By Raising Children Network
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There’s no one law in Australia that says at what age you can or can’t leave your child home alone. Read about the laws in your state or territory.

Australian Capital Territory

In the Australian Capital Territory, there is no specific law that states at what age you can leave children alone. But the law is clear about the responsibility of parents to look after their children:

  • Parents are expected to provide their children with food, clothing, a place to live, safety and supervision. (Family Law Act 1975)
  • Parents can be charged with an offence if children are left in a dangerous situation and are not fed, clothed or provided with accommodation. (Crimes Act 1900)
  • Care and Protection (part of the ACT Office for Children, Youth and Family Support) can remove children from situations where their immediate safety is in serious danger and there is no responsible adult or guardian present. (Children and Young People Act 2008)

When a person under the age of 18 years – for example, an older brother, sister or teenage friend – cares for children, the question of negligence or liability could arise. As a parent you might be held responsible for the carer, as well as your own children, if something goes wrong. A carer who is still legally a child – that is, under 18 years – would not be judged against the standards of responsibility expected of adults.

SourceACT Government Parentlink – Home alone 

New South Wales

There is no specific law that states at what age you can leave children alone. But the law is clear about the responsibility of parents to look after their children:

  • Parents are expected to provide food, clothing, a place to live, safety and supervision. (Family Law Act 1975)
  • NSW Police or the NSW Department of Family and Community Services can remove children from situations where their safety is in serious danger and there is no guardian present. (Children and Young Persons (Care & Protection) Act 1998)
  • Parents can be charged with an offence if children are left in a dangerous situation, or are not fed, clothed or provided with accommodation. (Children and Young Persons (Care & Protection) Act 1998)

When a person under the age of 18 years – for example, an older brother, sister or teenage friend – cares for children, the question of negligence or liability could arise. As a parent, you might be held responsible for the carer as well as your own children if something goes wrong. A person who is still legally a child – that is, under 18 years – would not be judged against the standards of responsibility expected of adults.

SourceNSW Department of Family and Community Services – Home alone

Northern Territory

There is no specific law that states at what age you can leave children alone. But the law is clear about the responsibility of parents to look after their children:

  • Parents or carers of children under 16 years can be found criminally liable if they’re reckless or negligent in providing children with the necessities of life, where death or injury is likely or foreseeable. (Criminal Code Act)
  • The Police or the Department of Children and Families can remove children from situations where their safety is in serious danger and there is no guardian present. (Care and Protection of Children Act)

When a person under the age of 18 years – for example, an older brother, sister or teenage friend – cares for children, the question of negligence or liability could arise. As a parent you might be held responsible for the carer, as well as for your own children, if something goes wrong. A carer who is still legally a child – that is, under 18 years – would not be judged against the standards of responsibility expected of adults.

Source: Northern Territory Government – Home alone

Queensland

The Criminal Code (Section 364A) states:

  • A person who, having the lawful care or charge of a child under 12 years, leaves the child for an unreasonable time without making reasonable provision for the supervision and care of the child during that time commits a misdemeanour. Maximum penalty is three years imprisonment.
  • Whether the time is unreasonable depends on all the relevant circumstances.

SourceQueensland Government – Criminal Code Act 1899

South Australia 

There is no specific law that states at what age you can leave children alone. But the law is clear about the responsibility of parents to look after their children:

  • Parents are expected to provide food, clothing, a place to live, safety and supervision. (Family Law Act)
  • Parents can be charged with an offence if children are left in a dangerous situation and are not fed, clothed or provided with somewhere to live. (Criminal Law Consolidation Act)
  • The Police or Families SA (part of the South Australian Department of Families and Communities) can remove children from situations where their safety is in serious danger and there is no guardian present. (Children’s Protection Act)

When a person under the age of 18 years – for example, an older brother, sister or teenage friend – cares for children, the question of negligence or liability could arise. As a parent you might be held responsible for the carer, as well as your own children, if something goes wrong. A carer who is still legally a child – that is, under 18 years – would not be judged against the standards of responsibility expected of adults.

Source: Parenting SA – Home alone

Tasmania

The Children, Young Persons and their Families Act 1997 states the following:

  • A person who has the control or charge of a child must not leave the child without making reasonable provision for the child’s supervision and care for a time which is unreasonable.
  • The penalty is a fine not exceeding 15 penalty units or imprisonment for a term not exceeding three months, or both.

SourceTasmanian Legislation – Children, Young Persons and Their Families Act 1997 

Victoria

Although Victorian law does not specify an exact age, there are provisions in the Children, Youth and Families Act 2005 about parental responsibility to a child and the expectation that parents make ‘reasonable’ decisions about a child’s safety.The Acts says:

  • It is an offence to leave a child without reasonable provision for their supervision and care.
  • The context has to be considered, including the age and maturity of the child.

As a parent, you are legally obligated to ensure that children are properly looked after. This means that food and clothing are provided, and that children have a safe place to live and are under parental supervision. When there is an older sibling who is under the age of 18 years caring for other children in the house, you are still held responsible for the safety of the children.

Source: Victorian Department of Human Services – Leaving children unattended

Western Australia

There is no specific law that states at what age you can leave children alone, but the law is clear about the responsibility of parents to look after their children:

  • Parents are expected to provide food, clothing, a place to live, safety and supervision. (Family Law Act 1975; Family Court Act (WA) 1997)
  • Parents can be charged with an offence if they neglect their child and do not provide the necessities of life for their child under 16 years. (Criminal Code 1913)
  • Parents can be charged for failing to protect their child from significant harm as a result of abuse or neglect. (Children and Community Services Act 2004)
  • The Western Australia Police or the Department for Child Protection can take a child into provisional protection and care if they suspect there is an immediate and substantial risk to the child’s wellbeing. (Children and Community Services Act 2004)
  • The Western Australia Police or a Departmental Child Protection Worker can move a child to a safe place if the child is unaccompanied by a responsible adult and there is a risk to the child’s wellbeing. (Children and Community Services Act 2004)
  • Parents can be charged with an offence if they leave a child unsupervised in a motor vehicle or the child is likely to become emotionally distressed or their health might be impaired. (Children and Community Services Act 2004)

When a person under the age of 18 years – for example, an older brother, sister or teenage friend – cares for  children, the question of negligence or liability could arise. As a parent you might be held responsible for the carer, as well as your own children, if something goes wrong. A carer who is still legally a child – that is, under 18 years – would not be judged against the standards of responsibility expected of adults.

Source: Parenting WA – Home alone 

 
 
 
 
  • Last updated or reviewed 27-07-2015