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Parental rights

5-minute read

Key facts

  • In Australia, you have certain rights as a parent.
  • These rights are protected by law.
  • You also have certain responsibilities when bringing up a child or children.

What are my rights and responsibilities as a parent?

The law lets people follow their own values and beliefs. This includes the way that you choose to bring up your children. You have the right to bring up your children without interference from other people. If your child’s wellbeing is at risk then the authorities can step in to make sure that your child is safe.

You make many decisions when bringing up your children. You have the right to decide things such as:

  • their religion
  • where they go to school
  • what medical treatment your child receives
  • where a child lives
  • what discipline you feel is necessary

Parents also have responsibilities when bringing up a child. As a parent, it is your duty to:

  • protect your child from harm
  • provide your child with food, clothing and a place to live
  • financially support your child
  • provide safety, supervision and control
  • provide medical care
  • provide an education

In most cases, the decisions made by parents happen without any interference. In some cases, the authorities need to step in. This can happen if a child is:

  • being badly treated
  • not going to school
  • not allowed to get medical treatment that they need

Sometimes the courts will make an order so that a child can get the care or treatment they need.

Pregnancy and work

It is against the law to discriminate against someone because they are pregnant or might become pregnant.

If you are pregnant, you have the right to continue to work under the same conditions as everyone else. You also have the right to return to the same job at the end of your maternity leave.

For more information on your rights at work, visit the Australian Human Rights Commission website.


In Australia, it is against the law to discriminate against a person for breastfeeding. Federal, state and territory laws protect the rights of those who are breastfeeding . This includes breastfeeding at work and in education settings.

For more information on your rights to breastfeed in public or in the workplace, visit the Australian Breastfeeding Association website.

Parental leave

People who work can get Parental Leave Pay from the Australian Government. You can also get paid parental leave from your employer.

The amount paid by your employer depends on your award or contract. It doesn’t affect your Parental Leave Pay from the Government. You can be paid both.

People who work are also able to get 12 months of unpaid parental leave when a child is born or adopted. Parental leave includes maternity leave and paternity and partner leave. Other types of leave are adoption leave and special leave.

You can also apply for an extra 12 months of leave. You will need to check with your employer first. This may not apply if you work for a small business.

Parental Leave Pay can be taken in 2 blocks within 2 years. Find out more about Parental Leave Pay.

Dad and partner pay

Fathers and partners (including same sex partners) are entitled to Dad and Partner Pay when they have or adopt a child. This is 2 weeks leave, paid at the national minimum wage.

If you are a casual employee, you are able to get unpaid parental leave. You will need to have worked for your employer regularly for at least 12 months. The work needs to have continued if you hadn’t had a baby.

Where can I get more information about parental rights?

For more information on parental leave, visit the Fair Work Ombudsman website.

For more information on other entitlements you may have, visit Services Australia.

Speak to a maternal child health nurse

Call Pregnancy, Birth and Baby to speak to a maternal child health nurse on 1800 882 436 or video call. Available 7am to midnight (AET), 7 days a week.

Learn more here about the development and quality assurance of healthdirect content.

Last reviewed: October 2022

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