So... what IS 'sex'?

To legally have 'sex' in Australia you need to give, and be given consent. Sex without consent is sexual assault, and can lead to police charges, convictions, criminal records and, well, places you just don't want to go. There are some things you need to consider when thinking about consent.

The meaning of 'sex' changes depending on where you live. Whether it's anal or vaginal penetration with a penis, fingers or objects, or oral sex and... basically if it involves anything between the naval and the knees, there's a high chance it's defined as 'sex'. Click on the links in the table at the bottom of the page to find out your state/territory's definition of 'sex'.

Free agreement

A big part of consent is 'free agreement'. Although it may seem that someone has said 'yes' or given consent, a crime might still have been committed if that person wasn't in a position to freely agree to consent. Basically, if someone feels pressured into sex by someone who has any kind of power over them, or because they're unclear about what's happening, they're not consenting. For more info on this, read our article on free agreement.

Age of consent

Depending on what state or territory you're in, you can only give consent to engage in certain sexual acts once you've reached a certain age. Until you've reached that age - 'the age of consent' - the law says you cannot give your permission to have sex. So even though you might have agreed to have sex with someone, that person can still be charged with sexual assault if you haven't reached the age of consent.

Power relationships

As well as the age, definition of 'sex' and 'free agreement', laws also vary around the relationship between the people involved (like if one person is in a position of care, power or supervision over another). The table below lays out some basic info on what that age is in each state/territory, and but also includes links to the lawstuff website so you can find more detailed information for your state/territory.

State Age of consent Lawstuff website for more info
A.C.T. Consent can't be given to engage in 'sex' by anyone under 16. Definition of 'sex' and age of consent in A.C.T.
New South Wales Consent can't be given to engage in 'sex' by anyone under 16. Definition of 'sex' and age of consent in New South Wales
Northern Territory Consent can't be given to engage in 'sex' by anyone under 16. Definition of 'sex' and age of consent in Northern Territory
Queensland Consent can't be given to engage in 'sex' by anyone under 16. Definition of 'sex' and age of consent in Queensland
South Australia Consent can't be given to engage in 'sex' by anyone under 17. Definition of 'sex' and age of consent in South Australia
Tasmania Consent can't be given to engage in 'sex' by anyone under 17. Definition of 'sex' and age of consent in Tasmania
Victoria Consent can't be given to engage in 'sex' by anyone under 16. Definition of 'sex' and age of consent in Victoria
Western Australia Consent can't be given to engage in 'sex' by anyone under 16. Definition of 'sex' and age of consent in Western Australia

For more on the hows and whys check out some of our other info on sex and consent to make sure you're on the right side of the line...