If you require assistance or would like to talk to a trained professional about the issues described in this paper, please call Kids Helpline on 1800 55 1800 or Lifeline on 13 11 14.If you believe a child is in immediate danger call Police on 000. Information is current up to the date of publication.
The state jurisdictions that provide a legal defence when the sexual interaction is between two young people close in age (Western Australia, Tasmania, Victoria and the Australian Capital Territory) are attempting to find a balance that protects children and young people from adult sexual exploitation in a way that does not criminalise them for having sexual relationships with their peers.
Sexual interaction that is harmful and abusive between two young people under the legal age can be difficult to identify and determine.
When an adult engages in sexual behaviour with someone below the age of consent, they are committing a criminal offence (child sexual abuse).
Age of consent laws cannot be considered in isolation to other legislation concerning issues such as sexual assault and child sexual abuse.
An important distinction should be made between "willingness" and "consent".