Young people’s rights: an overview


Leaving home

Young people can legally leave home once they turn 17. If a young person under the age of 17 leaves home, the Victorian Government Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) can look into why the young person is away from home (e.g. in response to a complaint from a parent that the child has left home) and may apply for a protection order in the Children’s Court (seeProtection applications” in The Children’s Court).

However, if a young person under the age of 17 leaves home, and has adequate housing and can support themselves properly, then it is unlikely that DHHS will apply for a protection order.

Working

When can young people get a job?

The Child Employment Act 2003 (Vic) places a range of limitations on the employment of young people. These limitations are outlined below.

Aged under 13

Generally, young people under the age of 13 can’t work. Except:

if they are 11 years old or over and are employed to deliver newspapers or advertising material, or to make deliveries for a pharmacy;

if they are working in a family business or in the entertainment industry (there is no minimum age for working in these two areas).

Aged under 15

Generally, young people under the age of 15 can only work (whether paid or not) if their employer gets a Child Employment Permit. These permits are issued for free by Business Victoria (seeContacts”). It is illegal to work without a permit and employers can be fined between $1000 and $10,000.

Also, a young person can only work if their parent or guardian consents to their employment in writing.

Work experience

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

In Victoria, you cannot legally drink alcohol until you are 18 (Liquor Control Reform Act 1998 (Vic) (“LCR Act”)). Generally, it is an offence for a young person under 18 to purchase, receive, possess or drink alcohol.

However, there are exceptions to this rule. For example, a young person under 18 can receive, possess and/or drink alcohol at a private residence, provided that the alcohol is supplied by the young person’s parent, guardian or spouse (if the spouse is 18 or over) or by a third party authorised by one of those people. The full list of exceptions is set out in section 119 of the LCR Act.

Police officers can demand the name and address of a young person who asks for or receives alcohol. It is an offence to give incorrect information, or to not give any information, to police officers (s 126).

Police officers can take away any alcohol 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.

For more information about under 18 year olds and drinking alcohol, contact the Victorian Commission for Gambling and Liquor Regulation (www.vcglr.vic.gov.au).

Being in a licensed premises

Under the LCR Act (s 120(1)), it is an offence for a young person under 18 to enter or remain on a licensed premised unless the young person:

is with a responsible adult;

is having a meal;

is a resident, if accommodation is supplied at the premises;

is employed by the licensee, but is not involved in supplying alcohol;

is completing a training program in hospitality.

Also, young people under 18 are allowed in licensed restaurants and cafes during ordinary trading hours, and until 11 pm.

For more information about under 18 year olds being on licensed premises, contact the Victorian Commission for Gambling and Liquor Regulation (www.vcglr.vic.gov.au).

Smoking

In Victoria, you cannot legally smoke tobacco until you are 18 (Tobacco Act 1987 (Vic)). It is an offence to sell a tobacco product or e-cigarettes to a person under 18 (s 12). It is also an offence for a person to purchase a tobacco product or e-cigarettes for the use of a person under 18 (s 12). There is no law that says police officers can take away tobacco products in the possession of a person believed to be under 18.

Gambling

In Australia, you have to be 18 to gamble legally.

Driving cars, motorbikes and scooters

Learners permits

In Victoria, a young person can apply for:

a learner’s permit for a car when they turn 16 (s 22 Road Safety Act 1986 (Vic));

a learner’s permit for a motorbike when they turn 18 (s 22);

a learner’s permit for a scooter when they turn 18 (s 22).

Licenses

In Victoria, when a young person turns 18, they can apply for:

a licence to drive a car if they have held a learner’s permit for a car for at least 12 months;

a licence to drive a motorbike or scooter if they have held a learner’s permit for a motorbike or scooter for at least three months or completed an approved training course (regs 21, 23 Road Safety (Drivers) Regulations 2009 (Vic));

a licence to drive a car, motorbike or scooter if they have had a relevant licence in another country.

For more information about driver licences, and about the law relating to driving in Victoria, see Driving offences.

Possessing a weapon

Firearms

In Victoria, it is an offence for anyone under the age of 18 to purchase, own, possess, or store a firearm, air-gun or air-rifle (Firearms Act 1996 (Vic) (“Firearms Act”)).

However, young people aged between 12 and 17 can obtain a firearm licence, but only:

for the purpose of learning to use a firearm (but not a pistol); or

to engage in sport or target shooting competitions,

while they are being actively supervised by an adult who has a full licence for the same category of firearm (sch 3 Firearms Act). Young people aged between 12 and 17 can only carry and use particular categories of firearm.

Other weapons

In Victoria, under the Control of Weapons Act 1990 (Vic) and the Control of Weapons Regulations 2000 (Vic), no one (whether they are over 18 or not) may possess, carry or use a knife – unless the knife is carried in a safe and secure manner that is 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. Carrying or using a knife for self-defence is not a lawful excuse.

Regulation 8 of the Control of Weapons Regulations 2000 (Vic) lists the prohibited weapons that must not be made, sold, purchased, possessed, carried or used in Victoria; this list includes flick knives, daggers, butterfly knives, and knuckle dusters.

Voting

In Victoria, under the Electoral Act 2001 (Vic), you cannot vote until you are 18. It is compulsory for all Australian citizens who are 18 and over to vote in federal, state and local government elections, polls and referendums. You can be fined if you don’t vote.

Wills

In Victoria, you cannot make a will until you are 18 (s 5 Wills Act 1997 (Vic)). For limited exceptions, and information on will-making, see Wills.

Tattooing and body piercing

Tattoos

In Victoria, under the Summary Offences Act 1966 (Vic) (s 42), it is a criminal offence for anyone to tattoo or perform scarification, tongue splitting, branding or beading on anyone under the age of 18. This law does not apply if the tattoo is done for a medical reason and is performed by a doctor (ss 43–44A).

Body piercings

In Victoria, under the Summary Offences Act 1966 (Vic), young people under 16 cannot get a piercing without the written permission of their parent or guardian. The parent or guardian of an under 16-year-old can decide where the piercing is placed.

This law does not apply if the piercing is done for a medical reason and is performed by a doctor (ss 43–44A).

Young people under 18 cannot get an intimate piercing (e.g. on the genitalia or nipples), even if their parent or guardian consents to the piercing.

Passports

Under the Australian Passports Act 2005 (Cth), all Australian citizens must travel on their own passport; Australians who are under 18 cannot be included on their parent’s or guardian’s passport.

Young people under 18 cannot get a passport without the written consent of each person who has parental responsibility for them; unless the young person is married – then parental permission is not required (s 11).

However, young people under 18 can get a passport without parental/guardian consent:

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

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

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

Corporal punishment

What is corporal punishment?

“Corporal punishment” is the use of physical force towards a child for the purpose of disciplining that child. The intention is to cause some degree of pain or discomfort (United Nations Committee on the Rights of the Child, 2006). Corporal punishment is also known as hitting, smacking, spanking, or belting.

For more information about corporal punishment, see the “Corporal punishment: key issues” fact sheet, published in March 2017 by the Australian Government’s Australian Institute of Family Studies (https://aifs.gov.au).

Use of corporal punishment by parents

In Victoria, there is no legislation concerning the use of corporal punishment by parents. However, under Victorian common law, it is lawful for parents and guardians to administer reasonable corporal punishment to children in their care. The punishment 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 and to the means or instrument used to administer the punishment (see R v Terry [1955] VR 114).

Use of corporal punishment by teachers

In Victoria, the Education and Training Reform Amendment (School Age) Act 2009 (Vic) banned corporal punishment in all schools in Victoria (i.e. in government, Catholic, and independent schools). The prohibition of corporal punishment is also outlined in the Education and Training Reform Regulations 2007 (Vic) (r 14) and in the Education and Care Services National Law Act 2010 (Vic).