Clearer and stronger sexual consent laws


The ACT Legislative Assembly has today passed reforms of sexual consent laws in the ACT, ensuring that consent to sexual activity must be actively and affirmatively communicated.

“The Government’s Parliamentary Agreement made clear that a positive definition of consent was one of its important law reform priorities and this Bill introduced by Labor MLA Dr Marisa Paterson will bring ACT laws in-line with contemporary community attitudes around sexual consent,” Attorney-General Shane Rattenbury said.

“By making it clear that consent needs to be sought and given, it changes the status quo when it to comes to engaging in sexual activity. No longer are we presuming that a person is consenting unless the indicate they are not."

The Crimes (Consent) Amendment Bill 2022 introduces a legal definition of consent into the Crimes Act 1900 where consent is based on a free and voluntary agreement.

The Bill expressly recognises that consent is not to be presumed, that people have a right to choose not to participate in sexual activity, and that when engaging in consensual sexual activity it involves ongoing and mutual communication and decision-making.

Attorney-General Rattenbury thanked Dr Paterson for her work on the Private Member’s Bill including her consultation with the community and other groups including the ACT’s Sexual Assault Prevention and Response (SAPR) Law Reform Working Group. He noted that the initial work of Caroline Le Couteur on consent definitions in the 9th Assembly instigated a Standing Committee inquiry.

“The Bill delivers on recommendation 22 of the SAPRP Steering Committee’s Final Report by introducing an affirmative and communicative model of consent in the ACT,” the Attorney-General said.

“Law reform, like the changes in this Private Member’s Bill, are critical. However, they are just one part of the work that is needed to prevent and better respond to sexual violence.”

The Government is currently preparing its response to the 24 recommendations in the Committee’s Final Report.

This initiative fulfils a commitment of the Parliamentary Agreement of the 10th Legislative Assembly by the ACT Labor-Greens Government.