This episode was recorded on the country of the Gadigal people of the Eora nation. We pay our respects to Elder's past and present. Always was. Always will be. This episode discusses particular issues involving sexual assault. If you need support at any time, you can contact 1800 respect on 1-800-737-7322 or visit one 1800respect.org.au. You can also contact the New South Wales sexual violence helpline or the men's referral service. We'll put these details in more in the show notes for this episode. You may have heard of the phrase affirmative consent laws lately, maybe even since last year, these sexual consent reforms were passed by New South Wales parliament in 2021. And then they are in effect as of the first of June 2022. But what are these laws all about? And what do they mean for you who may be assisting your clients or community group? My name is Yasmine and this is law for community workers on the go. A podcast for community and health workers. In this special shortcut episode, I sit down with Julianne Elliot. Julianne is a senior solicitor at Legal Aid New South Wales who specializes in educating young people about the law, Julianne provides an overview of the key aspects of the reforms, her experience working with young people, and what community workers can do to learn more. Thank you so much for joining me on the podcast today, Julianne, these new consent laws are sometimes referred to as affirmative consent laws. Can you tell our listeners about affirmative consent? What does it mean?
Well, that's a really great question to start off with, because it's the heart of the matter, really, of the changes. Affirmative consent is basically a situation where you cannot assume that somebody's consenting to sex or sexual activity like kissing or touching. Just because they haven't actually said no, you have to ask them, you have to check in. Communication is key with this new law. If they haven't said anything, you have to check in. Basically, what we're looking for is really good communication between people, and we'll be able to stick to the law.
So what are some situations where people can't consent? Even if they say yes?
so consent always has to be free and voluntary under the law. That means that there are some situations where people can't consent. If somebody has had heaps of alcohol, drugs, and they just can't think clearly enough to consent, then no consent exists. If somebody's asleep or unconscious, obviously, they can't consent. If somebody's manipulated or threatened into consenting, then there's no consent there, either. The last one, I'd say is probably quite relevant for young people. If you're under 16, you can't consent because you haven't reached the age of consent yet.
And Julianne, you speak with 1000s of young people every year about consent. What are your key messages to young people when you meet with them?
Yeah, so many messages actually. It's really great to be able to have these conversations with young people, and hear what they already know and what they think and what I can bring to the table. In terms of info, basically, we do need to talk about the law, we need to talk about those changes to consent law that we talked about earlier. It is also important, then to talk about what some of the offenses are that come out of a lack of consent, for example, sexual assault, sexual touching, or sexual acts. But beyond that, I also think it's really important to think about the idea of ethical consent. And by that I mean, a situation where we're not just trying to do the right thing, when we want to have sex with someone just because we want to avoid getting charged, but also because we want to be having really positive interactions with our partners, where we show them respect, where we communicate really well, where we care about how they're doing. And the last thing I'd say that we talk about a lot is just some referral options for where they can get help. If the workshop has brought some stuff up for them, that's quite hard for them, or if they just want to find out more information about the topic.
Fantastic. I love that part about the ethical considerations because a lot of people when they hear all you know, there's new consent laws, it's you know, it's all about all you know, what am I going to get in trouble for who's going to jail for what but really, it isn't about that. It's about how can we have better positive experiences with people in our lives, and that's why your work is super, super important. I can imagine as well, you would come across a lot of different people with a lot of opinions, not just young people. What are some Common myths that you have heard about affirmative consent.
I don't think I've heard a lot of myths specifically about affirmative consent, I guess apart from, you know, kind of working out how to show your consent, like a gestures, okay? Or do you have to have words, the law does say you can show consent by words or actions. But oftentimes I do suggest that, you know, when we're getting to know people, and when we're just starting out, then then words are always the clearest thing to have. There are some myths out there for sure, though, generally about this area. And I think one of the commonest questions that I would be asked is, What happens if you think they consented the night before, but actually, in the morning, they changed their mind. And they say they weren't consenting at all. And to that, I usually say that situations where people make up stories are extremely rare, even though it's something that people worry about a lot. And I guess that also goes to show how important it is for us to have good communication when we're engaging in sexual activity, just because the more communication you have, the better we are treating each other, the less likely it is that somebody's going to wake up in the morning and not feel great about what happened. So I think the law and ethics in that way work really well together.
And a good note to end on communication is key. That's the real, real big take out of this, I think, definitely. And this podcast is for community workers. How can community workers learn more about these reforms?
Yes. So there's a lot of ways that you can learn more about the reforms, we're going to have a webinar, looking into these changes in more depth on June the 20th, at 11 to 12pm. And you can go to our website to find out more information, I think they'll probably be a link at some stage, you can book in for a workshop for me to come out and talk to your staff members or your clients. Those workshops are free. We're also going to have a fact sheet up on our website soon covering all of the stuff that we've talked about today. And a little bit more.
Brilliant, a nice little package there. And we'll put all the links to the webinar and all the other great stuff in the show notes for this little episode. Thank you so much for jumping on the podcast and chatting to our listeners today, Julianne,
it is my absolute pleasure. Thank you for having me.
That's all for this short cut episode today. Thank you again to Julianne Elliot for taking the time to sit down and chat with me about the new halls. Remember, if you have been impacted by any of the content in this episode, you are not alone. To speak with someone who is trained to help call 1800 respect on 1800 737 732 or visit one 1800 respect.org.au. If there's a legal topic or issue or question that you want answered, you can ask anonymously via the form in the show notes. Thank you for listening, and we'll catch you next time for another shortcut episode.