You web browser may not be properly supported. To use this site and all its features we recommend using the latest versions of Chrome, Safari or Firefox

Boy Walking Home Alone

With school holidays fast approaching, it might be a timely refresher to see if you can legally leave your child(ren) at home. The laws vary in each state, so it's important to get the facts straight.

It turns out the Wet Bandits were not the only ones on the wrong side of the law in the Home Alone series – if the McCallisters lived in Queensland, Kevin’s parents might have joined the would-be burglars in jail.

The lead up to the school holidays is a good time to remind parents of their legal obligations when it comes to child supervision.

From what we've heard, it seems that the vast majority of the community are more confused than worried about unattended children laws, and many think it’s excessive, particularly when they actually hear what the penalty is. Here's a breakdown of unattended children laws in some states:


Legislation: Queensland Criminal Code Act 1899 (QLD) - Section 364A

(1) Queensland is the only state that explicitly states “children under the age of 12 cannot be left alone for an unreasonable” amount of time without making reasonable provision for the supervision and care of the child.

If a person who has the lawful care or charge 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 commits a misdemeanour.

Maximum penalty – 3 years imprisonment.

(2) Whether the time is unreasonable depends on all the relevant circumstances.

In NSW, SA and the NT, offences related to leaving your child home alone would likely fall under child neglect laws, which might apply in specific circumstances.

In Victoria, WA, Tasmania and the ACT, inadequate child supervision offences could apply to children of up to 16 or 18 years of age (depending on the state) in certain circumstances.

There’s also the Commonwealth Family Law Act, which makes it pretty clear that parents and guardians have an obligation to provide children with accommodation, food, clothing and other necessities of life.

When deciding whether the time left alone was unreasonable, the courts will consider things like the age and capacity of the child, the length of time the child is left unattended, the presence or absence of shelter, food and water, and the reason the child was left unattended

What constitutes an unreasonable amount of time and reasonable supervision and care will depend on the circumstance(s).

Recent case studies

  • A Toowoomba mother was sentenced to six months jail last year for leaving her seven and eight year old sons locked inside their home for more than 90 minutes while out with her partner and their other three children. The Magistrate said the incident was very, very serious and warned of the potential tragedies that could have occurred.
  • In 2014, a Mount Isa mother pleaded guilty to leaving her four year old son unattended at home while she went to the corner store. She told the court that she was gone for no longer than 5 minutes and left her son at home as he was unwell. She was put on a good behaviour bond for nine months.
  • In an extreme case, a Perth stepmother faced court after leaving two children aged four and six at home alone for three days while she travelled overseas. The woman faced two counts of engaging in conduct which could result in harm to a child.

The contents of this blog post are considered accurate as at the date of publication. However the applicable laws may be subject to change, thereby affecting the accuracy of the article. The information contained in this blog post is of a general nature only and is not specific to anyone’s personal circumstances. Please seek legal advice before acting on any of the information contained in this post.

Thank you for your feedback.

Related blog posts

Criminal Law
Snap Decision

It's fair to say the selfie and candid snaps have become staples of social media photography, and in a time where over 75% of Australians have a smartphone, everyone is their own photographer and publisher. So what’s the harm in taking a picture, or sharing it on the internet? Before you reach for your phone or camera (normally one in the same), you need to be aware of your surroundings. Whilst generally in public places you can snap away, being on private property while taking a picture without the permission of the landowner may result in charges of trespass. It also bears remembering most modern phones and cameras are also GPS enabled and “geotag” pictures taken with them. This...

Group Selfie Resized
Criminal Law
Gumtree and Stolen Goods

While advertisers may have spun “it’s a steal” into a sales pitch we are all too familiar with, if you’re not careful in the world of private sales that may be exactly what you get. Gumtree is one of the most well-known classifieds site with its primary purposes allowing people to buy and sell from each other. Whilst this gives tens of thousands of people the freedom to sell unwanted property they’ve gotten over the years, it’s increasingly becoming a quick and easier way for criminals to turn their ill-gotten gains into cash. The terms of use of Gumtree, and many sites like it, restrict their legal liability to any sales conducted over their platform including any conduct by a...

Criminal Law
Trick or Treat: Avoid a Nightmare on Halloween

Halloween has become an increasingly popular event in the Australian calendar — and has captured the imagination of lolly-loving kids to partygoers who enjoy a costumed affair. In the midst of all the excitement it can be easy to get carried away in the atmosphere. Here are a few tips to stay on the right side of the law and ensure the only fallout is a nervous visit to the dentist. An increasing amount of households are getting on board with Halloween, leaving out lollies and decorations, but there are still many who just aren’t interested in participating. If the kids are out trick or treating it’s important they know that if someone isn’t interested in handing out treats, a...

We're here to help

Start your online claim check now. Or, if you have a question, get in touch with our team.