About legal age in Australia
The information in this article is general in nature, and laws differ from state to state. So if you have concerns about your child’s legal rights or obligations, it’s always best to:
Alcohol and other drugs
The minimum age for buying and drinking alcohol in licensed premises like bars, clubs, restaurants and bottle shops is 18 years. In places where drinking alcohol in public is permitted, children under the age of 18 can’t drink or have alcohol in public.
In some states and territories, it’s legal to supply alcohol to children under 18 years on private premises like home or friends’ homes if you have approval from a child’s parent or guardian. In others, it’s legal only if you’re the parent or guardian.
In most states and territories, the person supplying the alcohol must also supervise the child responsibly.
Using or possessing drugs like crystal meth (ice), ecstasy, heroin and cocaine is against the law at any age.
In the Australian Capital Territory, you can have a small amount of cannabis for personal use at home if you’re over 18. But it’s against the law to store it where children can reach it. Using or possessing cannabis is against the law in all other states and territories.
- Preventing or limiting teenage alcohol use
- Alcohol, smoking and other drug use: how to help teenagers
- Binge-drinking: teenagers
- Hosting a teenage party: guide for parents
There’s no safe level of alcohol use for children under the age of 18 years. And it isn’t safe for anyone to use illegal drugs or smoke at any age. Alcohol and other drugs can affect children’s health, brain development, behaviour, schoolwork and relationships.
For children aged 10-13 years to be found guilty of breaking the law, it must be proved that they knew their behaviour was ‘seriously wrong’ at the time, not just ‘naughty’.
From 14 years, children are considered fully responsible if they break the law. It doesn’t have to be proved that they knew their behaviour was ‘seriously wrong’.
Children aged 10-17 years are generally treated as ‘children’ by the police and the children’s courts. This means they generally face legal procedures and penalties that are designed for children. For example, their names are kept secret during legal proceedings.
When young people aged 18 years and over break the law, they’re treated as adults by the court, and adult penalties apply.
To get learner permits or licences (Ls) to drive cars, children must be 16 years old, except in the Australian Capital Territory, where it’s 15 years and 9 months.
When learner drivers pass their driving tests, they can get their provisional or probationary licences (Ps). The minimum age at which drivers can get their Ps ranges from 16 years and 6 months in the Northern Territory to 18 years in Victoria. It’s 17 years in other states and territories.
For more information
Learning to drive: teenagers
Employment: casual and part time
- number of shifts, days or hours children can work
- times children can work
- effects of paid work on schoolwork
- requirements for supervising children at work.
It’s important to check the relevant laws in your state or territory to make sure that your child’s employment arrangements are fair and legal. This includes things like hours of work, supervision, pay rates and so on.
- Casual work and part-time jobs for teenagers
- Jobs, careers, further study and training: getting ready
- Employment and jobs: teenagers with disability, autism and other additional needs
- Employment rights and entitlements: teenagers with disability, autism and other additional needs
- consent to simple health care treatments
- control what goes into their My Health Record and who has access to it.
At 15, children can get their own Medicare card, or younger if they ask a parent or carer for it.
- Teenage health care: your child’s rights and responsibilities
- Teenagers seeing a GP alone
- Teenagers with chronic health conditions: moving to adult care
- have your permission
- have a safe place to go
- are otherwise following the law – for example, still attending school.
Family violence is not OK. If your family is experiencing problems, you or your child can get help by calling the National Sexual Assault, Domestic Family Violence Counselling Service on 1800RESPECT (1800 737 732). Your child can also contact Kids Helpline on 1800 551 800.
Phones and social media
For more information
- Responsible mobile phone use for children and teenagers
- Social media benefits and risks: children and teenagers
- Digital citizenship: teens being responsible online
- Internet safety: teenagers
In the Australian Capital Territory, Northern Territory and Queensland, teenagers under 18 years can get body-piercings if they can make a sound and reasonable judgment about them.
In Western Australia, teenagers under 18 years can get body-piercings with their parents’ permission.
In Tasmania, Victoria, South Australia and New South Wales, teenagers under 16 years need their parents’ permission for body-piercings. As a parent, you have to say where the body-piercing can be.
In New South Wales, body-piercers aren’t allowed to give teenagers under 16 years piercings in intimate areas, like the genitalia or nipples, even if teenagers have parental permission.
In Queensland, Tasmania, Victoria, South Australia and Western Australia, body-piercers aren’t allowed to give teenagers under 18 years piercings in intimate areas, even if teenagers have parental permission.
In the Australian Capital Territory and Northern Territory, there are no specific rules about piercings in intimate areas.
- Consent and sexual consent: talking with children and teenagers
- Getting and giving sexual consent: talking with teenagers
- Sexual assault and teenagers
- Child sexual abuse: what it is and what to do
For more information
In Victoria, South Australia, Tasmania and Queensland, it’s a criminal offence for a tattooist to do tattoos for someone under 18 years.
In the Australian Capital Territory and New South Wales, teenagers under 18 years need to get their parents’ permission for tattoos. As a parent, you must give your permission either in person or in writing, and you must say what type of tattoo you agree to and where.
In Western Australia, teenagers must be over 16 years and have their parents’ permission for tattoos. Permission must be in writing and must explain the type of tattoo you agree to and where.
In the Northern Territory, there are no specific rules about getting a tattoo. In practice tattooists have their own industry standards, and teenagers are often asked to get their parents’ permission for tattoos.