A guide to dating in Australia

Dating can be really fun, but it’s important to stay safe and well too. Learn more about Australia’s dating scene and how to look after yourself and others.

Written by Editor Medibank
Young Asian couple drinking coffee at cafe coffee shop

Making the decision to start dating is exciting, but if you’ve recently moved to Australia as an international student, you might be wondering if there are different things to consider compared to dating in other parts of the world where you’ve lived or studied.

The main thing to remember is that in Australia, dating is meant to be both enjoyable and fun! So, in order to have a good time in a safe and responsible way, here’s what you need to know.

Take care when you’re dating online

Dating apps and dating sites are a common way to meet people in Australia, but it’s important to protect yourself so you can stay safe. As well as taking steps to avoid catfishing (when someone pretends to be someone they’re not by using social media to create a false identity, usually to defraud or scam someone else) or dating scams, take care not to use your full name and make sure the profile photo you use doesn’t appear anywhere else online.

If and when you decide to meet someone you’ve met online in person, stay in a public place (like a café or restaurant) and tell someone else when and where you’re meeting. Above all, trust your gut feelings – if something doesn’t feel right, it probably isn’t. You can learn more about dating online successfully, here.

Stay safe when you’re drinking alcohol

In order to avoid your drink being spiked – which means it contains more alcohol than you expected or has been contaminated with a prescription or illegal drug – buy your own drinks and always keep them in sight. As a general rule, don’t accept drinks from strangers – even someone you’ve been chatting to online – unless you accompany them to the bar and take the drink from the bartender yourself.

The importance of consent

Consent means that both you and your partner have given free and voluntary agreement to have sex. Experts say thinking of consent as an enthusiastic yes can be helpful, but in general terms, it means communicating with each other before and during sex to make sure that you’re both comfortable and happy with what’s happening.

Informed consent can’t be given if the effects of alcohol or drugs mean you or your partner aren’t able to express their feelings about what’s happening, or if you’re too scared to, for some reason. And it’s never okay for someone to assume that you’ve given consent or to force you to keep going if you want to stop – and vice versa. Also remember that you or your partner can change your mind at any point, including when you’re having sex. You can learn more about consent here.

If you have been the victim of sexual assault, you can call 1800 RESPECT on 1800 737 732 for support. It is understandable if the thought of reporting a sexual assault to the police is upsetting, and deciding whether to do that or not may be difficult. Speaking to someone you trust, such as a friend of family member, may help you make up your mind, and remember that if you do decide to report it, the police will have someone there to support you during the process.

Having safer sex

If you’re having sex, it’s important to do it safely, which means protecting yourself and your partner from sexually transmitted infections (STIs) and unplanned pregnancy. As well as preventing pregnancy, certain forms of contraception, like condoms, can also help reduce the spread of STIs. Certain medications, such as pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP) can also prevent transmission of HIV.

For more safe-sex tips, click here.

Get regular sexual health checks

Everyone who’s sexually active should have a regular check-up with their doctor or at a local sexual health clinic, but sexual health checks are particularly important in specific circumstances. These include if you think you might have an STI, if you’ve had unsafe sex (or if a condom broke or fell off during sex) or if you or your partner has more than one sexual partner. If you’re not sure how to find a sexual health clinic or GP, you could start with on-campus medical services. You can also learn more about sexual health checks here.

Testing is for everyone

It’s important to know that LGBTQ+ women are almost as likely as heterosexual women to test positive to an STI, you can find more information on this here.

You can also find information on preventative screenings here.

Australia’s LGBTQ+ culture

LGBTQIA+ stands for lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer or questioning, plus other sexuality and/or gender diversity.

Equality and freedom from discrimination are fundamental human rights, which belong to all people regardless of sexual orientation or gender identity and, in Australia, LGBTQ+ people are protected from discrimination by the law. Likewise, all couples have the right to marry if they choose to, and have legal protections from discrimination in Australia.

As an international student, this inclusivity around sexuality and gender diversity in Australia might seem unique and exciting, and for some people it may also provide a sense of relief and even freedom.

It’s still important to remember that all sexually active LGBTQ+ people should have regular sexual health checks.

If you’re a little unsure about the language and terminology used, you may find this basic language guide useful. We’ve also included a glossary of common terms below and you can find out more via the links below


For full glossary of terms relating to gender and sexuality see this language guide

Asexual/ace: a person who experiences little to no sexual attraction, but may experience romantic attraction

Agender: a person who has does not have a gender or is gender neutral

Bisexual/bi: an individual who is sexually and/or romantically attracted to people of the same gender and people of another gender

Binary: Something that is binary consists of two things or can refer to one of a pair of things. When talking about genders, binary genders are male and female.

Cisgender/cis: A term used to describe people who identify their gender as the same as what was presumed for them at birth (male or female).

Gay: where a person is romantically and/or sexually attracted to people of the same sex and/or gender as themselves

Gender / gender identity: someone's personal sense of whether they are a man, woman, non-binary, agender, genderfluid, or a combination of one or more of these.

Gender fluid: a term used to describe a person whose gender identity is not fixed and may change over time.

Heterosexual: an individual who is sexually and/or romantically attracted to the opposite gender.

Intersex: Intersex people have innate sex characteristics that don’t fit medical and social norms for female or male bodies, and that create risks or experiences of stigma, discrimination, and harm.

Lesbian: a person that identifies as a woman who is sexually and/or romantically attracted to other people who identify as women.

Non-binary: where a person’s gender identity sits within, outside of, across or between the spectrum of the male and female binary

Pansexual: a person who is romantically and/or sexually attracted to people regardless of their gender identity

Queer: an umbrella term used to describe a range of sexual orientations and gender identities.

Questioning: an individual may still be exploring or questioning their gender or sexual orientation, they may not wish to have one of the other terms or labels applied to them yet.

Sex: a classification usually made at birth as either male or female based on a person's external sex characteristics, rather than their lived experience.

Sexuality: describes a person's romantic and/or sexual attraction to others.

Sex characteristics: physical parts of the body that are related to body development, regulation, and reproductive systems

Sexual orientation: an individual's sexual and romantic attraction to another person.

Transgender / trans and gender diverse: inclusive umbrella terms used to refer to people whose assigned sex at birth does not match their gender identity.

For more information

The following websites are helpful resources if you’d like to find out more about sexual health and dating in Australia, so you can make the most of the experience and have fun, too.

Sexual Health Victoria has created a Dating in Australia video series and online-learning module to support international students with information about sexual health, consent and healthy relationships.

Designed specifically for and in collaboration with international students, the International Student Health Hub is a website that provides access to sexual health information and services, as well as information about Australia’s healthcare system and how to use it when you’re studying here.

Family Planning Alliance Australia provides links to territory and state-based associations where you can access information about sexual health and request an appointment at a clinic near you.

QLife offers anonymous and free peer support for LGBTIQ+ people in Australia who want to talk about their sexuality, identity, gender, bodies, feelings, or relationships.

Say It Out Loud – encourages LGBTQ+ communities to have healthy relationships and provides a range of support.

And remember, you can also phone the 24/7 Student Health and Support Line for health advice from a registered nurse, counselling services and more. The service is available 24/7 on 1800 887 283 if you hold Medibank OSHC or 1800 006 745 if you hold ahm OSHC.

24/7 Student Health and Support Line

Need support? Medibank Overseas Student Health Cover members can call anytime for health advice from a registered nurse, counselling services, emergency legal advice, travel document assistance, interpreter service and more.

Written by Editor Medibank

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