Dr Marissa Paterson draws up plans in her office. Photo: Holly Treadaway

A PROPOSAL over consent will shift ACT legislation on sexual assault to fall more in line with "contemporary community expectations".

The government move to enact the free and voluntary agreement into law would turn the offence into a violent act.

The changes to the ACT Crimes Act 1900 will provide a clear definition where an individual has to say or do something to communicate consent, either verbally or non-verbally.

The legislative move would also allow the individual to withdraw consent during any stage of the sexual act.

Labor MLA Marissa Paterson believed the new model of consent on sexual assault will also provide greater protection and justice for both victims and survivors.

"This is a significant step forward for our community, so I hope it is seen as an empowering moment for all those survivors of sexual violence in our community – we believe you, we support you," she said.

Dr Paterson detailed her own account of sexual hurt in the ACT Legislative Assembly during her maiden speech last December.

A prominent New Zealand university academic had stalked and bullied the anthropological doctor of philosophy at ANU.

Only after Dr Paterson brought sexual harassment allegations into the public spotlight was there any action taken against the perpetrator.

The proposal will also introduce a new test for the prosecution of an accused individual in which their belief that consent was given must be deemed to be reasonable under those specific circumstances.

The previous Labor-Greens government before Dr Paterson had entered the assembly had considered a similar amendment after the standing committee on justice and community safety held an inquiry.

She has since undertaken a detailed review of each of the submissions made by a wide range of stakeholders in 2018 and the government's response to the inquiry.

"I'm proposing to introduce a communicative model of consent whereby the principle, the meaning and the definition of consent has shifted – from something that is presumed and can be negated, to consent being something that must be given," Dr Paterson said.

The changes would bring the ACT into line with legislation introduced in the parliaments of Victoria and Tasmania.

An exposure draft to solicit public comment will remain open until July 16.

Who can be trusted?

In a world of spin and confusion, there’s never been a more important time to support independent journalism in Canberra.

If you trust our work online and want to enforce the power of independent voices, I invite you to make a small contribution.

Every dollar of support is invested back into our journalism to help keep citynews.com.au strong and free.

Become a supporter

Thank you,

Ian Meikle, editor