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Parental rights

3-minute read

In Australia, you have certain rights as a parent that are protected by law. You also have certain responsibilities when bringing up your children.


In Australian under the federal Sex Discrimination Act 1984 it is illegal to discriminate against a person either directly or indirectly on the grounds of breastfeeding. There are also state and territory laws that protect the rights of breastfeeding women in areas such as work and education.

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

Parental leave

Employees are entitled to 12 months of unpaid parental leave when a child is born or adopted. Parental leave includes maternity leave (for mums), paternity and partner leave (for dads and partners) and adoption leave as well as other types of special leave.

You can also request an additional 12 months of leave but check first as this may not apply to a small business.

As well as unpaid leave, employees can also get Parental Leave Pay from the Australian Government and paid parental leave from their employer. The amount your employers pays you depends on your award or contract. It doesn’t affect your Parental Leave Pay from the Government — you can be paid both.

Parental Leave Pay can be taken in 2 blocks within 2 years. Find out more about Parental Leave 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 eligible for unpaid parental leave if you have been working for your employer regularly for at least 12 months and the work would have continued if you hadn’t had a baby.

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

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

Pregnancy and work

It is against the law to discriminate against a woman because she is pregnant or might become pregnant. If you are pregnant, you should be able to continue to work under the same conditions as everyone else. You also have the right to return to the same job when you return from maternity leave.

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

What are my rights and responsibilities as a parent?

The law allows parents to bring up their children according to their own values and beliefs. This means that you have the right to make decisions about how you bring up your children without interference unless there are very good reasons and your child’s wellbeing is at risk.

Decisions such as religion, schooling, discipline, medical treatment and where your child lives are your right and responsibility to make. These decisions will not be interfered with unless, for example, your child is badly treated, is not receiving education, is not allowed medical treatment when it is needed or there is an order by a court.

As a parent you have a 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

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

Last reviewed: July 2020

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This information is for your general information and use only and is not intended to be used as medical advice and should not be used to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent any medical condition, nor should it be used for therapeutic purposes.

The information is not a substitute for independent professional advice and should not be used as an alternative to professional health care. If you have a particular medical problem, please consult a healthcare professional.

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