Fair Work Act 2009 (Cth) provides that all employees get minimum pay rates and conditions.


For more information about slavery and the law see:


'I was excited to come to Australia because I was told that I could do sex work legally and get a good rate of pay. I wanted to set myself up financially but when I arrived I was told that I had incurred a debt to my boss and I wouldn't get any money until it was repaid.'

*Note: "Sun" is not her real name


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