By Lisa Flynn | Published news.com.au | 31st March 2017
Did you know it’s illegal in Queensland to leave kids under the age of 12 home alone?
It’s something that is hotly debated among parents: How old do children need to be before they can be left unsupervised?
You might be surprised to know that Queensland is the only state that specifies that a child must not be left alone if they are under the age of 12.
The Queensland Criminal Code, section 364a, under the title “Leaving a child under 12 unattended,” stipulates “that a person who, having the lawful care 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.”
If found guilty of breaking this law, the punishment carries a maximum penalty of three years’ imprisonment.
IN OTHER STATES (ACT/NSW/WA/VIC/SA/TAS/NT)
The laws in other states don’t expressly state an age that is appropriate to leave your child alone, but they do clearly state that parents are expected to provide their children with adequate safety and supervision and must act.
WHAT IS CONSIDERED WHEN DETERMINING REASONABLENESS?
The laws in each state declare that as long as the considerations for your child’s safety appear “reasonable” you will not be found to be breaking the law.
The court will look at things like:
• The age of the child
• The distance they travel
• How often they have or would have walked that path
• And the time of day that they’ve gone for that walk
WHAT ABOUT LEAVING THEM WITH AN OLDER SIBLING?
The test of reasonableness is still applied when leaving your child with an older sibling. If that child is under eighteen, depending on the supervisor’s maturity levels and capacity to care, a parent can still be found to be negligent for leaving them with an ill-equipped carer.
ARE YOU BREAKING THE LAW WHEN YOU DUCK OUT QUICKLY TO THE SHOPS?
This is where the test of reasonableness can be a parent’s friend. It may be reasonable (if you’re outside of Queensland) to leave a ten-year-old at home while you duck out for five minutes to the shops. However, it may be seen as negligent, if you did the same for a three-year-old.
WHAT ABOUT POPPING MY CHILD IN AN UBER FOR SCHOOL DROP OFF?
This month, one mother made headlines after ordering an Uber to drop off her child to dance lessons. She, like many busy parents was trying to navigate a way around her hectic schedule while still managing mum duties.
While some outsourcing parents might think “Gee why didn’t I think of that,” it turns out Uber refuses to transport any child under the age of eighteen unless they are supervised by an adult.
While this is a loss for parents seeking a loophole to school drop-offs, it’s a win for the safety of our children.
Ultimately, these laws are put in place to protect our nation’s most vulnerable beings. While we may all differ in opinion on what is right and wrong for our children, what most people can see eye-to-eye on is that laws put in place to keep our children safe, can only be a good thing.