The Down Under guide for international students
For many international students, studying and living in Tasmania can often involve adapting to a new culture and way of living.
Being away from family and friends, and working hard to complete your studies can be difficult. It is important to look after yourself so you stay healthy and safe throughout your stay.
Sexual health can be a difficult topic to discuss, however it is important to talk about it so that you know how to keep yourself and others safe. The questions and answers below will help you to learn more, including how to find support services if you ever need them.
Sexual health includes our physical, mental and social wellbeing in relation to our sexuality. It includes preventing sexually transmissible infections (STIs) and being respectful in our relationships.
In Australia, things may be different to your home country. Many types of relationships are considered to be acceptable and legal, including same sex relationships. It is also common for people to have sex or live together without being married. It is illegal to treat a person differently or unfairly because of their choice of partner or gender identity. This is called discrimination.
In Australia, we also have a wide range of services and clinics that can provide sexual health information, and help with contraception, pregnancy, STI enquiries and testing or questions about sexuality.
As a part of their work, doctors and nurses are required to treat all patients with respect and also keep information confidential. It is against the law for health professionals to treat their patients differently because of their ethnicity, religion, sexual preference or gender.
Having a safe and respectful relationship is about open communication with your partner/s and making sure you always have their consent (permission) before and during any sexual activity. It is the law in Australia that you must not touch another person without their consent.
Make sure you check with your partner/s that they are consenting by asking them. Also remember they can change their mind at any time and then all activity must stop.
In Tasmania, any partner/s that you participate in sexual activity with must be at least 17 years of age. A person cannot give their consent to you if they are under the age of 17, if they are under the influence of alcohol or drugs and/or if they are unconscious or asleep.
Consent is also important when you communicate with other people. ‘Sexting’ means sending sexual messages, pictures or videos to another person by phone or computer. These are often nude photographs but can also be people having sex.
You must not send a ‘sext’ to someone without their consent. You also cannot share a sext that you have received with other people, unless the person sending it to you says you can.
Sexts are a type of pornography and it is against the law for you to send or keep these types of pictures or videos of anyone under 18 years old.
If you ever feel physically or emotionally unsafe in a relationship, you can call the police on 131 444 or access support services such as the National Sexual Assault, Domestic Family Violence Counselling Service on 1800 737 732 or the Sexual Assault Support Service on 6231 0044.
In emergency of life threatening situations please call 000
Safer sex is an important part of a respectful relationship. Safer sex is where you use condoms or dams during oral, vaginal or anal sex.
A condom is a latex (rubber) covering worn on a man’s penis during sexual intercourse as a contraceptive to help prevent pregnancy or as a protection against infection. A dam is a thin, square piece of latex (rubber) which is placed between the mouth and the partner’s body during oral sex (over the labia or anus during oral-vaginal or oral-anal sex).
Condoms and dams stop body fluids such as blood, vaginal fluids and semen from passing from one person to another. This can prevent sexually transmissible infections (STIs).
Condoms can be bought at chemists (pharmacies) and supermarkets, and places like hotels often sell condoms in vending machines in the toilets. Dams can be bought at sexual health clinics or at chemists. If you are allergic to latex (rubber) you can buy latex free dams or condoms.
Safer sex also involves a private environment where you and your partner/s are safe and comfortable.
A Sexually Transmissible Infection (STI) is an infection passed on during sexual activity, through the exchange of body fluids such as semen, blood, saliva and vaginal fluids. There are a number of different STIs and the best way to protect yourself from them is by having safer sex.
Many Sexually Transmissible Infections (STIs) do not have obvious symptoms and some have no symptoms at all. For example, in Australia, the most common STI is Chlamydia and this often has no symptoms. The only way to be sure you do not have an STI is to have a simple STI test.
However, if you have any of the following symptoms you should see a doctor as soon as possible:
- Itching and/or irritation of the genital area or anus
- Pain or burning sensation when urinating
- Rash, swelling, sores or lumps around the genital area
- Pain during sexual intercourse
- Vaginal bleeding (not including periods)
- Pain in the testicles
- Swollen testicles
- Sore throat and/or swollen throat glands
You should be tested for Sexually Transmissible Infections (STI) before you start having sex with a new partner, or if you think you have symptoms of a STI.
If you have more than one partner you should get tested every 3-6 months. You can have an STI test at a GP, Family Planning Tasmania or at a number of the services listed below under, ‘Where can I access more information and support?’
STI tests often only require a urine test which is a fast and pain free procedure. In some cases, the doctor may suggest taking a swab or viewing the genitals to give a correct diagnosis. Sometimes they may also recommend that you get a blood test done. The doctor will discuss treatment options with you if needed.
If you think you or your partner/s have been exposed to HIV, seek medical advice immediately.
Post-exposure Prophylaxis (PEP) is a treatment that may prevent HIV infection. It is essential that it is given within 72 hours of contact with HIV, so from Monday-Friday you should contact Clinic 60 or Clinic 34 immediately. On the weekend you should go the emergency department at the Royal Hobart Hospital, The Launceston General Hospital, The Mersey Hospital or the North-West Regional Hospital.
Whether you are having sex regularly or only occasionally, it is important to use contraception if you or your partner do not want to become pregnant.
There are a number of different types of contraception available in Australia, and some are more effective than others. Some are also longer acting and these are called Long Acting Reversible Contraceptives (LARCs). You can see how well certain contraceptives work here.
The best way to make a decision about the right type of contraception for you is to talk to a doctor. You should still practice safer sex to prevent STIs even if you are using contraception.
People sometimes have sex without using any contraception or the contraception may not work properly (eg. a condom breaks during vaginal sex).
If you are using the contraceptive pill you might forget to take it or it might not work properly if you are vomiting or taking some other types of medication.
If any of these things happen, there is emergency contraception. This is commonly known as the ‘Morning After Pill’, and it can help reduce the risk of pregnancy by stopping or delaying the release of the egg.
Emergency contraception is about 85% effective at reducing the risk of pregnancy and it is most effective if taken within 24 hours of sex. It still can work for up to 5 days after having sex, but the longer you wait the less chance it has of working.
It can be easily purchased without a prescription at a chemist (pharmacy). You can also get it at Family Planning Tasmania or at a sexual health clinic.
- Missed your period?
- Felt nauseous or unwell for no reason?
- Got sore breasts?
- Needed to urinate (pee) more often than usual?
- Been very tired?
These might indicate you are pregnant, however they do not always mean you are pregnant.
The most common way to check for pregnancy in Australia is to buy a urine pregnancy test from a supermarket or chemist, and follow the instructions that come with it. It may take up to 4 weeks from becoming pregnant for the test to be accurate.
If your result is positive, make an appointment with your doctor provider to discuss your options.
If your result is negative, you should still make an appointment with your doctor to work out why you might be feeling these symptoms.
If you are pregnant, your doctor will discuss the following possibilities with you
- Parenthood: remain pregnant and choose to raise your baby
- Termination: this will end your pregnancy
- Adoption: remain pregnant but allow another person to raise it once it is born
Although this decision may be difficult, remember it is up to you. You will not be pressured to choose a particular option, and you will be supported in the decision you make.
Make sure you check what it covered and what is not covered by your Overseas Student Health Cover (OSHC). The best way to do this is to contact your OSHC provider directly.
Sexual assault means somebody forcing or trying to force you into any unwanted sexual acts. This could be a stranger, but can also be someone you know, are in a relationship with, or even a family member.
Sexual assault is a crime and should be reported to police. You can call the police directly on 131 444 if you have been sexually assaulted, threatened or raped. You can also contact the Sexual Assault Service on 1800 697 877 for help and support with reporting.
In emergency and life threatening situations please call 000
In Australia, each state has its own laws and legislation regarding sex work (this includes what some people call prostitution).
In Tasmania it is legal to belong to a sex working business either as an individual or with one other worker. It is not legal to work for a business operated or managed by a commercial operator, or to work with more than one other sex worker.
Under the law a sex worker and client must use condoms and dams during sexual intercourse
It is legal in Tasmania to visit a sex worker.
For both men and women, the genitals should not have sores, swelling, itching, rashes, lumps or pain of any kind.
It is normal however to have hair on or around your genitals, this is called pubic hair.
For women, you will have some liquid called vaginal discharge, which is your vagina regulating its internal environment. This discharge should be clear or slightly white or yellow in colour and odourless. Douching (washing out) the vagina, can actually cause infections as the vagina is designed to self-regulate.
Bacterial vaginosis (BV) is caused by an imbalance of the bacteria normally present in the vagina. In women with BV, the normal healthy bacteria (in particular, lactobacilli) are replaced by an overgrowth of other mixed bacteria. The exact cause of BV is unknown.
Symptoms of BV may include:
- watery, white or grey discharge from the vagina
- a strong or unusual odour from the vagina, often described as a ‘fishy smell’.
- Bacterial vaginosis may occur at the same time as sexually transmissible infections (STIs).
Although it is not clear how BV is transmitted, it is more common in women who are sexually active. It is easily treated and you should seek medical advice from your doctor or sexual health clinic.
For men, a substance called smegma can build up underneath the skin around the head of the penis. This is also normal, however washing with warm water should happen daily. It is ok for the testicles to be slightly different sizes however if they are quite noticeably different or swollen seek medical assistance.
If you have, you will likely experience health complications at different stages of life. If you wish to learn more about how to manage these complications or need moral or psychological support around this, Red Cross Tasmania’s Bicultural Community Health Program has Bicultural Health Workers who can assist you, link you to helpful Doctors and/or midwives or counsellors as required. This support is free of charge, culturally sensitive, confidential and you will be supported by female staff. Your student advisors may also link you to our support.
Email email@example.com or call 1800 246 850
Everyone, regardless of their gender identity or sexual attraction, is free to have a relationship and get married in Australia.
Health professionals will not judge or discriminate due to your sexual preference or identity. Also, other services such as real estate agents, shops, accommodation providers and employers can not treat you unfairly or discriminate against you.
One of the main support services for the LGBTI+ community in Tasmania is Working It Out.
Working It Out offers counselling, support and education, as well as information about events in the community.
Australian student visas require you to have Overseas Student Health Cover (OSHC) insurance as healthcare can be quite expensive if you are not an Australian citizen. Whilst the insurance may not cover every medical visit or procedure, it will greatly reduce the cost.
OSHC will contribute to things like STI checks and also help you access prescriptions. However, you should check your OSHC policy to learn more about the specific items covered and the limits.
As well as talking with doctors, listed below are some services that you may access confidentially to help you with your sexual health, wellbeing and safety.
Family Planning Tasmania
Family Planning Tasmania is a non-for profit organisation that assists with sexual and reproductive health services including STI testing, access to contraception and access to termination of pregnancy. You can find current fees here. It is always best to schedule an appointment as walk in appointments are not always available. Family Planning Tasmania is based in Launceston, Glenorchy and Burnie.
Glenorchy: 6273 9117 | Launceston: 6343 4566 | Burnie: 6431 7692
Clinic 34 and Clinic 60 (sexual health clinics)
Clinic 34 and Clinic 60 are government funded sexual health services located in Launceston (Clinic 34) and Hobart (Clinic 60). The medical professionals at the clinics assist with enquiries about sexual health, sexuality and gender identity, STI testing and treatment, HIV testing and care, and genital dermatology. All consultations and services are free at both clinics.
Clinic 34 is open between 8:30-4:30 Monday-Friday for appointments and also accepts walk in clients between 9am-12pm every Thursday.
Clinic 60 is open between 8:30-1pm and 2-pm-5pm Monday-Friday for appointments and also accepts walk in clients every Tuesday between 2:15pm-4:00pm and every Thursday between 9am-12pm.
Hobart: 6166 2672 | Launceston: 6777 1371
Located in Hobart and Launceston, headspace is a one-stop-shop for young people who need help with mental health, physical health (including sexual health), alcohol and other drugs and work and study support. headspace has a variety of health professionals including counsellors, GPs and mental health clinicians.
eheadspace (https://headspace.org.au/eheadspace/) provides online and telephone support and counselling to young people 12 – 25 and their families and friends between 9am – 1am 7 days a week. Both headspace Launceston and headspace Hobart offer assistance with sexual health issues. You will be asked to pay an appointment fee on the day to see a GP at Hobart headspace, starting from $37.60.You may receive a rebate for your appointment from your health insurance.
headspace Hobart is open Monday, Wednesday and Fridays 9am – 5pm, Tuesdays 11am – 5pm, and Thursdays 9am – 7pm.
The sexual health service at Launceston headspace is available between 9:30-4:30pm every Monday, Wednesday, Thursday and Friday and every Tuesday between 12pm-4pm
Hobart: 6231 2927 | Launceston: 6335 3100
The Link provides free and confidential health and wellbeing services for young people aged 12-25
The Link is a safe, professional and confidential service that provides support, practical assistance (washing machine/dryer, shower, mail service, food etc), information, advocacy and referral services in relation to health and other related issues such as alcohol and other drugs. We are the Lead Agency for headspace Hobart (https://headspace.org.au).
Visit us at 57 Liverpool St, Hobart: Monday, Wednesday, Thursday and Fridays 9.30am – 5pm, and Tuesdays 11am – 5pm. We are closed for lunch between 12.30-1pm each day.
Hobart: 036231 2927
Pulse Youth Health South
Pulse Youth Health South is a government youth health service, based in Glenorchy, for young people aged 12-24. Services are provided by health professionals including social workers and registered nurses and include health education, referrals, advocacy, assessment and practical support. Young people can also access free pregnancy testing and contraception.
There is also a visiting psychology service and a sexual health GP clinic. All services are free and confidential.
Young people can access the worker on Duty Service at Pulse without an appointment.
The service is open Monday to Friday 9 am – 5 pm (Closed 12 – 1 pm). The Sexual Health GP Clinic is on Tuesday and Thursday afternoons.
Glenorchy: 6166 1421
Sexual Assault Support Service
Based in Hobart, the Sexual Assault Support Service (SASS) provides a helpline and counselling services to those affected by sexual assault and domestic abuse. All counselling services are free.
Hobart: 1800 697 877
Working It Out
Working It Out is a service based in Hobart and Launceston for LGBTIQ+ individuals, groups or couples. Working It Out offers counselling, support and education, as well as information about looking after the health of yourself and sexual partners. Working It Out also provides details of events coming up in the LGBTIQ+ community.
Hobart: 6231 1200 | Launceston: 0438 346 122
Websites with more information:
This content is provided for general information and education purposes only and does not take into account individual circumstances. It is not to be relied on in substitution for specific advice from a medical professional and Family Planning Tasmania does not accept responsibility for such use. Family Planning Tasmania has taken every effort to ensure that the information is up to date and accurate, however information and knowledge is subject to change. Family Planning Tasmania advises that you always consult a medical professional for individual advice.
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We have clinics in Burnie, Launceston, and Hobart. Interpreter services available.