Scrabble tiles spelling the word CONSENT

ACT Legislative Assembly committee inquiry into sexual consent laws

There has been significant discussion in the Canberra community in recent years about sexual consent, recognising that active consent is the best way to ensure that rights are respected.

Active consent means free and voluntary agreement. It is not enough simply to not say no – both parties must actively say yes, with no coercion or negating factors such mental or physical inability to make or communicate their decision.

In 2010, the Australian Law Reform Commission published Family Violence – A National Legal Response. Chapter 25 of the report states that:

With the exception of the ACT, every Australian jurisdiction has a statutory definition of consent based on one of the following formulations:

  • free agreement;
  • free and voluntary agreement; or
  • consent freely and voluntarily given.

In March 2018, WCHM made a submission to the office of Caroline Le Couteur on a draft Crimes (Consent) Amendment Bill that would change the definition of sexual consent. The Bill was presented to the Legislative Assembly on 11 April 2018.

The ACT’s amendment Bill, if passed, will be a shift in how the community thinks about consent. It moves the onus from the victim to establish that they negated consent, onto the alleged offender to establish that they obtained free and voluntary consent. For this reason, six out of the seven recommendations in WCHM’s submission related to providing examples in the Explanatory Statement for the Bill to help the courts and police understand how this law should work, or training and education resources for the court, police, and community.

The ACT Legislative Assembly’s Justice and Community Safety (JACS) Committee are seeking public submissions to an inquiry into the Crimes (Consent) Amendment Bill 2018, by Friday 14 September 2018.

WCHM will be making a submission to the inquiry, and encourage our members to make individual submissions if they have an interest in this issue.

Find out more about the JACS Committee inquiry.

Image by Nick Youngson via Alpha Stock images