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Age of consent – when can you legally have sex?

The legal age of consent in WA is 16 years. This means that people under 16 cannot legally consent to having sex. It is not okay to have sex with someone who is under 16:

  • the day before their 16th birthday
  • because they look like they are over 16
  • if they say they are 16, but you are not sure, or
  • even if they say 'yes' 1,000 times!

Where one person is in a position of power or authority over the other (such as a teacher, sports coach, or nanny), then the legal age of consent for sexual activity in WA is 18 years. 

If you have sex with a person who is under the age of consent, you are committing a crime.

If you’re going interstate for Leavers, you need to remember that the age of consent is different in other places around Australia.  A good place to find information for all states and territories is on the Lawstuff website

Consent laws were made to protect children from paedophiles. The law makers were probably not thinking about 16 and 17-year-olds having sex with 15-year-olds: but the laws still apply and can have serious legal consequences.

What is consent?

If you and another person are engaging in sexual activity of any kind, you need to get their consent. Remember, a person under the age of 16 in WA cannot legally consent to sex. If someone is 16 or older, you must get their consent before having sex with them.

Consent must be given freely and voluntarily with a full understanding of what is going on. A person can say 'No' with words or actions – for example, pushing someone away.

A person cannot consent if they are:

  • asleep or unconscious
  • affected by drugs or alcohol
  • tricked, threatened, forced or coerced

The best way to find out if someone wants to have sex with you is to ask them.

Consent must be continuous
  • Consent can be removed at any time, even after you have started having sex.
  • ‘Stealthing’ is removing a condom during sex without the knowledge or permission of the other person. If you do this, you could be committing a serious offence. 

Legal consequences

Sexual penetration without consent is a crime. If found guilty, adults can face up to 20 years jail. People under 18 can face up to 7 years jail. Both adults and children can be declared as Reportable Offenders, and placed on the ‘Sex Offender Register’.

There is no time limit on when someone can be charged for sex offences they have committed. When you were 17, you might have had a sexual relationship with someone who was 15 (under the age of consent). You can still be charged years later, even if the other person didn't make a complaint to police when the offence first happened.