Fed-up Melbourne sex worker sues financial providers and wins

Melbourne sex worker Matthew Roberts on financial discrimination case
Image: ABC News

A Melbourne-based gay sex worker has resolved a discrimination case against two Australian financial service providers, in a “great victory” that he wants to protect others from falling victim to “debanking”.

“Debanking” refers to banks or financial institutions cutting off services like accounts, loans, or payment processing to a person or business because of their line of work.

Matthew Roberts, a Melbourne-based sex worker and sole trader, said he was debanked and denied an EFTPOS machine he needed.

For several years, he’d used a small EFTPOS machine from Australian finance company Mint Payments. The device allowed Matthew’s clients to pay by card. Around half were doing so, he says.

But in 2022, he was suddenly cut off. Behind-the-scenes, Mint Payments had switched the institution it used for transactions, Matthew explained, and the company asked him to reapply for his EFTPOS machine.

At the time, he dealt with company honestly, disclosing his occupation. But his application was denied. Mint told him his business was within “a restricted category” and he was banned.

“Unfortunately, according to the contractual terms and conditions of our current acquirers, we are unable to provide our services to you in relation to this application,” a June 2022 letter read.

“It would cause Mint Payments to be in breach of its contracts with our acquirers.”

But that email was sent shortly after Victoria decriminalised sex work that year. Under Victorian law, it’s illegal to discriminate against someone on the basis of their profession, trade or occupation.

‘Discrimination in every aspect of our lives’

Matthew took the companies to court in June last year. Maurice Blackburn’s lawyers alleged Mint Payments and its acquirer First Data Merchant Solutions Australia had unlawfully discriminated against Matthew because of his occupation as a sex worker.

The case was settled out of court confidentially late last year.

Matthew went public this week and said he received no money from the legal action. However, he agreed to settle on something more important.

Maurice Blackburn said the two companies agreed to not restrict services offered to people engaged in lawful sex work.

The companies also agreed to consider any applications for services from people engaged in lawful sex work on their merits.

Both companies also agreed to train their staff on discrimination laws, Maurice Blackburn says.

Matthew said sex workers “experience discrimination in every aspect of our lives”. In banking, many sex workers must lie and be treated fairly, or tell the truth and face discrimination, he said.

The practice of “debanking” has serious impacts for anyone running a business in the increasingly cashless economy.

“This is a great victory for Australian sex workers in our fight against financial discrimination,” he said.

“I hope this case will encourage policymakers to reform anti-money laundering laws so financial institutions can no longer use them as an excuse to deny services.”

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Jordan Hirst
Jordan Hirst

Jordan Hirst is an experienced journalist and content creator with a career spanning over a decade at QNews. Since 2012, the Brisbane local has covered an enormous range of topics and subjects in-depth affecting the LGBTIQA+ community, both in Australia and overseas. Today, the Brisbane-based journalist covers everything from current affairs, politics and health to sport and entertainment.

QNews, Brisbane Gay, App, Gay App, LGBTI, LGBTI News, Gay Australia


  1. Peter Turner
    31 May 2024

    This is a win for common sense however he has obviously suffered financial loss as a result of the discrimination so he should have received monetary compensation.

  2. Dr Wendell Rosevear O.A.M.
    31 May 2024

    A safe society values people and the truth. Thanks Matthew for standing up for both.

  3. Paul
    31 May 2024

    Banks and politicians are both corrupt and are far worse than a Muslim terrorist – I trust a sex worker over a lawmaker and banker every single time!

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