If you are thinking of leaving home and are under 18, it is a good idea to talk to someone you trust OR call one of the agencies under ‘Who can help?’ They should keep things confidential, or you can contact them without giving your name.
When can I leave home?
Generally, you can leave home when you are 18 years old.
There is no legal age for when you can leave home. However if you are under 18 years of age and there is a:
- Court Order which says who you must live with or
- if you are on a Child Protection Order;
this may make it more difficult.
Further, if you do leave home before you are 18, there is a chance that Child Safety Services (Child Safety) may become involved if they believe you are at risk of harm.
In practice, this means if you are under 18 and Child Safety or the police are told/find out that you are not living at home, they will need to be convinced that you can care for your basic necessities of life. This means looking at whether you:
- have somewhere appropriate to live
- can adequately care for your basic needs (food, shelter, clothing, medical, mental health)
- have adequate supervision.
If any of these seem to be a problem, Child Safety will assess if your living situation is likely to cause you physical, emotional or mental harm, and then how great that risk is will determine how quickly they will step in.
So the younger you are the more difficult it will be to convince them that you are able to look after yourself properly, especially if you are not with any responsible adult, like a friend’s family. If the police or Child Safety are not convinced that you are safe and able to look after yourself, they may apply to the court for a Child Protection Order (see below for what that means). It is also a good idea to think about what personal things you might need to take with you if you decide to leave home (such as ID, school records, clothing).
What about my parents?
If your parents do not know where you are and are concerned about you, they will probably call the police or Child Safety and you will probably be listed as a missing person. This means that the police will be asked to look out for you. If the police find you they will want to know why you left home. The police or Child Safety should always listen to you and investigate your story. You have the right to feel safe and should tell the police or Child Safety where you want to go if there are reasons why you do not feel safe or able to go home. You should not be sent back home straight away.
If you have left home without your parents’ agreement, then it is a good idea to call them or the police just to let them know that you are safe. You will not be taken off the missing persons list until you:
- go into a police station and prove who you are and
- give the police the address of where you are living (the police will check this address out).
Taken into care?
Child Safety, police or your parents can ask the court for a Child Protection Order if they think that you are not safe or are unable to look after yourself properly. You should get legal advice if you think this may happen to you.
Will shelters or Crisis Care tell my parents where I am?
There is no law that says services such as youth shelters must tell your parents where you are. However, if you are concerned about this – check out the rules of the place where you are staying. Crisis Care may tell your parents where you are if:
- you are under 16 years of age or
- on a Child Protection Order.
A place to live?
You will need to contact one of the agencies under ‘Who can help?’ for more information on the types of housing listed below, or contact the Queensland Youth Housing Coalition on 1800 177 107 or at www.qyhc.org.au for more information or resources such as the book ‘Right at Home’.
In an emergency?
If you need somewhere to stay for a short time there are emergency youth shelters, refuges or hostels where you may be able to stay for up to 3 months. They are usually supervised by workers on a 24-hour basis.
The amount (if any) you pay to stay there depends on how long you stay and whether you have an income.
Sometimes emergency youth shelters might not be able to help because they are full. If you need further assistance you can contact Homeless Persons Information Queensland on 1800 474 753 – this is a State government free call number that assists people to find crisis accommodation. If you are under 17 they will refer you to Kids Help Line.
Squatting means moving into an empty building or old house and living there. Squatting is against the law and the police can arrest you for ‘breaking and entering’ or ‘trespassing’. If you have nowhere to go and are thinking of moving into a squat then it is a good idea to call one of the agencies under ‘Who can help?’
This choice can sometimes be cheaper than if you rent privately. Contact the Tenants’ Union of Queensland or a Tenant Advice and Advocacy (TAAS) service near you.
Medium term places?
You can usually stay in this type of accommodation for up to 12 months. It depends on what ‘set up’ the service offers as to whether workers live in, are only there during the day, or just drop by from time to time. Community Housing Services offer a range of options, from sharing with other young people, to living in a single flat. You will usually have to pay an amount each week (usually 25% of your income) to stay there and this is worked out by looking at how much money you earn either by Centrelink or a job.
Private rental (renting a house or flat from a private person) can be very expensive and sharing may be the way around this. The choice to move into a place with other people is something that you will need to think about carefully. It is a good idea to ask heaps of questions (like how the phone bill will be paid, rules about having your friends over, etc) before you decide on whether you will move in.
Anyone can apply for private rental accommodation. If you are under 18, you are able to sign a tenancy agreement if it is deemed to be a contract of necessity. Accommodation contracts are usually considered to be contracts of necessity. Sometimes a lessor (landlord) may be unsure because of your age. You should try to explain that you can’t be discriminated against (treated unfairly) because of your age. The laws about renting and leaving – bonds, rent, rights and responsibilities of the lessor (landlord) & lessee (tenants) – are quite complicated. Contact the Tenants Union of Queensland for advice if you have hassles or ask to get their ‘Fast Fact’ sheets.
Social housing in Queensland is housing that you rent from the government (what used to be called public housing or housing commission) or from a community housing service. You can apply for social housing as long as you receive a certain level of income, which means that you can rent at any age as long as you have an income to support yourself.
You can apply for social housing by filling out the standard form called Application for Housing Assistance Form 7. This means that you only have to fill out one form to get your name on the housing register. The form is available from the Queensland Government website or from your local Department of Housing Area Office. If you don’t know where your nearest one is call one of the agencies under ‘Who can help?’
In Queensland, to get social housing, you not only have to show that you are on a low income but you also must be able to show that there are a range of other reasons why you need social housing. Some of these reasons include:
- if you cannot access private rental housing
- the private rental market does not meet your needs (including that you have not been able to keep a tenancy)
- you have a medical condition
- you have a disability
- other reasons; such as if you are homeless or at risk of homelessness.
The Application Form will help the Department of Housing understand all the reasons why you need housing assistance. This form is really long and needs a lot of information because the form helps to decide your level of housing need and whether you meet all the conditions/criteria. It is really important to fill this form out properly and if you need help call one of the agencies under ‘Who Can Help?’ The Application Form will also want you to list where you want to live. The areas you list will be used to decide when you will be offered a place and how long you will have to wait.
You must also have an interview with the Department of Housing to go through your application. If you do not go to an interview they will not progress your request and you may have to start all over again the next time you approach the Department of Housing. If you want someone to go with you to the interview call one of the agencies under ‘Who can help?’
There may be times where the Department of Housing may tell you that you cannot be housed in social housing immediately because there are other people who may be in greater need. This does not mean that they will not put your name on the housing register but it might mean that it could take a very long time. If this happens to you the Department of Housing should offer you other forms of assistance or you could call one of the agencies under ‘Who can help?’ to help you find other accommodation.
Who can help?
Youth Advocacy Centre (YAC) www.yac.net.au 3356 1002
Child Safety After Hours Service (24hrs) (DOC) www.communities.qld.gov.au 3235 9999 or 1800 177 135 (Free call)
Tenants Queensland (Tenancy advice including for caravans and mobile homes) 3832 9447 or 1300 744 263
Residential Tenancies Authority www.rta.qld.gov.au 1300 366 311
Translating & Interpreting Services (24hrs) 131 450
Queensland Youth Housing Coalition www.qyhc.org.au 3876 2088 or 1800 061 142
Community Legal Centres (CLCs) see www.naclc.org.au for your nearest CLC
This sheet was last reviewed and updated in June 2015. The Youth Advocacy Centre does not accept responsibility for any action or outcome as a result of anyone relying on the information provided.