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Updated March 27, A former Chief Minister once suggested the apparent proliferation of massage parlours in Darwin's CBD was lowering the tone of the city. Terry Mills, the member for the Palmerston electorate of Blain, said he was surprised by how many parlours were filling gaps left behind by other businesses. Whether you agree with his concerns or not, behind the neon lights a murky and complex industry lies.
This investigation is part of Curious Darwin, our series where you ask us the questions, vote for your favourite, and we investigate. Why are massage parlours offering sex services when brothels are illegal in the NT? City Walker explained in an email they do not want to be identified because of the "illegal nature of the subject", as they put it, but said they had contacted multiple politicians with this concern and had gotten no reply.
City Walker alleged the parlours had free reign and that they laundered money, evaded tax, and had lax health standards, among other accusations. Of course, this question assumes massage parlours do the wrong thing. So, is this an issue for police? NT Police said it periodically received information that sex services were being offered at massage parlours.
Police continue to investigate and patrol massage parlours, including conducting ongoing liaison with parlour managers. One massage parlour in Darwin's CBD said initially it had to place a sign at the window front explaining it offered non-erotic massages only. The owner said they could probably remove the sign, although some customers still asked for more than just a massage.
A therapeutic Chinese massage business told Curious Darwin they had moved interstate from Darwin's CBD because they were sick of being pestered by customers asking for extra, and were fed up with saying no. The owner said business wasn't that great in Darwin because of the presence of illegal massage parlours. Now, they said, they don't get anywhere near as many of those type of customers interstate. City Walker also asked whether local newspapers were complicit in this issue by publishing ads in the classifieds section of the NT News.