Health and your body - Young people
Young people under the age of 18 years of age have certain rights when it comes to their health and their body.
This information will help you to understand what rights you have. Find out:
- when you are old enough to have sex
- when you can get a tattoo
- when you can get your body pierced
- what your options are if you are pregnant
- what to do if you have been injured because of a crime.
When am I old enough to have sex?
The age when someone can have sex is called the age of consent. This is the age at which a person can consent (agree) to sex. The age of consent in Western Australia is 16.
If the other person is in a position of power, such as someone looking after you or a teacher, the age of consent is 18.
You are not allowed to have sex with a person under 16, even if they say they want to. If someone does have sex with you before you turn 16, they can be charged with a criminal offence.
When can I get a tattoo?
You cannot get a tattoo or brand on any part of your body if you are under 16 years of age unless it is for medical or therapeutic purposes.
If you are 16 years old or over, but under 18, you can only get a tattoo if you have the written consent of a parent. Sometimes, only one parent may be authorised to give the consent needed.
The written consent must be about getting the tattoo, as well as the part of your body that the tattoo can go on.
If there is no written consent, or you are under 16 years of age, the person who gives you the tattoo or brand commits an offence and can go to gaol unless the tattooing or branding was for medical or therapeutic purposes. This applies even if you want a home-made tattoo or brand.
Once you are 18 years old, you can agree to the tattoo yourself and where it goes on your body.
When can I get my body pierced?
The law prohibits the piercing of any intimate area of a person who is under the 18 years of age even if a parent consents to that piercing.
This means that that items such as genital or nipple studs or rings are illegal for all young people under the age of 18 even if a parent has consented.
Other parts of your body can be pierced when you are under 18 years old if you have the written consent of a parent or guardian. The written consent must be about the piercing and the part of the body that can be pierced.
The only time written consent is not needed is if the young person is 16 years or older, and the body piercing is ear piercing.
Once you turn 18, you can decide for yourself if and where you get a piercing.
What if I have been injured because of a crime?
If you have been the victim or a crime, or you were a close relative or someone who was killed as a result of a crime, you may be eligible for compensation for the injuries or loss you have suffered.
- must apply for compensation within certain periods of time,
- need to provide certain information, and
- there are different sort of loss or injuries that you might be able to claim for.
There are also various ways to ask for compensation. It is always important to get legal advice about your individual situation.
More information is available on our Compensation for victims of crime webpage.
Can I see a doctor without my parents being there?
Most doctors will offer you an appointment when you under the age of 18 without requiring your parents being there. However, sometimes:
- The doctor might need to tell your parents or other adults what you have told them; and
- They may not be able to give you medical treatment (including prescribing medication) without the consent of your parent.
When you are under 18, a parent or legal guardian can make medical decisions for you. This includes whether or not you have treatment and the type of treatment you should receive.
Sometimes you may be able to make those decisions for yourself without having to get consent from a parent. You will need to be able to show many things, including that you have the intelligence and maturity to properly understand the nature and effect of medical decisions and you can make reasonable decisions for yourself.
Whether or not you have the legal capacity to make your own medical decisions will depend on your age, understanding and maturity, as well as the proposed medical treatment itself (including its seriousness, possible side-effects or risks, and whether it could have permanent or irreversible consequences).
What are my options if I am pregnant?
You have options which can include:
- going ahead with the pregnancy and keeping the baby
- having the baby and adopting out, or
- terminating the pregnancy (an abortion).
A counsellor, nurse or doctor can help you think through your choices. You can get more than one opinion. There is no minimum age for keeping your baby. You have to be able to care for yourself and the baby and keep the baby safe.
If you are under 16 years of age and still living at home or dependent on your parents, a parent or legal guardian must be informed that you are considering an abortion and they must participate in the counselling process between you and the doctor. The final decision is yours.
If you do not want to tell your parent or guardian, in special circumstances you can apply to the Children's Court for an order to go ahead with an abortion without your parent's involvement. Legal assistance for this is free. You will get help with your application and putting your case to the magistrate or judge, who will make the decision on whether to involve your parent or guardian. Call Legal Aid WA’s Children’s Court Protection Services on (08) 9218 0160.
- Department of Communities
To find out more about adoption.
- King Edward Memorial Hospital website – Pregnancy choices (including abortion)
Reviewed: 3 November 2022