No legal age for leaving children home alone
There’s no one law in Australia that says how old your child has to be before you can leave them alone.
In Queensland, if you leave a child under 12 years of age for an unreasonable amount of time without supervision and care, you have committed a criminal offence. But the legislation also says that whether the time is unreasonable depends on all the relevant circumstances.
Elsewhere in Australia, the law says you’re legally obliged to make sure that your child is safe and that your child’s needs are met. You can be charged with an offence if your child is left in a dangerous situation, not fed, clothed or provided with accommodation.
The police or child protection services can remove children from situations where they’re at risk of serious harm.
This means that you need to use your own judgment about leaving children home alone. This involves thinking about whether your child could cope if something happened while you were out or you weren’t able to get back.
For example, it’s never safe to leave a baby or toddler home alone. But you might feel OK leaving a pre-teen child alone for half an hour if they can follow household safety rules and know who to contact in an emergency.
Even if your child is mature enough to be home alone, you’re still responsible for their wellbeing and safety at all times.
State laws for leaving children home alone
The following websites have state-specific information on leaving children home alone.
Australian Capital Territory
ACT Government Parentlink – Home alone
New South Wales
NSW Department of Communities and Justice – Leaving children at home alone
Northern Territory Government – Leaving your child home alone
- Queensland Consolidated Acts – Criminal Code 1899 – Leaving a child under 12 unattended
- Legal Aid Queensland – Child protection legal information
Government of South Australia Parenting SA – Home alone – Parent easy guide
Hobart Community Legal Service – Care and protection of children and young people
Victorian Department of Families, Fairness and Housing – Changes to child protection law
- WA Current Acts – Criminal Code Act Compilation Act 1913 (See section 263, ‘Duty as head of family’)
- WA Department of Justice – Children and Community Services Act 2004 (See section 101, ‘Failing to protect child from harm’)