The NSW consent laws changed on 1 June 2022.

The Crimes Legislation Amendment (Sexual Consent Reforms) Act 2021 implemented consent reforms that aim to:

  • clarify consent provisions in the Crimes Act 1900, including that consent is a free and voluntary agreement that should not be presumed
  • clarify that consent involves ongoing and mutual communication
  • strengthen laws to confirm that consent can be withdrawn, and that if someone consents to one sexual act, it doesn’t mean they’ve consented to other sexual acts
  • ensure fairer and more effective prosecutions of sexual offences
  • address misconceptions about consent in trial proceedings
  • improve victim experience of the justice system and juror understanding of the complexities of sexual offending and reporting through the introduction of new jury directions.

The NSW Government supported, or supported in principle, all 44 recommendations made by the NSW Law Reform Commission (LRC) in its report: Report 148: Consent in relation to sexual offences (the Consent Review).

The NSW Government's reform goes further than the LRC’s recommendations in one important way, by providing that any belief in consent that an accused person had (or may have) at the time of sexual activity will not be reasonable in the circumstances if the accused did not say or do anything to ascertain consent. There is an exception to this requirement for an accused person with a significant mental health or cognitive impairment.

Awareness and education

The NSW Government is working with judges, legal practitioners and police to ensure they are well-informed and prepared for the changes to consent law. This includes the Judicial Commission of NSW, which provides a continuing education and training program for judicial officers.

The NSW Bureau of Crime Statistics and Research (BOCSAR) has also established a research project to better understand the experiences of complainants of sexual offences within the criminal justice system.

Alongside the legislative changes, the NSW Government has launched an awareness campaign – Make No Doubt. The campaign aims to empower young people to check consent every time they engage in sexual activity.

For more information about the shared commitment in the education sector to drive community and cultural change in relation to sexual violence visit the Department of Education’s website.

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