National consent framework released

A definition for sexual consent has been included in a national framework released on Saturday. Key concepts of consent are also included.
Sexual consent definition

A new national framework on consent has been released by the Federal Government.

The framework doesn’t have the same powers as law, but is intended to inform programs that encourage healthy sexual relationships in Australia.

Sexual consent in Australia

A 12-month personal safety survey ending in June 2022 found that more than 20% of female respondents had experienced sexual violence since turning 15.

Half of the women in their 20s had experienced sexual violence.

Last year, consent education became mandatory for all school children across Australia.

Sexual consent definition

The consent framework is a 32-page document aimed at supporting safety in workplaces, schools and universities, governments, and community groups.

It defines sexual consent as: “A free, voluntary and informed agreement between people to participate in a sexual act. This agreement is only present when these people mutually and genuinely want to engage in that sexual act, and actively ensure their partner does too.”

Pillars of consent

The framework also includes five core concepts of consent. They are:

1. Sexual consent is free and voluntary. Consent isn’t transactional, and must be free from pressure or coercion.

2. Specific and informed. Consent must be sought for each sexual act, and is only valid when participants are aware of the act and any consequences it may have. This includes agreeing to the use of contraception.

3. Affirmative and communicated. Consent can be verbal or non-verbal, but must be actively sought. In other words, a person can’t be assumed to consent just because they didn’t say ‘no’. Physical arousal doesn’t imply consent either.

4. Ongoing and mutual. Consensual sex at a previous time doesn’t automatically make future sexual acts consensual. All partners must consent, and consent can always be withdrawn.

5. Reflects capacity. Those who are unconscious, significantly intoxicated, or under the age of consent cannot
give valid consent.

Government comment

Social Services Minister Amanda Rishworth said that young people are “at the heart” of fostering healthier relationships, who they hope will lead a “cultural change” in Australia.

The framework is hoped to provide a consistent reference point for pre-existing government matters, such as addressing gender-based violence at Australian universities, and consultation on new sexual consent laws.

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