In general, there are no laws that say when a young person can start dating another person (but there are laws about doing sexual activity with another person, which we explain below!)
However, there are laws which make grooming children under the age of 16 illegal. In the ACT grooming can occur where an adult encourages a young person who is under 16 years old to take part in or watch a sexual act, or show a young person who is under 16 pornography. These laws can also apply to online relationships.
If you are worried about a relationship with an adult (including an online relationship), or communications you are receiving, you can contact us for free and confidential advice.
The law says that sexual intercourse is any penetration of a person’s genitalia or anus by any part of the body of another person or any object, or any kind of oral sex.
A sexual act can include many different types of activities, such as:
Consent is required for any sexual act, not just those involving penetration.
There are also special laws applying to recording a sexual activity with another person or sending or receiving sexual pictures or videos showing a young person who is under 18. For more information about these laws please see our pages on sexting and image-based abuse.
“Consent” means free and voluntary agreement. It is useful to think of consent as an enthusiastic yes! It is never okay for someone to assume you have given consent or to force you to keep going if you want to stop. You can also change your mind or withdraw your consent at any time.
Consent is really important, and we recommend you check out our page on consent if you are thinking of having sex or doing something sexual with another person.
The age of consent is the age at which the law says a person can agree to sexual activity. If you are under the age of consent, the law says that you cannot legally agree to sexual activity, and any person who does something sexual with you has broken the law.
In the ACT, it is never legal for a person to do a sexual activity with someone who is under 10 years old.
When you are 10 to 15 years old, it’s legal for someone to do a sexual act with you only if:
When you are 16 years and older, you can have sex with another person aged 16 or older if you both agree to it.
However, you cannot consent to sexual activity with someone who has special care over you, who is supervising you or who has authority over you, like a teacher, sports coach, youth worker, counsellor, foster carer, religious instructor, health professional, police officer or employer while you are 16-17 years old.
It is also a crime for a person to have sexual intercourse with a close family member, including a parent, child, sibling, grandparent or grandchild – even if there is consent.
If you are 24 or under and you have any questions about these laws, you can contact us for free and confidential legal advice here.
If someone has done something without your permission or that has made you feel uncomfortable, this may be sexual abuse. This is NEVER okay. For more information about sexual abuse take a look at this page.
You can contact us for free and confidential legal advice here.
If someone is found guilty of breaking the laws around sex and consent, they may be convicted of a criminal offence. Sexual offences can carry serious penalties, and a person who has been convicted of a sexual offence against a child may be placed on the Child Sex Offenders Register in the ACT.
If you think you might have broken these laws, or you are worried about the police contacting you, you can contact us for free and confidential legal advice. If you think someone else might have broken these laws and them doing so has affected you, please also contact us.
Deciding to start a sexual relationship with someone, or have sex with them, is a big step. It’s important to make sure you feel ready. It’s normal to feel nervous and excited, and it can be helpful to talk to someone about how you are feeling before you decide.
If you feel pressured to do something sexual, or if you’re not sure if you want to, you can say NO. And if you say yes and then decide you no longer want to do something, you can stop at any time. The other person must respect your choice. If they do something sexual with you without your agreement, they may be committing a serious crime.
If you are thinking about having sex, please be aware of the risks that are involved with unsafe or unprotected sex. These risks include:
For information about how you can protect yourself from the risks of unsafe sex, you can see your GP or visit one of these websites:
You can contact us here for free and confidential legal advice, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.
You can also contact the services listed below to talk about anything relating to sex including safe sex, what is considered normal in a relationship, or if you are worried you might be pregnant. They are not the police or a government department, and you do not have to give them your name and details if you don’t want to.
You can call the Kids Helpline on 1800 55 1800 for free and private counselling (available 24 hours a day, but there can be a wait to get through). They are happy to talk to young people between the ages of 5-25 years about anything that’s on their mind. You can also email them or chat online at: http://kidshelpline.com.au.
Sexual Health and Family Planning ACT is a sexual and reproductive health clinic and education service for people in the ACT. Their clinic is located at Level One, 28 University Avenue, Canberra, City ACT, 2601. You can call the clinic on (02) 6247 3077.
Canberra Sexual Health Centre is another sexual health clinic, providing free testing and treatment. They are located at level 4 of Building 8 at the Canberra Hospital. You can call the clinic on (02) 5124 2184.
1800RESPECT provides free counselling, information and support for people who have experienced sexual assault or domestic and family violence. You can call them on 1800 737 732, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.
If you have a problem or a question, you can send it to us today and we can provide you with free advice, information and referrals to help solve your problem. Just click on the button below.Get help now