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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.

Breastfeeding

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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Need more information?

Parental rights and finances

Parents have rights in regards to workplace issues, parental leave, discrimination and breastfeeding. Financial assistance and benefits are also available.

Read more on Pregnancy, Birth & Baby website

Pregnancy & work: rights & entitlements | Raising Children Network

Pregnant and working? Read this article for essential information on pregnancy and work, workplace rights, work duties, parental and maternity leave.

Read more on raisingchildren.net.au website

Paid parental leave

Depending on your situation, you may be entitled to Parental Leave Pay, employer-funded paid parental leave, Dad and Partner Pay, or unpaid leave. Learn more.

Read more on Pregnancy, Birth & Baby website

Parental leave - things to consider

When deciding how much parental leave to take, it's important to think about what works best for you and your family. Here are a few things for you to consider.

Read more on Pregnancy, Birth & Baby website

Payments for families

Payments to support families are available from the Australian Government if you are the parent or carer of a child. Find out if you might be eligible here.

Read more on Pregnancy, Birth & Baby website

Submit your claim if you didnt do a pre-birth claim - Services Australia

If you didnt do a pre-birth claim you can start a claim after the birth of your baby.

Read more on Centrelink website

Pregnancy at week 37

By the end of week 37, your baby is considered full-term. You'll probably be very tired because of the extra weight so try and get as much rest as you can.

Read more on Pregnancy, Birth & Baby website

Medicare and other benefits

In addition to Medicare, there are a range of health care and financial benefits available to support families in Australia.

Read more on Pregnancy, Birth & Baby website

Working Mothers | Australian Breastfeeding Association

You can do it!There are many elements for families to consider when a mother returns to work after maternity leave. It is common for women to be concerned about how they will manage to continue breastfeeding their baby and fulfil work commitments.Establishing a successful breastfeeding relationship at birth is the first step in preparing to return to work. An ABA Breastfeeding Education Class while pregnant will help you to:

Read more on Australian Breastfeeding Association website

Breastfeeding and Childcare | Australian Breastfeeding Association

Created with the ACT Human Rights Commission, the free pamphlet Breastfeeding and childcare provides information for both parents and childcare providers, and outlines the rights of mother and baby regarding breastfeeding and childcare. This pamphlet has been translated into a number of other languages.

Read more on Australian Breastfeeding Association website

Call us and speak to a Maternal Child Health Nurse for personal advice and guidance.

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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.

Except as permitted under the Copyright Act 1968, this publication or any part of it may not be reproduced, altered, adapted, stored and/or distributed in any form or by any means without the prior written permission of Healthdirect Australia.