Legal issues for children L-Z (South Australia)
legal; law; agreements; licences; marriage; medical; dental; treatment; passports; tax; punishment; responsibility; behaviour; school; schooling; seatbelts; car; restraints; sex; tattoos; travel; rent; tenant; contract; mobile; driver; blood; smacking; offence; cell; phone; cellphone; piercing; body ;
As a parent there are lots of questions you may wonder about in relation to your children such as - What really are your responsibilities? When can you leave children alone? When can children make their own decisions, and what about?
Sometimes it can be difficult for parents to give correct advice or set limits when they feel uncertain about where they stand. Parents often are unclear about the many laws that impact on their children's lives. This is understandable as there are so many which affect children and young people at different ages and there have been changes in recent years. Young people are becoming more aware of their legal rights and responsibilities through opportunities such as 'legal studies' at secondary school.
The content information for this topic was large. We have therefore divided the topic into two sections. See Legal issues for children A-K (South Australia) for issues not covered in this section.
Here are some of the legal answers for South Australia
This guide has been written not to provide legal advice, but to help parents have a better understanding of some of the laws which affect their children and the young people they care for.
- Women's and Childen's Health Network does not make any representation as to the correctness, accuracy, reliability or otherwise of the information contained in this guide.
- Women's and Children's Health Network expressly disclaims all and any responsibility to any person for any act of omission by any person in reliance upon the whole or part of the contents of this Website.
- If you have any doubts about your child's situation, check with the appropriate department or lawyer.
Note: In South Australia a child is a person under 18 years of age. At 18 your child can take on full adult responsibilities. This is often referred to as 'the age of majority', when your child is seen as an adult in the eyes of the law.
- There is no Act that states an age when a young person can or cannot leave home.
- Over the years judges have made decisions about individual cases. These decisions have served as a guide and are known as 'Common Law'.
- Past decisions have shown that young people can leave home at 16, but parents are still legally responsible for children until they are 18 years, unless they are married.
- Decisions about leaving home are best made with the help of parents. Young people need to consider how they can support themselves, where they will live and with whom, how they will manage their money and what to do if they run into problems.
- If young people leave home and there is concern about their welfare, Families SA can be involved.
- Information about Social Security benefits can be obtained from Centrelink.
Phone 13 10 21 for appointments at local offices.
- Office for Youth.
- Agencies assisting young people:
- Generally young people under 18 cannot make legally binding agreements.
- However the law recognises that young people are obliged to pay for "necessaries" so this means that they must pay for anything that has been supplied to them that is considered necessary, ie a necessity of life. In many situations the law is not clear about what is necessary, eg the law does not prevent them from going into a contract for a mobile phone (and many young people get into difficulty paying for these). Businesses may not want to sell a mobile phone to them in case they try to avoid the contract later on.
- If a young person under 18 enters into a contract to buy something that is not a "necessity", the young person could keep to the contract or could choose to avoid it. This means that business people and shops are not likely to want to risk making a contract with a person under 18, apart from immediate cash sales.
- Young people under 18 can rent a house or flat and any agreements entered into with a landlord are legally binding. Information on responsibilities of tenants can be obtained :
- For information about getting a licence, have a look at this website:
- For details about this and what young people need to get a licence, see the topic 'Getting your driver's licence' on the Teen Health site.
- At 16 a young person can apply for a boat operator's licence. Under 16 a special permit to operate a motor boat may be given subject to a number of conditions. A licensed person must supervise.
- To obtain a motorcycle licence, a person must do a Rider Safe training course if he already has a driver's licence, or a theory test and Rider Safe training course to get a learner's licence, if he does not.
- See MyLicence SA web site for more information about all of these licences and rules:
- People 18 years of age can marry without anyone's consent.
- At 16 a young person can marry with parental consent and the consent of a court. This can happen only if one of the couple is over 18.
- In special circumstances the Court may give permission for people under 18 to marry without their parents' consent.
and dental treatment
- The law says that children who have reached 16 years can make decisions about their own medical and dental treatment in the same way as an adult. This means giving and refusing consent.
- Children under 16 can consent if parents refuse, provided:
- two doctors or dentists agree that the nature and risks of the treatment are understood and
- the treatment is in the best interests of the child and
- the opinion is supported in writing by at least one doctor who examines the child before the treatment.
- If a child is under 16, a doctor must consult with the child's parent or guardian before giving emergency life saving treatment (eg a blood transfusion). If parents/guardians are not available, or if they do not consent to the treatment, the doctor can still give the treatment if it is considered to be in the best interests of the child's health and well-being.
- When young people reach 16, they are entitled to their right to doctor-patient confidentiality.
- Some people, whatever their age, cannot consent to medical treatment because of a serious disability. In these circumstances parents, caregivers or guardians appointed by the Guardianship Board can consent on their behalf. However for some serious procedures, such as sterilisation, abortion and some mental illness treatment, only the Guardianship Board or the Family Court has the power to make the decision.
- While most children are on the family Medicare card, people can get one of their own at any age. There is no law about Medicare cards for those under 18, but Medicare does have certain conditions. For children under 15, Medicare prefers to gain the consent of parents/guardians.
- It is generally the policy of the Red Cross not to take blood donations from those under 16 years.
- Consent to Medical Treatment and Paliative Care Act 1995
- People can call themselves what they like, but for legal purposes both parents have to agree to a formal name change for a child or young person under 18 years or else a court order is needed. The child's birth certificate is also needed.
- A child's name can not be changed unless the child agrees or is unable to understand what changing of name means. This needs a certificate filled out by a Justice of the Peace (JP) who interviews the child.
- Name changes are done by the Office of Consumer and Business Affairs, Births, Deaths and Marriages, which can provide information on this. Tel: 8204 9599. http://www.ocba.sa.gov.au/bdm/
- A child can have a passport at any age but must be an Australian citizen to get an Australian passport.
- Children are no longer included on parents' passports.
- Each child must have a separate passport (which is valid for 5 years).
- Applications for passports are available online at http://www.passports.gov.au/ .
- Children under 18 are taxed differently from adults so it is important to contact the Australian Taxation Office on PH: 132861 for information or visit their web-site
- There is no law that prohibits physical punishment of children provided that the punishment is moderate and reasonable and does not result in physical harm to the child.
- What is reasonable and moderate depends on a number of factors including the age of the child (with very young children parents are only entitled to use the mildest physical punishment), what the child is hit with, where they are hit (eg not on the face), how hard they are hit and whether they are hurt.
- The standard to be applied is that of the community generally and not any particular ethnic group.
- Parents can be charged with an offence if children are hurt.
- In schools adults are not allowed to hit children under any circumstances.
- Smacking can cause unintended damage, and there is a danger children will learn the wrong message from such punishment, such as that violence solves problems, and that it is okay to hit people who are smaller than you.
- It is never useful to smack babies under one year of age.
- Physical punishment becomes physical abuse when:
- "the child has suffered, or is likely to suffer, physical or psychological injury detrimental to the child's wellbeing; or
- the child's physical or psychological development is in jeopardy"
- Children's Protection Act 1993 S.6.(1)(b).
See the topic Child abuse.
- Children are expected to learn that some behaviour can hurt others.
- They are expected to behave reasonably, and if they hurt another person, including a child, legal action can follow.
Being charged with an offence
- The minimum age for a child to be charged with an offence is 10 years.
- Children under 10 years cannot be charged with, or convicted of, an offence.
- A child under 10 years of age can be 'taken into care' if the parents cannot control or look after their child.
- For children between 10 and 18 years there is a special criminal justice system.
- It is not automatic that your offending child will go to a Youth Court. What happens depends on how old your child is, how serious the offence, whether your child admits guilt and if there has been trouble before.
A number of things can happen. Your child may:
- be given a police caution
- attend a family group conference with you
- attend the Youth Court or
- attend an adult court in some serious circumstances.
Youth Court of South Australia
There is more information in the Teen Health topic 'Young people and crime in South Australia'.
At 6 years a child has to start school and attend until 17 years. Children can be enrolled and begin school after their fifth birthday (earlier in some independent schools).
Between six and until the day before their seventeenth birthday, children can be educated at a correspondence school depending on their age and how far they live from the nearest Government school (home schooling is also an option).
- Children have to attend all lessons (except religious or sex education classes by a parent's request).
- Schools have the authority to set homework suitable to your child's age and ability.
- While the issue of school uniforms has never been legally decided in the courts, the school principal can enforce the school's dress code and can take disciplinary action for deliberate and persistent breaches of the dress code rules. Children cannot be suspended or stopped from taking part in the school's educational program simply because of refusal to wear a uniform.
- Teachers can give children detention at lunch time (not more than half the lunch break) and after school (but not so they cause the child to miss the normal bus or train).
- Parents must be notified if their child is to be suspended, excluded or expelled. See the topic School suspension or expulsion for more information.
- Department of Education and Child Development:
- Association of Independent Schools, SA:
- Catholic Education SA:
belts and car restraints
- Everyone must wear a seat belt or appropriate child restraint in a moving vehicle.
- For passengers under 16 it is the driver's responsibility to make sure that seat belts or restraints are worn.
- See the topic Car safety restraints for more information.
- Young people who are 17 or older can give consent to sexual intercourse ie a person can have sex with them if they agree to it.
- The law is the same for males and females.
- It is an offence to have sex with a person under 17, even if both young people are under 17 and both agree.
- If a person is married and under 17 it is not an offence to have sex with the partner.
- It is an offence for a person in a position of care or authority to have sex with a person under 18.
Note: Parents cannot "take a person to court" for this, but they can report it to the police and ask the police to make a charge.
Young people under 18 cannot go into sex shops.
- It is an offence for anyone to tattoo someone under the age of 18 except for medical reasons. See the topic Tattoos on the Young Adult site.
- Illegal tattooing runs the risk of infection from a contaminated needle eg hepatitis B or C, or HIV/AIDS.
- Body piercing.
Children who travel alone on any transport need to be well prepared by their parents. They need to know about the system, who they can speak to, what to do if arrangements fall through, how to contact parents and who to contact if they are unable to contact parents, especially in an emergency.
- Free travel (no ticket is required) for children under 5 years. A child under 5 years must be accompanied by a passenger who has responsibility for the child.
- Full time students can get concession fares. If they are 15 years and over they must carry at all times, and be able to present, an approved student ID (identification card) or travel concession pass. The concession fare is different for secondary and tertiary students and it is the student’s responsibility to make sure the correct ticket is validated.
- Passengers of any age with a disability, and this includes children, must be given priority to sit down where it is preferable or necessary for them to be seated, especially in those seats that are reserved for this purpose. The same applies to areas set aside for passengers with wheelchairs or mobility aids.
- In most circumstances the law does not require a child to give up a seat to an adult passenger, but it is encouraged as a matter of courtesy if the adult would not otherwise be able to have a seat.
- Information is available at http://www.adelaidemetro.com.au/
Outside the metro area
- For country train travel children must be 16 years to travel alone. Special arrangements may be made for younger children who need to travel in remote areas.
- For bus inter-town travel for children up to 14 years travelling alone, special conditions may apply, eg an 'unaccompanied child' form may need to be completed. Unacompanied children under 12 years may have certain restrictions, eg can only travel up to 400 kilometres. (Check this out at the time of booking the ticket, as it is not a requirement with all services.)
- The Civil Aviation Safety Authority requires the following for all domestic air travel for children:
- under 5 years - children must be accompanied by a person 15 years or over who is an immediate family member or who has written permission from the child’s parent or guardian
- 5 to 11 years - requires 'unaccompanied minor' form to be completed
- 12 to 15 years - children can travel as unaccompanied minors only at the request of parent or guardian. If no request is made, there will be no special arrangements.
Click here to go to:
Legal issues for children A-K (South Australia)
- Lawstuff - a website written for young people about their legal rights. Information is given for each State in Australia
(Parenting SA website - PDF format)
Related Parent Easy Guide'When can my child?'
The information on this site should not be used as an alternative to professional care. If you have a particular problem, see a doctor, or ring the Parent Helpline on 1300 364 100 (local call cost from anywhere in South Australia).
This topic may use 'he' and 'she' in turn - please change to suit your child's sex.