Laws regarding legal dating ages

Although the legal age of consent throughout Australia is either 16 or 17 years of age, legislation in New South Wales, Victoria, Western Australia, South Australia and the Northern Territory makes it an offence for a person in a supervisory role to sexually engage with a person under their special care who is aged 16 or 17 years.A person in a supervisory role providing "special care" may include: a teacher, foster parent, religious official or spiritual leader, a medical practitioner, an employer of the child or a custodial official.Age of consent laws are designed to protect children and young people from sexual exploitation and abuse.Such laws effectively determine that children and young people below the age of consent are yet to reach a level of general maturity enabling their safe participation in sexual activities.If the relationship between two children or young people under the legal age of consent is unequal, non-consensual or coercive, it is abusive and may require a child protection or judicial response.Recent sex education programs for children and young people aged below or at the age of consent have shifted from a dominantly risk-based paradigm to building knowledge and resilience, particularly with regard to contemporary matters such as digital technologies.

The legal age for consensual sex varies across Australian state and territory jurisdictions (see Table 1).Reflecting on these three factors can help to clarify when behaviour is abusive.Four areas of knowledge are required in order to give consent: understanding of what the physical act(s) involve, their meaning, society's laws and cultural norms, and possible consequences (Mc Carthy & Thompson, 2004).For further information regarding sexual interaction with 16 and 17 years old under special care please see the relevant state or territory legislation.It is a common and normal part of sexual development for young people to explore and experiment in sexual interactions with their peers (Araji, 2004; Barbaree & Marshall, 2006; Eade, 2003).

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