The information provided here is a guide only. This information is up to date at the time of publication and is sourced from Legal Aid WA and the Australian Institute of Family Studies. Please refer to these organisations for legal advice.
Why are there Age of Consent laws?
These laws exist to protect vulnerable children and young people from sexual exploitation and abuse. Even though a young person under the age of consent may be willing to have sex, they do not have the psychological capacity to give consent according to the law. The law considers all people under the age of consent to be unable to give consent to sexual activities with an adult.
Why is it important to know about these Laws?
These laws apply to everyone in WA, regardless of gender or sexual orientation. You could be charged if you have sex with someone outside the legal age of consent.
What is the law in WA?
- If you’re under 16 years old, then the law says you’re too young to consent to sex.
- If you’re 16 to 17 years old it’s not OK to have sex if the older person is in a position of care or authority over you (such as a teacher, sports coach, or foster carer).
- If you’re 18 years old or older you can consent (agree) to have sex with anyone else over 18.
Some situations involving age of consent laws
- “I had sex with someone who I thought was over the age of consent, however it turns out they weren’t.”
- If you had reasonable grounds to believe that the person was over the age of consent, then a legal defence is available. However, in WA if the person was 13 years or younger then this defence is not applicable.
- “My partner is just under the age of consent but I’m over the age of consent or vice versa. This situation can be really common in high school and it’s not one you need to be concerned about at all!”
- If two young people are close in age, then engaging in sexual behaviour under the age of consent can be defended. In WA if you and your partner are not more than three years apart then this defence may apply.
- Also FYI, in WA it’s also a legal defence if you are lawfully married to the child whom you have sex with.
- Both people are under the age of consent.
- Sexual exploration and experimentation is common and normal between young people and their peers. The law attempts to find a balance between protecting children and young people from exploitation by adults while not criminalising common and normal sexual exploration and experimentation.
References and Helpful links
Legal Aid WA (http://www.legalaid.wa.gov.au/InformationAboutTheLaw/treatment/Pages/Sexandconsent.aspx)
Australian Institute of Family Studies (https://aifs.gov.au/cfca/publications/age-consent-laws