What Counts As Abandonment?
If a parent fails to provide their child with enough food, clothing, shelter, medical treatment, or care, or if they desert the kid and leave them without means of support, then Australian law clearly states that they are guilty of the crime of Abandoning a Child.
If a parent insists on ditching their obligations and on illegally abandoning their child to the outside world, the law punishes their reckless behaviour with jail time, fines, and even the loss of parental authority over the kids. But while the penalties may vary depending on the state or territory, the laws throughout Australia are consistent in saying that parents have an obligation toward children below the age of 18.
A minor who finds themselves out on the streets because they were abandoned by their parents or because they ran away from home is definitely in a scary situation, but in Australia there are many institutions ready to help a child in need, such as the police and child protection services.
Runaways under the age of 18 might be made to come home by their parents, who still have an obligation to support them. The police, if they become involved, will use their judgment to figure out if the child would be safer at home or elsewhere.
There are different services available for abandoned children, depending on which State or Territory they are in. One service in NSW is Link2Home, which is a homelessness information and referral telephone service for homeless people or anyone at risk of being homeless, or even just someone who is advocating for a homeless person. Link2Home has a 24/7 hotline at 1800 152 152.
Other services include First Point in Canberra, ACT. ShelterMe, a housing service for NT. The WA Alliance to End Homelessness, in Western Australia. Safe steps, a 24/7 family violence support service in VIC. Brisbane Youth Service, a registered Tier 3 housing provider in QLD. Housing Connect, for emergency accommodations or long-term homes in TAS. And HYPA Housing (Helping Young People Achieve) in SA.
No matter what state or territory a child in need might be in, they can always get help through Centrelink – the Centrelink Master Program of the Department of Human Services. Centrelink can help you get the services or support that you need, like Youth Allowances for students, or Orphan Pension for children with at least one deceased parent.
If you were exposed to a dangerous or violent situation at home, then you might want to get in touch with the Family Advocacy and Support Service of your State or Territory. They give free legal advice and support to the victims of domestic and family violence, such as abandoned children.
Parting On Good Terms
So, if a parent can’t simply abandon their child, can they house the child elsewhere? They can, provided they fulfill their legal obligation to support the child financially, and to make sure that they are properly housed, fed, and cared for. There is no actual age specified by Australian law for a child to live apart from their parents, so as long as they’re properly supported, kids can live away from their parents’ home even before the age of 18.
The child can ask to live elsewhere, such as with grandparents, uncles and aunts, or in some cases even on their own in state or school-sponsored housing. All they need is the permission and support of their parents, including financial support, as well as a safe place to stay.
So, when can a parent legally cut off their child financially? 18 years old is the cutoff point; there is no Australian law the obligates parents to continue supporting their adult offspring. In fact, an adult child that refuses to leave home can even be charged by their parents for squatting, breaking and entering, and even threat of bodily harm!
Reaching adulthood also means the end of parental authority, so your parents can no longer stop you from leaving home if you really wanted to. Their permission is no longer required by law when you reach 18.
When leaving home as an adult, make sure you get a hold of your identification documents, such as your passport and birth certificate. Consider getting a job that will pay for rent and living expenses before leaving the nest. Even as an adult, you might still qualify for financial assistance from Centrelink, such as Rent Assistance or Youth Allowance.
Leaving home is always a big step, so make sure to do it the right way, and to do it for the right reasons. Parents should remember that it’s still a daunting world out there, and they should make sure their children are prepared to face it when they finally step out on their own.