No room for ‘ambiguities’: Sexual consent laws go under spotlight

Advocates like Grace Tame have been thanked for pushing for stronger legal consent requirements.

Advocates like Grace Tame have been thanked for pushing for stronger legal consent requirements. Photo: AAP

The adequacy of Australia’s sexual consent laws will go under the microscope following a push by some states and territories to introduce positive consent laws.

NSW, Victoria and the ACT have legislated for affirmative consent, meaning a person must say or do something to indicate they agree.

A person is not deemed capable of giving consent if they’re intoxicated to the point where they cannot indicate they agree.

It strips away the defence that a perpetrator didn’t know the victim was not consenting because they did not say no or push back.

The parliamentary committee will review differing consent laws across Australia, how they operate and affect sexual assault survivors, and whether education is adequate.

Labor senator Nita Green said laws across Australia could be confusing and convoluted.

“There should be no ambiguities when it comes to consent but when it comes to consent laws across the country, there are,” she told AAP.

“This inconsistency means that victims of sexual crimes have different experiences of the justice system based on where they live.”

Ms Green said she hopes her push to establish the inquiry will encourage a national conversation on consent.

“Because consent law also informs consent education,” she said.

“Even if affirmative consent laws are legislated, their effectiveness depends on implementation and education.”

Greens senator Larissa Waters thanked advocates like Chanel Contos, who called for better sexual consent education, as well as Saxon Mullins, Nina Funnell and Grace Tame who have all pushed for stronger consent laws.

“These courageous women have consistently pushed for laws and consent education to be informed by the lived experience of sexual assault victim-survivors,” she said.

“This inquiry provides an important opportunity to achieve that.”

Ms Waters called for laws to be harmonised and for positive consent to become law around Australia.

The opposition called for the federal government to keep up with consent changes being spearheaded by states and territories.

“The coalition committed Australia to national consent education following landmark advocacy from Chanel Contos, the founder of Teach Us Consent,” an opposition spokesperson told AAP.

“That leadership on national consent education will ensure future generations of Australians benefit from more respectful relationships through evidenced-based consent education.”

The committee will report back by June 30.


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