Children's rights and responsibilities

Contributed by RuthBrebner and current to 1 March 2018


Australia ratified the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child in 1990. See

Section 60B(4) of the Family Law Act states that the purpose of Part VII of that Act, which has to do with children, includes to give effect of the Convention on the Rights of Child (CROC) within Australian Law. This means that within Australia, children may expect a certain level of human rights. However, with these rights come responsibilities for children. The CROC recognises that children are vulnerable because of their age and level of development. The laws in Australia make certain allowances for children for the same reason. If a child, because of age and level of development, is unable to make good decisions or participate in the decision making process, the standard test to be applied is that all decisions must be made to ensure the best interests of the child remain the paramount concern. This is an important test and is used in a number of different legal situations (see in particular s60CA Family Law Act; s10 Care and Protection of Children Act).

Article 1 of CROC states that a child is a human being who has not yet attained the age of 18 years. That is the definition of a child in Australian law.

The Child Within the Family

Under CROC, children have a right to know about their identity such as nationality, name and family (Article 8). The CROC stipulates that children should not be separated from their parents against their will, unless it is in the best interests of the child. (Article 9).

This position is reflected in s60B Family Law Act (Cth) which states that in Australia, the best interests of the child will be met by:
  • ensuring that children have the benefit of both of their parents having a meaningful involvement in their lives
  • protecting children from physical or psychological harm;
  • protecting children from being subjected to, or exposed to, abuse, neglect or family violence;
  • ensuring that children receive adequate and proper parenting to help them achieve their full potential; and
  • ensuring that parents fulfil their duties, and meet their responsibilities, concerning the care, welfare and development of their children.
The principles underlying the determination of what constitutes a child's best interest include consideration of the following factors:
    • The childs views and factors that might affect the determination of what is in a childs best interests, such as the child's maturity and level of understanding
    • The child's relationship with each parent and other people, including grandparents and other relatives.
    • The willingness and ability of each parent to facilitate and encourage a close and continuing relationship between the child and the other parent.
    • The likely effect on the child of changed circumstances, including separation from a parent or person with whom the child has been living, including a grandparent or other relative.
    • The practical difficulty and expense of a child spending time with and communicating with a parent.
    • Each parents ability (and that of any other person) to provide for the child's needs.
    • The maturity, gender, lifestyle and background of the child and of either of the child's parents.
    • The right of an Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander child to enjoy his or her culture.
    • The attitude of each parent to the child and to the responsibilities of parenthood (s60CC Family Law Act)
It is important to know that the best interests of a child is a legal principle of general application, and may not always be defined as it is in the Family Law Act.

Parental Responsibility

Parental responsibility means all the duties, powers, responsibilities and authority which by law parents have in relation to their child, until the child turns 18.

The law presumes that both parents have equal shared parental responsibility for a child (s61DA Family Law Act). It doesn't matter if parents are married, divorced, de facto, not living together or separated. Only a court can order a change in who has parental responsibility. This does not mean that a child must spend equal amounts of time with each parent, if the parents are not living together. It means that all major decisions about a child must be made jointly by both parents. In some cases, usually where there has been family violence, one parent has a significant mental illness or lives overseas, sole parental responsibility will be awarded to one parent. (See Families)

Under the Family Law Act, a 'parent' means a biological or adoptive parent. It does not include non-biological parents in same sex couples, or step-families. It is possible for a non-biological parent, being a person 'concerned with the care, welfare and development of the child' to apply to the Court for Parenting Orders. These are orders which vest parental responsibility for the child in a non-biological parent. However, parental responsibility will also remain with a birth parent unless the Court specifically makes an order. Alternatively, a non-biological parent may apply to formally adopt the child. (See Parenting After Separation; step-parent adoptions)

In Child Protection matters, it is possible for a Court to order that parental responsibility be transferred away from biological or adoptive parents and placed with someone else. This may be another family member such as a grandparent, adult sibling, aunt or uncle. It may also be a step-parent, close family friend, foster carer or the CEO of the Department of Children and Families. (See Child Welfare)

Article 5 of CROC states that the parents of a child, as well as extended family and communities, are responsible for providing appropriate direction and guidance for a child, consistent with the evolving capacity of the child.

Children, because of their age and level of development may not be able to understand or appreciate the consequences of their actions or decisions. As a general rule, parents assume responsibility on behalf of their children whilst this vulnerability exists. This ability, known as capacity, changes as a child matures. As a child's capacity to make decision increases, a parent's role as decision maker decreases. However, as no two children mature at exactly the same rate, the only stage the law presumes a person is capable of making well-reasoned, informed decisions is when a person becomes an adult. Prior to that time, a court is likely to consider a number of factors in determining whether or not a young person actually possesses legal capacity, and if not, the degree to which a young person can demonstrate some capacity. These include a young person's ability to understand the seriousness of the issues, to identify a reasonable outcome given the seriousness of those issues, and to provide rational reasons for their choices. Secretary, Department of Health and Community Services v JWB and SMB (1992) 175 CLR 218 ( Marion's case) per Deane J at 293. See also Gillick v West Norfolk and Wisbech Health Authority [1985] UKHL 7; [1986] 1 AC 112.

It is possible for an older child who is not yet 18 to demonstrate legal capacity, and to provide consent to legal arrangements even if their parents object or refuse. The law in this area is not entirely clear, and much will depend on the circumstances of each case. For example, a child who is old enough to consent to a medical procedure may not necessarily demonstrate legal capacity to refuse the procedure. If the refusal is likely to mean the best interest of the child is not met, then a court is more likely to override the decision of the child

When can a child leave home?

Centrelink may pay a benefit to someone who has reached the age of 15 years and wishes to live independently of their parents. This can include financial support and advice while the young person pursues study or training such as an apprenticeship.

An older child may be viewed as living independently even if they live with a parent, but the parent is unable to control the child's behaviour. This may mean the child assumes individual responsibility for their actions at law, even though still under the age of 18 years.

For more information contact the Department of Human Services -

Children in family law proceedings

Following separation from a relationship it is the responsibility of the parents to make appropriate arrangements for their children. Failure to do so may result in parental responsibility being awarded to only one parent, or for a court to award parental responsibility to a person other than a parent.

In determining whether or not parents have adequately met their parental responsibilities a court will consider the best interest of the child.

The views and wishes of a child may be taken into consideration by a court in determining what is in a child's best interest, depending on the age and level of maturity of the child (S68CC (3) Family Law Act).

If the parents are able to agree on the arrangements for their child, then a child may not be asked to provide his or her views, and an Independent Children's Lawyer will not need to be appointed. It is presumed parents will make decisions in their child's best interest, or will have discussed the proposal with the child. The child will not be involved in the proceedings. (see Parenting After Separation)

In matters where parents are unable to agree, the Court may order an Independent Children's Lawyer be appointed. If this occurs then the Independent Children's Lawyer may act in the proceedings, presenting the views and wishes of the child to the Court (s68L Family Law Act). (see Parenting After Separation)

A child is not required to express a view (s60CE Family Law Act), and this includes to an Independent Children's Lawyer, although this lawyer must ensure any views expressed by a child are fully put before the Court (s68LA(5)(b) Family Law Act).

Corporal Punishment

In the Northern Territory corporal punishment is lawful in certain limited situations.

Section 27 of the Criminal Code states that in the case of a parent or guardian of a child, or a person in the place of a parent or guardian (see Parental responsibility), it is justifiable to discipline, manage or control the child, provided the use of force is not unnecessary force and it is not intended and is not likely to cause death or serious harm.

Failure to justify the use of force to discipline, manage or control a child can result in a criminal charge for assault. Whether or not an offence has occurred will depend on the facts of each case. Some things that courts have considered include:
  • The age of the child in relation to the use of force. Evidence of physical injury, particularly on a young child is more likely to give rise to an offence
  • The reasonableness of the punishment relative to the age, gender, size and health of the child.
  • The method of correction. The use of force by an instrument is unlikely to be viewed as justified. Hitting the face or upper body is also likely to be viewed unfavourably.
Further, the use of force may place the child at risk of harm such that a child protection notification may become mandatory (see Child Welfare).

Section 11 of the Criminal Code permits parents and guardians to delegate the power to use corporal punishment to others. The Criminal Code does not specify how the delegation occurs. However, the Education Act prohibits the use of corporal punishment by any person who is a member of staff, engaged to teach or support teaching in any school (s162), and prevents the delegation of this power for the purposes of discipline, management or control.

Foster carers, child protection workers, sporting coaches, religious leaders and other persons who have regular contact with children do not ordinarily assume the place of a parent or guardian of a child. Therefore, it is not lawful for them to exercise corporal punishment over a child, unless they have the custody or control of the child, and the power has been delegated to them by the parent or guardian (s11 Criminal Code). The use of force must still be justified in accordance with section 27 of the Criminal Code.

Sex and Relationships

Sex must always be with consent (agreement). It is always an offence to have sex with someone without their consent. The law states that persons under the age of 16 years lack legal capacity to give their consent to sex. It is unlawful to engage in sexual intercourse with a person under the age of 16 years. This includes sex between young people aged less than 16 years.

Sexual intercourse is when a penis is inserted into someone else's vagina, anus or mouth. Oral sex is also sexual intercourse. Sex also includes when another body part (finger, tongue) or object (dildo) is inserted into someone else's vagina or anus. Sexual intercourse does not include kissing, touching, filming someone naked, sexting, or watching pornography. Some of these actions may be a crime if they involve children (see Sexual Offences).

It is an offence for an adult to engage in sexual intercourse with a person aged between 16-18 years in circumstances where there exists a relationship of special care. These sorts of relationships include step and foster parents, sporting coaches, teachers, health professionals, religious leaders or other adults who have a significant personal relationship with the young person.

The laws apply equally for same sex relationships.

Persons aged over the age of 16 years cannot give their consent to sex if they are drunk, under the influence of drugs, asleep or unconscious. Consent can be withdrawn at any time, even after sex has started. Consent does not have to be spoken. Many people will indicate their agreement or lack of agreement through their body. The best way to check that someone else agrees to sex is to ask them if they want to do it, or if they want to stop. (see Consent)


Contraception protects against pregnancy and may also assist in protecting against sexually transmitted infections. There are no laws against young people accessing contraception in the Northern Territory, although the availability of different types of contraception can vary.

Condoms are widely available at supermarkets and pharmacies.

Accessing contraception, such as oral or injectable contraceptives (the pill, depo-provera) or implants (implanon), plus emergency contraception (the morning after pill), will require a visit to the doctor or health clinic.

Many young people visit their doctor to discuss contraception in the company of a parent or guardian. A doctor is not obliged to inform parents or guardians if a young person attends unaccompanied, particularly if the young person can demonstrate they have the capacity to give informed consent about contraception, abortion and other matters to do with sex and relationships. This includes where the young person is under the age of 16 years. However, a young person under the age of 16 years who requests contraception or an abortion, and who is unaccompanied by a responsible adult may be at risk of harm from sexual abuse. In those circumstances it may be that the doctor is obliged to make a mandatory notification about that young person (see Child Welfare).


Medical termination of pregnancy is lawful and available in the Northern Territory.

For young women under the age of 18 years, consent may first need to be obtained from a parent or guardian before an abortion is performed. In some cases this may mean the Chief Executive Officer of Territory Families (see Child Welfare).

For terminations of pregnancy up to 14 weeks gestation, the abortion drug RU 486 is available in the Northern Territory. A hospital stay is not necessary if this option is medically advised, and a woman can remain in her own home, particularly if less than 9 weeks pregnant.

Surgical terminations of pregnancy may be performed in a hospital, clinic or day surgery in the Northern Territory anywhere up to 23 weeks gestation. An abortion may be performed at any time where it is necessary to save the life of the woman, however if surgery is required in this stance it must be performed by a medical practitioner.

Medical Treatment

Once a young person turns 15 they can apply for a Medicare card even if they are still living at home.

Once a young person turns 16 they can register on the Australia Organ Donor registry. This register records the views and wishes of a person in respect of the use of their major organs in the event they die.

Young people may access free basic dental services through the Child Dental Benefits Schedule. Young people living independently are eligible, and some young people living at home may be eligible, depending on their family circumstances. The Scheme is available to the end of the calendar year in which the young person turns 18.

Whether or not a child or young person can give consent to medical treatment will depend on their level of maturity. Usually by the age of 16 years, most young people have the capacity to understanding the nature of the medical advice, risks and side effects involved in the treatment, the seriousness of the treatment, the likely impacts of accepting or not accepting the treatment, plus any moral or family issues. If a young person is not able to demonstrate capacity then parental consent will be sought before medical treatment is given. It is possible for a young person aged less than 16 years to demonstrate the capacity to give informed consent to medical treatment. Health and medical professionals refer to this as 'Gillick' competency. Gillick v West Norfolk and Wisbech Health Authority [1985] UKHL 7; [1986] 1 AC 112. See also Secretary, Department of Health and Community Services v JWB and SMB (1992) 175 CLR 218 ( Marion's case).

In some cases parents may refuse to provide their consent to medical treatment for religious or moral reasons. While technically a decision of a parent will override that of a child aged less than 18 years, a court decision may be required if it is believed the parents are not acting in the child's best interests.


Marriage in Australia is no longer governed by sex or gender.

In order to get married in Australia, each party must be at least 18 years of age, unless a court has approved the marriage in circumstances where one of the persons who wishes to marry is aged 16 or 17. There is no requirement to be an Australian citizen or permanent resident in order to marry in Australia.

Couples who marry overseas and then enter Australia may not have their marriage legally recognised if one or both of them is aged under 18 years.

Both parties to the marriage must consent to the marriage and be able to express what it means to be married.

It is not permitted to marry someone while you are married to someone else.

It is not permitted to marry a parent, grandparent, child, grandchild, brother or sister.

Same-sex marriages recognised overseas are recognised as legal marriages in Australia, including for the purposes of Family Law.

There are a number of forms to fill out prior to getting married. Both parties need to provide identification and any necessary paperwork to prove they are eligible to marry, such as proof of divorce.

De Facto and Same Sex Relationships

In some Australian States and Territories it is possible for a couple of any sex to register their relationship. Only persons aged 18 years and above may register their relationship. Currently in the Northern Territory is it not possible to register a de facto or same sex relationship, including for persons under the age of 18 years.

Children who are Parents

A young person who has a baby may assume parental responsibility for that baby. However another adult may continue to assume parental responsibility for the young parent, until they turn 18. In some cases the adult may assume parental responsibility for both the young parent and the baby. This will depend on whether the young person can demonstrate capacity to care for a baby, and provide all of the things that a baby needs such as food, housing, and lots of sleep, love and affection.

Young people who have children of their own may qualify for a Centrelink benefit or child care benefit to assist them while they continue education or work. (See Social Security)

Young people who become parents can experience a lot of judgmental attitudes about pregnancy and parenthood, particularly if it isn't planned. This can affect teenage mothers but it can also affect teenage fathers. Discrimination on the basis of pregnancy or parenthood is not permitted, no matter what the age of the parent (see Discrimination).


Education at a government school is free for all Australian citizens, permanent residents or child of a citizen or resident. This does not include extracurricular activities such as sporting trips, school camps or other excursions. Fees may be charged by non-government schools.

Non-government schools in the Northern Territory must be registered with the Registrar of Non-Government schools and meet all registration requirements, which includes ensuring all staff are of good character and that the curriculum and methods of assessment meet the requirements of the Northern Territory Board of Studies. While many non-government schools are operated by religious organisations, the Education Act states that non-government schools must ensure freedom of religion, freedom of speech and freedom of association, tolerate these differences to the extent they are consistent with contemporary values, and ensure all persons are treated equally (s122 Education Act).

Compulsory School Age

If a child attains the age of 6 years by 30 June of that particular year, they become of compulsory school age.

A child ceases to be of compulsory school age when the first of three events occurs (s38 (2) Education Act):
  • The child completes year 10 and participates on a full time basis in an eligible option. These options are either: approved education or training; or if at least 15 years of age, paid employment, or a combination of approved education and training and employment;
  • The child completes year 10 and is exempt from participating in an eligible option; or
  • The child reaches the age of 17 years.

Approved education or training is one of the following:
  • Year 11 or 12
  • An education program
  • A higher education course
  • An accredited course or approved apprenticeship

Exemptions from participating in an eligible option will only be granted in special circumstances, such as serious illness. Parents are responsible for ensuring their child participates in an eligible option (s70) and must notify the Chief Executive Officer of the Department of Education (the CEO) in writing if any change occurs. Children who live independently of their parents must notify the CEO in writing themselves.

Compulsory Enrolment

Parents must enrol a child of compulsory school age in a Government or non-Government School. (s39 (1)). Children who live independently must enrol themselves. (s39 (2)).

It is an offence not to enrol a child unless the child is being home schooled, or the child is enrolled interstate in a school, or approved education and training.

School principals must advise the CEO if a student who has completed year 10 and who is under the age of 17 years ceases to be enrolled at the school.

Parents, guardians or children living independently need to sign the enrolment form at the school, and have the signature witnessed by a member of the school staff so that compliance with compulsory enrolment can be noted. For government schools, enrolment forms can be downloaded from the Department of Education website For non-government schools, contact the school directly or go to their website.

Sighting of the child's birth certificate or passport of the child being enrolled may also be requested.

Compulsory Attendance at School

All children of compulsory school age must attend at school on each day that instruction is provided (s40) unless the school is a distance education centre. Parents are responsible for ensuring their children attend school. Children who live independently are responsible for ensuring their own school attendance.

Distance Education Centre

Only Government schools may be distance education centres. These include the School of the Air and the Northern Territory Open Education Centre.

Although attendance is not compulsory at a distance education centre, participation to the degree that a student carries out all the course requirements must be achieved, including a requirement to attend the centre or another place if required. Failure to do so by parents, persons with daily care and control of a child, or a child living independently, is an offence (s42).

Home Education

Before a child of compulsory school age can be home schooled, their parents must first apply to the CEO and provide details of the education proposed (s46). Further inquiries are then likely to be made before a final decision is made by the CEO about whether a child may be home schooled.

If approval is granted to home-school a child, the following conditions apply:
  • The curriculum to be used must be one approved by the Australian Curriculum Assessment and Reporting Authority
  • is for one year only;
  • Any teacher proposed to provide the home education must be appropriately qualified;
  • Parents must permit inspections from time to time by departmental officers, to ensure suitable home education is being provided and all conditions are being complied with.

Approval will only be granted for a student up until the end of Year 10. If home education ceases, a parent must notify the CEO in writing within 14 days (s48). It then follows that the child must be enrolled in a school (see s39 (1).

Mature Age Students

It is possible for persons aged over the age of 18 years to attend a school if at the time of the application to enrol, the person has not been enrolled at a school in the previous 12 months. In order to do so, a mature age applicant must first submit to vetting of enrolment (s59) through the provision of a criminal record report.

A student enrolled at a school who turns 18 whilst already enrolled does not need to submit to this process.

If a mature age applicant has a criminal record that contains a conviction for a disqualifying offence, enrolment must be refused (s60 (2). Disqualifying offences are prescribed in the Education Regulations and are similar to those used to determine Working with Children clearances.

If a mature age applicant has a criminal record showing a charge, but not a conviction for a disqualifying offence, the application is forwarded to the principal of the school at which the mature age applicant seeks to enrol.

For non-government schools, the principal must consider whether or not to enrol the mature age applicant.

For government schools, the principal must consider all matters under s62 of the Education Act:
  • Any criminal record, the nature of charges yet to be dealt with;
  • The reason the mature age applicant seeks enrolment in a school;
  • Whether the same or similar education outcomes can be achieved by a different means;
  • The safety and welfare of staff and other students; * The suitability of other education, training or employment options.

If a mature applicant has a criminal record that shows a criminal history other than for a disqualifying offence, then the CEO must decide whether to forward it to the principal of a government school along with the application to enrol (s61(2). The CEO is not obliged to forward it to the principal of a non-government school.

Religious Instruction

Both government and non-government schools may provide religious instruction. (s86) For government schools, parents may request the CEO to permit their child to receive religious instruction by a nominated minister of religion, or the CEO may permit a minister of religion to provide religious instruction to students whose parents have requested the instruction during school hours.

Withdrawal from Specified Courses

A parent of a student at a government school may request the principal of a school to withdraw the student from the whole or part of a course of instruction (s87). The principal must do so if the request is for a student not to participate in religious instruction, or the parent claims a conscientious objection to the course, and the course is not a mandatory part of the curriculum.

Child with Special Learning Needs

A child with a special learning need is a child who has a disability, or whose educational progress is likely to suffer unless they have access to special educational arrangements (s50). Where a child is of compulsory school age, and has a special learning need, the parents or principal of the school where the child is enrolled may request the CEO to make special arrangements in order to benefit the child's education. Parents of a child with a disability, who is not of compulsory school, may also make a request. (S52(1))

In determining a request the CEO must consult with the child and the child's parents and have regard to any expressed wishes of the child or parents; as well any educator or departmental officer with specialist knowledge about children with special learning needs. In addition, the CEO must consider the educational benefit of the special arrangement, the child's learning capability, and the child's attendance, participation and educational progress during any period of schooling before the request. (S53(4)).

If a special arrangement is made and requires the child to live away from their parents or ordinary place of residence, then the arrangement must include the ability of a parent to visit the child with reasonable frequency and duration. (s54)


Under the Education Act certain authorised persons have certain powers with respect to children who may be skipping school.

If an authorised person sees a child in a public place and reasonably believes the child should be at school or participating in an eligible option, they may require the child to provide their name, address and a reason why they are absent from the school or eligible option. It is an offence not to comply with this requirement (s174(3)). If not satisfied with the response the authorised officer may then take the child to the school where the child is enrolled, take the child home or to another suitable place, or take other appropriate action in relation to an eligible option (s174(5).

An authorised officer may also go to an address between 8am and 7pm in order to obtain all the names of children of compulsory school age who reside at the address, the names of the schools at which they are enrolled or the eligible options in which they participate. Any person aged 14 years or above commits an offence if they do not provide this information (s175) to the authorised officer. If a child of compulsory school age is not enrolled, the authorised officer may direct the parent or a child living independently to enrol in a school within 10 days (s176(1)).

Managing Behaviour

In managing the behaviour of students at a government school, and making any decisions about how to manage behaviour, the principal must have regard to the following considerations:
  • the age of the student;
  • the developmental stage of the student;
  • whether the student is a child with special learning needs;
  • the mental health and wellbeing of the student;
  • the physical health and wellbeing of the student;
  • any relevant religious or cultural considerations;
  • the student's home environment and the arrangements in place for the student's care (s90).
The CEO may develop guidelines on how behaviour is to be managed within a government school, and the principal of a school must comply with these guidelines. The guidelines are updated from time to time, go to

In the Northern Territory it is lawful for a parent, guardian or teacher to impose confinement, detention or otherwise deprive the personal liberty of a child for the purposes of correction, as is reasonable in all the circumstances (s196(2) Criminal Code). For that reason, school detentions and internal suspensions are lawful, provided they are reasonable in all the circumstances, and for government schools, that the management of behaviour complies with the considerations set out in s90 Education Act.

The principal of a government school is responsible for ensuring the physical and psychological safety of all persons at a school. In order to do so the principal may suspend a student enrolled in a school (s91). The principal may implement other strategies to manage a student's behaviour (s90) having regarding to the overall needs of that student, without having to resort to suspension. The maximum period for suspension is 20 school days. A notice of suspension in writing is to be given to a suspended student as well as to a parent who exercises daily care and control for the child.

Non-government schools must develop a policy on discipline and ensure it can be applied fairly to all students (s125 (n)).

For information on bullying see Civil Action in this section.

Exclusion Notice

If a student is charged with a criminal offence punishable by imprisonment for more than 2 years, and the student is enrolled in a government school, the CEO may exclude the student from the school, including activities or programs conducted by the school, by giving the student a notice in writing (s92(2). The exclusion applies until the offence is determined by a court. The CEO may only give an exclusion notice if of the opinion it is necessary to do so because the student's presence is likely to constitute an unacceptable risk of physical or psychological harm to other persons at the school. (S92(3).

Parents must ensure their child complies with the notice.

Expulsion from Government School

Only the Minister for Education can expel a student from a government school. The Minister may do so if it is considered necessary in the interests of other persons at the school (s93). Parents must ensure their child complies with a notice of expulsion (s94). However, if a child who has been expelled is of compulsory school age, parents remain responsible to ensure their child is enrolled in appropriate education, or training and employment option. S95(a) of the Education Act permits the Minister to give permission to a student to re-enrol at a government school following expulsion. s95(b) of the Education Act permits a student who has been expelled from a government school to enrol in a distance education centre.

A child who has been expelled from a government school may seek enrolment at a non-government school.


There is no set minimum age when a young person can enter the workforce. However there are a number of restrictions designed to prevent harm and exploitation of children, which along with the compulsory school age, mean it is often not practical for children to engage in work because of their school commitments.

The employment of a child of compulsory school age, who has not completed year 10 and who is required to attend work when he or she is required to attend school (s163 Education Act) is an offence. It is also an offence for an employer to cause the nature of the work to be such that a child of compulsory school age is unfit or unable to attend school when instruction is provided. (S163(4). Children aged less than 15 years must not be employed between the hours of 10pm and 6am (s203(1) Care and Protection of Children Act).

Both parents and employers have obligations under the Care and Protection of Children Act to ensure that a child who works does not perform a task that is harmful, or likely to be harmful, to the child's physical, mental or emotional wellbeing (s203(2) Care and Protection of Children Act), or performs any work that involves the exploitation of the child (s203(3) Care and Protection of Children Act).

The Chief Executive Officer of Territory Families (the CEO) can prohibit a child from working if the CEO forms the opinion the child suffers, or is likely to suffer exploitation because of the employment, or the wellbeing of the child is or is likely to be jeopardised because of the employment (s201(1) Care and Protection of Children Act).

Authorised officers are permitted to enter a place of work where a child is employed to conduct inspections in order to ensure an employer complies with the provisions for the employment of children under the Care and Protection of Children Act (s204).

Driving and Road Use

Child Restraints

Rule 266 of the Australian Road Rules state that all children under the age of seven must travel in a Standards Australia-approved child restraint suitable for their age and size (AS/NZS 1754). It is mandatory when carrying a child in a vehicle to have the correct restraint for that child. For more information about restraints suitable for children of different ages, see .
  • Babies under six months of age must be restrained in a rear-facing restraint (baby capsule);
  • Children between six months and under four years of age must be restrained in a rear-facing or forward facing restraint;
  • Children from four years to under seven years of age must be restrained in a forward-facing restraint or booster seat;
  • Children seven years of age and over must be restrained in an adult seatbelt or a booster seat.

There are also laws about where children can sit in a vehicle:
  • Children under four years of age must not be in the front row of a vehicle with two or more rows of seats.
  • Children from four to under seven years of age can only sit in the front row of a vehicle with two or more rows when all other seats are occupied by children of a lesser age in an Australian Standards approved child restraint.

Driver Licensing

The minimum age at which a person can apply for a learner licence is 16 years of age. (Section 9(4) Motor Vehicles Act). Proof of age and identity is required, and parents or guardians must give their consent for a person aged under 18 years to complete the driving licensing program.

To obtain a learner licence, applicants must sit the Driver Knowledge Test which involves testing of the Australia Road Rules. These are helpfully summarised in the Northern Territory Road Users' Handbook. Go to

For drivers aged between the ages of 16-25 years who are located in Darwin, Katherine or Alice Springs, enrolment in the urban Drive Safe NT program, or other program approved by the Motor Vehicle Registry (the MVR), is also compulsory. For more information go to

For learner drivers in other areas including Tennant Creek, the Drive Safe NT Remote Program provides driver education, training and licensing services

Learner drivers must practise driving under supervision for a minimum of 6 consecutive months if they have not previously held a licence.(s10(1A) Motor Vehicles Act). The Drive Safe NT program takes a minimum of 5 months to complete, although participants can take up to 2 years to complete the program.

In addition to complying with all of the road rules, learner licensees must comply with the following:
  • Zero alcohol when driving (s24(1)(b) Traffic Act). Police may also perform random drug testing to check whether a driver has recently administered cannabis, methamphetamine or ecstasy (s28 Traffic Act). All of these drugs are illegal
  • L plates must be clearly displayed on the front and back of the vehicle. If towing a trailer, an L plate must also be displayed on the back of the trailer. It is lawful for a learner driver to tow a trailer in the Northern Territory
  • Drivers must always carry their learner licence when driving
  • Learner drivers may only drive C class vehicles, not other classes of vehicle
  • Mobile telephones are not permitted. This includes hands free and loudspeaker options and texting
  • Learner drivers must not drive faster than 80 km/h regardless of the sign posted speed limit, and must observe the speed limit where it is below 80 km/h
  • A person who has a full Australian licence (not a learner or provisional licence or an overseas licence) must sit next to the learner driver at all times. (Regulation 12 Traffic Regulations)
  • A learner driver is issued 5 points. The licence will be suspended if a learner licensee incurs 5 or more demerit points within 12 months

The supervising driver must obey the following rules at all times while the learner is driving the vehicle (including parking practice):
  • hold a current full driver licence (not provisional)
  • be seated immediately next to the learner driver
  • fully supervise the learner. The licensed driver is deemed to be the driver for most legal purposes
  • professional driving instructors must have a blood/ breath alcohol concentration (BAC/BrAC) of zero
  • fully licensed supervising drivers must have a BAC of lower than 0.05%.
Although there is no minimum number of supervised driving hours required before a learner driver can get a provisional licence, learners are encouraged to get as much practice as they can before driving unsupervised. A minimum of 50 hours driving practice is recommended before a learner driver takes the practical driving test to obtain a provisional licence.

The practical driving test is conducted by authorised examiners or MVR licence testing officers in urban areas, or a police officer in remote areas. Further information about the driving test can be found in the Learner Driver Guide and Guide to Get Your Driver Licence

To attempt a practical driving test learner drivers must have:
  • held a learner licence for a continuous period of at least six months;
  • booked and paid for the test in advance;
  • bring the current NT learner licence;
  • drive a registered and roadworthy vehicle of the correct classification for the test.
Persons aged under 25 years need to hold a provisional licence for at least two years before applying for a full licence. Persons aged at least 25 years must hold a provisional licence for at least one year.(s10A Motor Vehicles Act).

If at any time during the provisional period a licence is cancelled, the full provisional period starts all over again, once the licence is reissued. If the provisional licence is suspended, the period of suspension is added onto the provisional licence period.

As well as complying with all road rules and traffic laws, there are additional conditions for provisional licence holders:
  • Zero alcohol when driving (s24(1)(c) Traffic Act). This applies for 3 years after you first get your licence if you are aged under 25. Police may also perform random drug testing to check whether a driver has recently administered cannabis, methamphetamine or ecstasy (s28 Traffic Act). All of these drugs are illegal
  • P plates must be clearly displayed on the front and rear of the vehicle. The letter P must not be hidden. If towing a trailer, a P plate must also be displayed on the back of the trailer. It is lawful for a provisional driver to tow a trailer in the Northern Territory.
  • The driver must carry their provisional licence at all times while driving.
  • Provisional drivers must not drive faster than 100 km/regardless of the sign posted speed limit, and must observe the speed where it is below 100 km/h.
  • Provisional drivers are not permitted to supervise a learner driver. (see Regulation 14 Traffic Regulations)
  • Mobile phones are not permitted while driving including hands-free or loudspeaker options and texting.
  • The driver is responsible to ensure all people in the vehicle are wearing seatbelts or approved restraints. It is illegal to carry more passengers in a vehicle than there are seatbelts or approved restraints.
  • A provisional driver is issued 5 points. The licence will be suspended if a provisional licensee incurs 5 or more demerit points within 12 months

At the end of the provisional period, drivers can apply for a full license.

Motorcycle Riders

The minimum age to obtain a learner motorcycle riders licence is 16 years. Proof of age, identity and residency is required and parents or guardians must give their consent for a person aged under 18 years to complete the program. Applicants must pass the rider knowledge test, which is very similar to the driving knowledge test.

In addition, applicants for a rider learner licence have to pass one of the following practical tests:
  • a balance and stability practical riding test (Motorcycle Operator Skills Test (MOST)) through MVR; or
  • a Basic METAL (Motorcyclist Education Training and Licensing Program) course.
Appropriate safety gear such as a helmet and protective clothing must be worn when participating in either program.

The restrictions on a learner rider are very similar to learner drivers (see Regulation 13 Traffic Regulations) . However in addition, learner riders must wear a helmet, must not carry any pillion passengers, and they may only ride motorcycles listed under the Learner Approved Motorcycle Scheme (LAMS). This list is updated regularly as new model motorcycles enter the market. For more information go to

A learner rider must practice for a minimum of 6 months before applying for a provisional rider licence or a restricted rider licence.

In order to receive a licence, riders must pass either the On Road Riding Test through the local MVR, or the Intermediate METAL course. To take part in an intermediate METAL course, participants must have already completed the Basic METAL course.

If a learner rider already holds a full drivers licence and passes rider licensing, they will be issued with a restricted riders licence which must be held for at least 1 year before an application for a full riders licence can be made. Restricted riders may not carry a pillion passenger and may only ride a LAMS motorbike whilst wearing an approved motorcycle helmet.

Persons who have not already received a full driving licence will be issued with a provisional rider licence. The restrictions for provisional riders are very similar to provisional drivers. In addition, provisional riders may not carry a pillion passenger, and must only ride a LAMS motorbike whilst wearing an approved motorcycle helmet.

Persons aged 25 or older must hold a provisional rider licence for at least one year.

Persons aged under 25 years of age must hold a provisional licence for at least two years before upgrading to a full rider licence.

Children on Motorcycles

Rule 265 of the Australia Road Rules states that children aged at least 8 years may ride as a pillion passenger on a motorcycle with an approved helmet. If a child is aged less than 8 years, they may only ride in a side car. If a side car is used only the number of passengers the side car is designed to carry may travel in it, and all passengers must be seated. A child aged under 18 must wear a helmet when travelling in a side car, except if the Registrar of the MVR has given a written exemption.


Persons aged under 17 years must wear a helmet when riding a bicycle. All footpaths in the Northern Territory are shared between bicycles and pedestrians unless otherwise marked. Bicycles must keep to the left and sound a bell when approaching a pedestrian from behind.

There is no prohibition on young people riding a bicycle on the road. All bicycles on the road must keep to the left.

Persons aged over 17 years are not required to wear a helmet when riding a bicycle on a public place or path that is separated from the road. (Regulation 86(1) Traffic Regulations).

All cyclist must have the following on their bicycle:
  • at least one effective brake;
  • a working bell or horn;
  • a red reflector on the rear of the bicycle, or a red light that is visible from at least 200m if riding at night;
  • a white reflector visible for at least 50 metres from the front of their bicycle, or a white light that is visible from at least 200m if riding at night.

Skateboards, In-line Skates, Roller Skates, Foot Scooters

Under the Australian Road Rules, a skater is considered a pedestrian. In the Northern Territory it is not a legal requirement to wear a helmet when skating or skateboarding. If skating on a footpath, keep to the left and always give way to other pedestrians. Local Councils can put up signs prohibiting skating in certain areas.

Skating on the road is permitted in certain circumstances. In the Northern Territory, it is possible for skaters to lawfully use many roads, particularly in towns and communities.

Look for roads where there is no median strip or dividing white line, and the speed limit is restricted to 50km/h. Skating on one way streets is permitted provided there are less than 2 marked lanes. Skaters must always keep to the left. Skaters on a road must not skate more than two people across, however there is no speed limit.

If crossing a road on which skating is not permitted, skaters should dismount and cross the street on foot. Cross at pedestrian lights where possible.

Skating at night is not permitted.

Skitching, or being towed behind a car, is prohibited.


It is compulsory for all Australian citizens who are aged at least 18 years and who have been residing at their current address for at least one month to enrol to vote (s93 Commonwealth Electoral Act ).

Persons aged at least 16 years (s100 Commonwealth Electoral Act) may enrol to vote although voting is not permitted until after they turn 18. If a young person is provisionally enrolled to vote and turns 18 either before or on Election Day, they can still vote even though they not have been 18 before the election rolls closed.


An application for a firearms licence can only be made by a person aged 18 years or over (s9(2)(a) Firearms Act).

It is possible to obtain a license to possess and use a firearm for a person aged less than 18 years, if the young person is a member of a firearms club and remains under the personal supervision of an adult with a license to possess and use the same category of firearm, for the purpose of receiving instruction in the safe use of firearms at an approved shooting range, or competing in an approved event (s28 Firearms Act). A firearms club junior license remains in force until the holder reaches the age of 18 years, at which time the holder must then apply for an adult license (s14(1)(b) Firearms Act).

This license only permits the possession and use of certain categories of firearm. While it is possible for a particular firearm to be registered in the name of a firearms club junior licensee, this application may be refused at the discretion of the Commissioner of Police (s36(3) Firearms Act). The firearm may need to be registered by an adult.

A separate permit is required for a firearms club junior licensee to purchase or acquire a firearm. This is also at the discretion of the Commissioner of Police (s35(3) Firearms Act) and may be refused. An adult may need to purchase the firearm.


It is permissible for a person aged at least 14 years to play paintball using a paintball firearm at a licensed paintball park, provided that the person with parental responsibility for the young person gives written prior consent. (s60J Firearms Act). Photographic identification must also be provided, inspected and endorsed by a paintball employee, (s60K(2) Firearms Act).

It is possible for a person aged under 18 years but at least 14 years to obtain employment at a licensed paintball park, however all employees must first obtain a paintball employee license (s30E Firearms Act).


The Australian Passports Act 2005 defines a 'child' as someone aged under 18 years who has never married. A child aged under 18 years can only apply for a passport with the full written consent of all persons with parental responsibility for the child. If full written consent is not obtained, a court order is necessary to permit a child to receive an Australian travel document, travel outside Australia, or live or spend time with a person outside Australia (s11 Australian Passports Act).

Persons with parental responsibility for the child must lodge the child's application and bring full photographic identification for themselves, as well as evidence of the child's identity and citizenship.

Children born in Australia after 20 August 1986 are only Australian citizens if one parent was an Australian citizen or permanent resident at the time of child's birth.

A child's passport application needs to be witnessed by a guarantor, who has known the child for at least 12 months, or since birth.

Tattoos and Body Piercing

Anyone in the Northern Territory can get a tattoo or body piercing and there is no minimum age. However many tattoo studios adopt an over-18s only policy, and ask for photographic identification from any person wishing to get a tattoo. This is consistent with industry standards. Other tattoo and body piercing studios may wish to obtain prior parental consent, and may require a parent or guardian to be present while the work is performed.

If a person aged less than 18 years wishes to get a tattoo or body piercing, the tatooist or body piercer may test whether they are mature enough to do by testing the young person's capacity. This involves the tattooist or body piercer making an assessment of the age of the young person, their understanding of how the tattoo or piercing will look on their body, and their understanding of things that might go wrong, such as infections, side-effects, allergic reactions, plus the cost of removal.

A tattooist or body piercer may decline to perform work if not satisfied the young person has the legal capacity to provide consent to the procedure.

Cigarettes, Alcohol and Other Drugs

Tobacco Products

The sale, supply and purchase of cigarettes and other tobacco products to children is prohibited (ss 42, 43 Tobacco Control Act).

It is not illegal for a person under 18 to smoke a cigarette. However, it is illegal for any person aged 16 years or older to smoke in a motor vehicle in a public place or public street, where persons under the age of 16 years are present in the motor vehicle (s11 Tobacco Control Act).

While it is lawful for children to purchase lighters and matches, many supermarkets, petrol stations and shops have an over-18s only policy and will not sell these products to a person who appears to be under 18.


The sale, supply, consumption or possession of alcohol by a child on licensed premises is an offence (s106CA(1) Liquor Act) . Licensed premises include pubs, clubs, some restaurants, bottle shops and bars. It is also an offence for achild to consume or to be in possession of alcohol on licensed premises (s106CA(5) Liquor Act).

It is prohibited to use a fake ID to gain access to a licensed premises. It is also illegal to lie about your age if you are under 18, in order to gain access to licensed premises.

In non-licensed premises, a responsible adult for a child may sell or supply alcohol to a child, provided the sale or supply is consistent with responsible supervision of the child. (s106C(1) Liquor Act). It is important to remember that many places in the Northern Territory are declared general or public restricted areas (s74 Liquor Act). Drinking in public is not permitted in Alice Springs, Tennant Creek, Katherine and some parts of Darwin. In addition, a private residence may be a declared restricted premises (s101B Liquor Act), or a community may be declared part of a special restricted area (s101AD Liquor Act). The purchase, possession and consumption of alcohol in these areas may still be prohibited even if an adult is responsibly supervising a child.

Drinking within 2km of licensed premises is not permitted anywhere in the Northern Territory, unless on private premises where the lawful occupier is present (s101U Liquor Act).

For drinking alcohol and driving, see Drink and Drug Driving Offences.


Kava, or kava root, is a plant widely used in the Pacific Islands for traditional and ceremonial occasions. Kava is usually drunk by mixing the dried, powdered root with water.

The possession, supply and consumption of kava is highly restricted in the Northern Territory. Kava may not be grown in the Northern Territory (s13 Kava Management Act).

Persons over 18 years may possess a small amount of kava (under 2 kilograms or a maximum of 4 kava plants) but if they wish to supply or possess larger quantities they must hold a kava licence. Failure to obtain a licence, and to possess or supply kava is an offence. The penalties for supplying kava to a person aged under 18 are 8 years imprisonment for a trafficable quantity (over 2 kilograms but less than 25 kilograms or kava, or more than 4 kava plants but less than 20 plants) and 14 years imprisonment for a commercial quantity (more than 25 kilograms, 20 or more plants, or at least 25 litres of kava drink).(s12(2) Kava Management Act). It is also an offence to get a child to purchase or collect kava from a licensee. It is not a defence that the accused person did not know the child had not yet reached the age of 18 years (s23 Kava Management Act).

Under the Kava Management Act it is not permitted for persons under the age of 18 years to possess kava (S10(1) Kava Management Act). While this is not an offence, an authorised person may seize the kava from the young person and take the kava to a police station or destroy it.

Volatile Substances

Volatile substances are items that give off fumes or vapours when inhaled. Petrol, paint, glue, correction fluid or butane gas are all types of volatile substances. The effects of inhaling, or sniffing, are similar to alcohol. The effect is more immediate and more intense, although it only lasts for about an hour. Sniffing volatile substances has been shown to have significant and harmful side effects to the brain over time.

As the proper use and possession of volatile substances is not a crime, the Volatile Substance Abuse Prevention Act does not impose any criminal sanctions for improper use by sniffing volatile substances. The Act permits police and authorised officers to remove volatile substances from both adults and children who are found sniffing and to take them to a safe place where they can be left with a responsible adult.

Specialist assessors can also be requested to assess a person at risk of volatile substance abuse, to determine whether the Chief Health Officer of the Department of Health can apply to the Local Court for a treatment order. This is a 16 week program offering stabilising, withdrawal, counselling and rehabilitation. The program may be extended if necessary. If a person ordered by the Court to participate in treatment absconds, the specialist assessor can apply to the Court for a warrant to apprehend the person and taken them back to treatment.

Illegal Drugs

These include 'gunja' or cannabis, 'speed', ICE or methamphetamine, LSD or 'acid', heroin, cocaine, GHB, and ecstasy. The cultivation, manufacture, possession and supply of these drugs is illegal for both adults and children. Penalties for these offences can be found in the Misuse of Drugs Act. (see Drug Offences)

The penalties in the Misuse of Drugs Act where heroin, cocaine, LSD, methamphetamine are supplied to children are very severe, including life imprisonment (s5(2) Misuse of Drugs Act). It is not a defence that the accused person did not know the child had not yet reached the age of 18 years (s21 Misuse of Drugs Act).


While there are laws in the Northern Territory that prevent persons aged under 18 from participating in gambling activities, many places where gambling is permitted also have a liquor license (see Cigarettes, Alcohol and Other Drugs). This license often prevents persons aged less than 18 years from being on the premises, and accordingly, prevents them from participating in any gambling activities.

The Gaming Machine Act prohibits licensed premises from employing a person aged under 18 years in relation to the operation of gaming machines. It is also prohibited for a person aged under 18, or for someone else to permit a person aged under 18 to play a gaming machine in licensed premises (ss104, 105 Gaming Machine Act).

Pursuant to s34 Gaming Control Act it is not permitted for persons aged less than 18 years to play a game or a gaming machine in a casino, or to remain in an area designated as a gaming area. Any monies won by a person aged 18 years may not be payable by the licensee (s27(5) Gaming Control Act).

It is generally prohibited for a person aged under 18 years to be sold a ticket in a foreign lottery (s40(6) Gaming Control Act). These are lotteries registered interstate but for which tickets may be purchased in the Northern Territory. For locally based minor lotteries, bingo and raffles (for example, fundraisers organised by clubs and associations) it is lawful for persons aged under 18 to be sold a ticket, however it is prohibited to award a prize to a young person that is generally prohibited to be sold to that person. Examples are liquor and tobacco. (Regulation 20 of Gaming Control (Community Gaming) Regulation).

It is prohibited for a bookmaker to accept a bet from a person aged under 18 years (s132(1) Racing and Betting Act) or on behalf of a person aged under 18 years. It is a defence if the person who makes or offers the bet had reasonable grounds to believe, and did believe, that the person under 18 had in fact attained the age of 18 years.

An employee, licensee or agent of a totalisator (computers used by book makers and betting agencies) must not accept a bet from, pay money to or deliver a totalisator ticket to a person who is under 18 years of age (s92(1)(b) Totalisator Licensing and Regulation Act). It is also an offence for a child to make a bet or get someone to make a bet on their behalf (s93 Totalisator Licensing and Regulation Act).

This section does not deal with criminal offences or criminal proceedings.

Civil Action

Civil law refers to the relationships between people, and people and organisations. When disputes arise, often out of accidents, personal injury, discrimination, contracts for goods and services, wills or other matters between private parties, civil law is the area which resolves the dispute.

If a child is being sued because it is believed he or she has committed some civil wrong, a court will consider the degree of responsibility the child can reasonably be expected to take for the action, having regard to the age and maturity of the child. The closer a child is to the age of 18 years, the more responsibility will be presumed by the court. In some circumstances, such as for a very young child, the court will determine the child is not responsible at all. This may be because the child
  • Was not aware of what he or she was doing
  • Was not aware what he or she was doing was wrong
  • Could not have foreseen the consequences of his or her actions.

Litigation Guardian

While children can bring and defend civil proceedings, Order 15 of Supreme Court Rules states that to do so, proceedings must be commenced or defended by a litigation guardian. The litigation guardian acts in the place of the child and is responsible for the conduct of proceedings, through representation by a solicitor.

A person must consent to become a litigation guardian, must not have any interests adverse to the child, and must be prepared to assume liability for any costs awarded against the child. Very often a parent or close relative agrees to act as the litigation guardian for a child, however given the potential to incur costs, and the fact that the position is unpaid, sometimes it is not possible to find anyone. In those circumstances it is possible for a court to order a person to act as litigation guardian on behalf of a child.

A court may order a litigation guardian be removed from the case if it thinks the childs best interests are not being met. It is not necessary for a litigation guardian to consult with a child about the proceedings or to obtain any views of wishes from the child when ensuring his or her best interests are met.

Any settlement monies payable to a child that are agreed to by a litigation guardian must first be approved by a court.

There is no obligation on a litigation guardian to obtain instructions or the views and wishes of the child.

Sometimes it is determined to be in a child's best interest not to bring a civil claim on behalf of a child, but to wait until the child attains the age of 18 years. Pursuant to s36 Limitation Act, the time in which legal proceedings may be brought is suspended until a person turns 18. After that time, the person still has another 3 years in which to commence proceedings (s36(1)(e) Limitation Act.

Any person deemed competent can enter into a legally binding contract, even if they are aged under 18 years. The test is whether or not the young person has legal capacity to enter the contract. This means the young person was capable of understanding what the contract means.

For this reason it is lawful for a child to own property in their own name, to buy and sell goods online and to purchase items by themselves. Whether or not other persons in the marketplace are willing to enter into a legally binding agreement with a child will depend on the child's capacity.

Under the Sale of Goods Act, where necessaries are sold and delivered to a young person who is subsequently found to lack the capacity to contract, a reasonable price must still be paid. Other contractual obligations may be waived, for example, an early termination fee for a mobile telephone plan. However, any call charges or data usage incurred may still need to be paid.

Necessaries mean goods suitable to the condition and life of the young person, and the actual requirements of the young person at the time of the sale and delivery. (S7 Sale of Goods Act). While medical services, accommodation, food and school supplies are clearly necessary, it is less clear whether a mobile telephone or access to the internet fall within this definition.

For more information about buying and selling goods, including online, see Contracts and Consumer Protection.


Bullying is behaviour which threatens, offends or intimidates the person being bullied. Bullying can happen at school, at work, on-line and in social situations.

Bullying can be illegal. Threats to someone's personal safety or actual physical violence may constitute an assault. Stalking, stealing or damaging someone's property are also offences. In some situations bullying behaviour may be serious enough to justify calling the police. Children, like adults, can be charged with criminal behaviour (see Young people and crime).

Cyber-bullying is when any of the bullying behaviour takes place on-line, including via social media.

All children have the right to feel safe and to be protected from harm (see Child Welfare). All schools in the Northern Territory must have a bullying plan in place, although the name given to the plan may vary between schools (see Managing Behaviour).

Parents Responsibility for the Actions of Their Child

Part 6A Youth Justice Act permits some Northern Territory Government Departments, known as appropriate agencies to enter into a Family Responsibility Agreement with the parents of a child, in circumstances where a youth aged at least 10 years but not more than 18 years;
  • has exhibited behavioural problems (this may include criminal activity, but can include other behaviours such as skipping school or using drugs)
  • the youth's family circumstances may have caused, or contributed to, the behavioural problems; and
  • the Agency is of the opinion that the agreement may assist to resolve the problems. (section 140D Youth Justice Act).
A Family Responsibility Agreement is not legally enforceable, but enables agencies to provide counselling or other supports to parents, to ensure they better discharge their obligations to exercise parental responsibility for their child or children. (s140E Youth Justice Act).

If a Family Responsibility Agreement is entered, but a youth continues to exhibit behavioural problems, or is charged with a criminal offence or is breached on bail (see Young People and Crime), or where the parents have failed to comply with the terms of the agreement, or failed to agree with the terms of a proposed agreement, the appropriate agency may apply to a Court for an Inquiry into Family Circumstances (s140G Youth Justice Act).

The purpose of an inquiry is to ascertain whether unstable or otherwise unsatisfactory family circumstances might have caused or contributed to the youth's behavioural problems and if so, whether the situation is likely to be improved by a Family Responsibility Order (S140H Youth Justice Act).

If, following an Inquiry into Family Circumstances, the Youth Justice Court forms the opinion that a Family Responsibility Order may improve the youth's family situation, then the Court may impose the order (s140J Youth Justice Act). These orders may remain in place for up to 12 months and may direct any one or more of the following to take place:
  • require a parent to undertake counselling or therapy directed at helping the parent to overcome addictive, destructive or damaging behaviour;
  • undertake counselling, to provide guidance in the effective discharge of the parent's family responsibilities;
  • attend support groups or other personal development programs
  • require a parent to exercise proper care and supervision of the youth to ensure that the youth attends school, keeps away from certain persons or from certain places (S140J (3) Youth Justice Act).

Failure by a parent to comply with a Family Responsibility Order may result in the imposition of a fine, which if the parent is unable to pay, can be varied into a community work order, or by the taking of non-essential life style goods (S140N Youth Justice Act).

Victims Compensation

Children can claim for financial assistance if they suffer financial loss or injury arising from a violent crime under the Victims of Crime Assistance Act. A parent, guardian or someone with a genuine interest in the welfare of a child must make the application on behalf of a person aged under 18 years.

Children who are found guilty of a criminal offence, or who, on the balance of probabilities, committed an offence that resulted in the payment of financial assistance may be followed up to pay back some or all of the monies paid as victim's compensation. (S56(1) Victims of Crime Assistance Act). This money is then placed into the Victims Assistance Fund (Part 6 Victims of Crime Assistance Act).


A will is a written document that states what a person wants to happen with their property after they die. A will can also include a person's wishes about who will look after their children after they die.

As a general rule, only people who have turned 18 may make a legally enforceable will. A person aged under 18 may make a will if he or she is about to get married, or is married (s7(2) Wills Act). If a young person has previously been married, the Wills Act permits the young person to revoke that part of a will made whilst married, however it does not permit the making of a new will, or amendment to an existing will. If a person aged under 18 years prepares a will in contemplation of marriage, but the marriage does not take place, the will is of no effect (s7(2)(a) Wills Act).

A young person may apply to the Court to make a will (S18 Wills Act) however the terms of the will must be approved by the Court, and only once the Court is satisfied the young person understands the nature and effect of the will, and the extent of property disposed of by it (s18(2) Wills Act).

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