When can I…?
- you can be charged and taken to court if the police believe you broke the law.
- you can have a delivery job but cannot work before 6.00am or after 6.00pm.
- you must agree before your parents can change and register a different surname.
- you can get a part-time job if:
- you do not work during any time you are supposed to be in school while you are under16
- you work for no more than 4 hours a day on a school day between 6am and 10pm
- you work no more than 12 hours during Monday to Friday in school semesters
- outside school days you can work up to 8 hours a day
- on school holidays you can work up to a maximum of 38 hours a week.
- you can get your own Medicare card
- if you have completed year 10 and have a certificate III or IV you can get a full-time or part-time job (you can get a part-time job before this if it is outside school hours)
- you can get Youth Allowance (if you are regarded as independent).
- you can get Youth Allowance (if certain conditions are met)
- you can have sex with another person who is also 16 or older, if they agree, without breaking the law (BUT it is against the law to have anal sex until both partners are at least 18 years of age)
- you can get a learner driver permit
- You can enrol to vote but will not be able to vote until you turn 18.
- you can get a provisional driver licence
- you can be taken to the adult courts if you break the law
- you can be sent to an adult jail if a court orders you to be locked up for an offence.
- you must vote (you must enrol to vote within 21 days of turning 18)
- you can buy alcohol and go to a public bar
- you can buy cigarettes
- you can be held responsible for any agreement you make (for example, if you borrow money, rent a flat, sign any contract)
- you can get married without anyone’s permission
- you can get a tattoo
- you can have anal sex with another person (IF both people agree and both are 18 or older)
- you can make a valid will
- you can buy a can of spray paint
- you can change your name without anyone’s permission
- you can have your body pierced
- you can apply for an Australian passport without your parent’s consent.
You are now in control of your life. The law says you are an adult and you don’t need your parents’ permission to do anything.
At any age
- you can buy condoms
- you can open a bank account providing you can sign your own name
- you can apply for your own Australian passport (if you are under 18, you will need your parents’ agreement)
- you can get legal advice
- you can give evidence at court
- if there is a court application about you being adopted, and you understand what is being proposed, you must be given information and any other support you need and you can have your say about what is proposed for you and the court must consider your views
- you can complain about government departments and their staff (police, teachers, child safety officers) or any other agencies you have contact with
- you can see a doctor and get medical advice and ask to have information about you kept confidential (but this may not happen in certain circumstances particularly if the doctor thinks you are at risk of harm)
- you can smoke cigarettes BUT you will be breaking the law if you give or sell a cigarette to a person under 18.
What are ‘rights’?
In 1990 the Australian Government entered an agreement to adopt the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child (CROC). This is a formal protection of human rights for children, that is, everyone under 18 years of age. This Convention is the most widely ratified human rights treaty in the world.
This means that, along with many other countries in the world, Australia has agreed that people under 18 have rights, that is, they must be treated fairly and they also need some protections. Unfortunately, governments in Australia do not always ensure this happens.
Here are some examples of rights which young people have under the Convention:
- right to a name, to be part of a country and to be known and cared for by your parents
- right to say what you think and to be listened to
- right to look for information, receive it and pass it on by writing, speaking, art, etc
- right to freedom of thought, conscience and religion
- right to meet with others and to join or form groups
- right to privacy
- right to not be abused, neglected or exploited
- right to the best possible health and medical care
- right to an education
- right to enjoy your own culture, religion and language
- if you have been accused of breaking the law, the right to be treated with respect and to have legal help
- if you are in care, the right to suitable alternative care with a family or institution and for regular checks that this is working well for you.
Such rights apply regardless of your skin colour, sex, religion, disability etc. You can see a copy of the Convention on the UNICEF website – www.unicef.org. If you feel that you have been treated unfairly, it may be best to try to talk to the person who is being unfair and explain why you feel you are being treated unfairly. The Human Rights and Equal Opportunity Commission (HREOC) should check that the Convention on the Rights of the Child is being followed and you can contact them if you are having hassles.
Who can help?
Australian Human Rights Commission www.humanrights.gov.au General Enquiries 1300 369 711 Complaints 1300 656 419
Youth Advocacy Centre (YAC) www.yac.net.au 3356 1002
South West Brisbane Community Legal Centre www.communitylegal.org.au 3372 7677
Logan Youth & Family Legal Service www.yfs.org.au 3826 1500
Legal Aid Queensland www.legalaid.qld.gov.au 1300 651 188
Aboriginal & Torres Strait Islander Legal Service www.atsils.org.au 3025 3888 or (24hrs 7 days a week) 1800 012 255 (Free call)
Translating & Interpreting Services (24hrs) 131 450
Kids Help Line 1800 551 800
Refugee and Immigration Legal Service www.rails.org.au 3846 9300
Community Legal Centres (CLCs) see www.naclc.org.au for your nearest CLC
This information 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.