Youth rights


Rights for under 18s

Regardless of your age, you have rights. The United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child (new window) sets out general principles about the rights of people under 18. Australia signed the Convention in 1990.

Under the Convention you have the right to be free from sexual and economic exploitation, the right to your own opinion, and the right to education, health care and economic opportunity.

The Convention says that your family is mainly responsible for your care and protection. However, in any legal process affecting you, the Convention says that the 'best interests of the child' must be the main consideration, and that your opinion should be heard.

Rights for over 18s

Once you are 18, you are legally an adult and are covered by the same laws as adults. This means you no longer need your parents' permission to do things.

Before you turn 18, the law will sometimes say how old you have to be to do certain things. In other cases it's not so clear. If there's no law setting an age limit, it's up to you to work out with your parents what you can and can't do.

Once you turn 18 you are generally able to carry out all legal activities, such as voting, entering into a valid contract, marriage, buying alcohol and obtaining a driver's licence. Some activities can be legally carried out before you turn 18, for example, getting a job, but there are strict legal requirements in place in order to protect the interests of young people and the community's interests as a whole. For example:

  • If you are under 17 years of age and wish to leave home or have left home, the Children's Court and Department of Human Services can intervene
  • If you want to obtain medical advice or treatment from a doctor and are under 18 years of age, the doctor may inform your parents and require the consent of your parents
  • If you are above 16 years and mature enough to understand the nature of the treatment and its likely consequences, then the doctor probably won't consult your parents

Victorian Equal Opportunity and Human Rights Commission - Human Rights Charter
This site has information about the Human Rights Charter, which details the basic entitlements that belong to all.  The Commission also provides information about discrimination, vilification and sexual harassment.

Australian Human Rights & Equal Opportunity Commission
The Human Rights and Equal Opportunity Commission is a national independent statutory government body and it has some great information for students.