General rights and duties

 

We each have responsibilities within our community. Young people have both rights and responsibilities in relation to their actions. These rights and responsibilities are governed by law.

Leaving home

For most practical purposes the age for leaving home is 17, since under that age a person is liable to be subject to a “protection application” (seeProtection applications” in The Children’s Court). The Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) may investigate if a parent complains that a child under 17 has left home.

If a young person under 17 has adequate housing and can be properly self-supporting, it is unlikely that DHHS will initiate a protection application in the Children’s Court (seeProtection applications” in The Children’s Court).

Employment

Generally, a child under 15 years must have a permit to be employed (whether paid or not) or to engage in street trading. However, a child under 15 but not younger than 11 may be employed to deliver newspapers, pharmaceuticals and pamphlets. There is no minimum age for the employment of a child in a family business or in entertainment.

The Child Employment Act 2003 (Vic) has established a new regime of limitations placed on the employment of children.

Subject to certain conditions, the restrictions on the employment of young people do not affect work experience programs for those at school (s 5.4.3 Education and Training Reform Act 2006 (Vic)).

Drinking

It is an offence for a young person under 18 to purchase, receive, possess or consume liquor, except as referred to below. It is also an offence for a young person under 18 to enter or remain on licensed premises.

There are a number of exceptions to these rules, however. It is not, for instance, an offence for the young person to receive, possess or consume liquor in a private residence provided that the liquor was supplied by the young person’s parent, guardian or spouse (if the spouse was 18 or over) or a third party authorised by one of those people.

Nor is it an offence if the young person consumes alcohol on licensed premises in the course of eating a meal with their parents or guardian. Some of the other exceptions concern the residents of licensed premises and the family of a licensee. The full list of exceptions is set out in section 119 of the Liquor Control Reform Act 1998 (Vic).

The police can demand the name and address of a young person who requests or receives liquor. On licensed premises the demand can be made by the licensee’s employees. Failure to give any information or the correct information is an offence (s 126).

The police may seize and take away any liquor in the possession of a person believed to be under 18 (s 128).

A person under 18 can be charged with being drunk and disorderly just as anyone else can.

Smoking

It is an offence to sell a tobacco product to a person under 18. It is also an offence for a person to purchase a tobacco product for the use of a person under 18 (s 12 Tobacco Act 1987 (Vic)).

Driving

A young person can apply for a car learner’s permit at the age of 16 years (s 22 Road Safety Act 1986 (Vic)).

At 18 years, a young person may apply for a motorcycle learner’s permit (s 22).

At 18, a young person may apply for a licence to drive if:

a they have previously held a relevant licence in another country; or

b they have held a learner’s permit for at least 12 months in the case of a motor car; or

c they have held a learner’s permit for at least three months or completed an approved training course in the case of a motorcycle (rr 21, 23 Road Safety (Drivers) Regulations 2009 (Vic)).

Weapons

It is an offence for anyone under the age of 18 to purchase or have possession of a firearm, air-gun or air-rifle (Firearms Act 1996 (Vic) (“Firearms Act”). However, if over the age of 12, a young person can get a permit for the purpose of learning to use a firearm (but not for a pistol) while in the company and control of an adult (sch 3 Firearms Act).

A young person cannot get either a pistol or a shooter’s licence until the age of 18.

There are severe restrictions on carrying knives. No one may possess, carry or use a knife unless it is carried in a safe and secure manner consistent with the lawful excuse for which it is possessed. Lawful excuse includes possession or use in the course of employment, lawful sport, recreation or entertainment, or as part of a legitimate collection, display or exhibition. It will not be a lawful excuse to possess, carry or use a knife for self-defence.

Weapons such as flick knives, daggers, butterfly knives and knuckle dusters are included in the list of prohibited weapons that must not be made, sold, purchased, possessed, carried or used in Victoria (Control of Weapons Act 1990 (Vic) and Control of Weapons Regulations 2011 (Vic)).

Voting

Although a young person may register as an elector on reaching the age of 17, it is not permissible to vote until the age of 18. Once 18, registration and voting are compulsory. This includes local government elections.

Wills

A person must be 18 to make a will (s 5 Wills Act 1997 (Vic)). For limited exceptions, and information on will-making, see Wills.

Tattooing and body piercing

Under the Summary Offences Act 1966 (Vic), it is illegal for anyone to tattoo or perform scarification, tongue splitting, branding or beading on anyone under the age of 18 years (s 42).

Intimate body piercings are illegal, if you are under 18 years. If you are under 16 years, it is now illegal for someone to give you a body piercing unless you have a letter of consent from your parent or guardian. This law does not apply if the tattoo or body piercing is done for a medical reason and performed by a doctor (ss 43–44A).

Passports

A passport will not normally be issued to an unmarried person under 18 without the written consent of each person who has parental responsibility for the child (s 11 Australian Passports Act 2005 (Cth)).

Exceptions to this general rule are:

1 where a court has allowed the person to leave Australia;

2 where the physical or mental welfare of the person would otherwise be adversely affected if a passport were not granted; and

3 where the passport is required urgently because of a family crisis and the person required to give written consent cannot readily be contacted.

Corporal punishment

A parent or guardian has the right to administer reasonable corporal punishment. It cannot be without a just cause or excuse and must not be excessive. In determining what is reasonable, consideration must be given to the age, physique and mentality of the child as well as to the means or instrument used (R v Terry [1955] VR 114).

While the child is at school, teachers have the same rights as parents; they are considered to be standing in place of the parent (in loco parentis). This is subject to the restrictions set out in “Rights and duties at school”.