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What if I leave home?

 Leaving home is a big step. If you're thinking about leaving home, don't go without a plan, STOP and THINK about what your options are (for accommodation, for support, for money etc). If you do decide to leave, it should be to live somewhere safer (like with friends, relatives, or a youth refuge).

What might happen if you leave can depend on your age. Check out the links below. This info is general only, so get more info about your own situation, see 'What services can help me?'

What happens if I leave home and I'm under 17?

In most states in Australia the law for people under 17 says that you should be living somewhere safe, where you are looked after. To check the law in your state, see the Lawstuff website (under the 'when can I?' section).

The law is not concerned with people under 17 who leave the family home if they have a safe place to stay, money to support themselves and are not involved with illegal stuff, like drinking alcohol, taking drugs, stealing or prostitution.

The police will try and find you if someone files a Missing Person's Report. If you're found, the police have to contact your parents. If you can show the police that you have a safe place to live (e.g. a youth refuge, or a home where there are responsible adults looking after you) they might let you stay there. They'll tell your parents that you're safe and do not want to go back home. If the police know you are not safe at home, or that you are being abused, then it is unlikely that they will force you to go back there. If the police decide that you don't have enough money or a safe place to stay, they'll contact Child Protection. If the situation is urgent, they might take you to the police station until Child Protection workers arrive (for info on Child Protection, see faqs).

Child Protection will decide what action needs to be taken to make you safe. You might have to go to the Children's Court, and this court may make an Order telling you about where you can live. If this happens, you can get advice. See 'What services can help me?''What services can help me?'

Remember, if the police get involved, it doesn't mean you've committed a crime! The police, courts and Child Protection have a responsibility to protect you from the abuse of others, not punish you because you tried to get away from it. If the police mistreat you, you have the right to complain.

Can I leave home if I'm 17 or older?

In most states, you're allowed to leave home if you've turned 17. Your parents can still ask the police to find you and bring you back, but the police should listen to your wishes about this over your parent's. The only way that you can be made to return home is if a Court orders it.

To avoid this happening, it's a good idea to stay in contact with your parents so they know you're safe. Doing this will reduce the chances of you being 'picked up' by police. You don't have to tell your parents where you are when you contact them. (To check out the law about leaving home in your state, see the Lawstuff website

I don't know where to go - where can I stay?

Remember that you're leaving home to be safer, not to go somewhere where bad stuff might continue to happen. Some places to live might be:

  • an aunt's, uncle's, grandparent's, other relative's or friend's house

  • Youth Refuges. These are houses for young people. They're run by welfare services, and usually they're free (or if you have some income, you may have to contribute a small amount). Most people use refuges to stay in temporarily because they are don't have anywhere to go. A youth refuge may be an option for you if you don't have any money or anywhere else to go.

    You'll find that most refuges accommodate several young people at a time, and some are for girls-only or guys-only, but some are mixed. The other young people there may be from the same or a different background as you, and they will also have their own issues in their lives that they are working out. You will probably have to share a bedroom with another young person of the same sex. Often they're staffed by workers who stay there too and can help you to get things sorted out (like income from Centrelink or paid work, going to school, finding long-term housing, legal issues etc). The workers also help to make sure all the young people staying there treat each other with respect.

    Refuges usually have rules about behaviour and when you can come and go. These rules are there to make sure that young people staying there are safe and have support and a plan for the future. These may include rules about drug use, violence and harassment of young people or staff, or curfews (what time you have to be back at the refuge by in the evening). When you are staying at a refuge, you will probably have a case worker who will support you and help plan what you need to do to sort out your life. Most refuges require you to leave the house during the day so that you can go to school, find work, or find long-term housing or sort out other things.
    To find out how to contact a youth accommodation service/refuge, see 'What services can help me?'

  • Private Renting / Boarding. Renting means that you pay money to a landlord (the house owner) or a real estate agent, to live in a house. Boarding is when you pay to live in a house together with the owner. In many boarding situations, the owner provides meals.
    You can look for rental places by contacting a Real Estate Agent, or by looking in the Saturday newspapers under 'rental' or 'houses to let'. It can be expensive - if you can't afford to rent a house/flat on your own, you could find a room in a shared house that you and other people all rent together, by looking in the newspaper under 'shared accommodation'. Renting can be expensive, as you may have to pay rent in advance and a bond (usually one month's rent), as well as the connection of services (like electricity, gas and phone), bills, furniture and household goods. All this can add up to a lot of money, even if you're sharing with other people! Also, be prepared for finding a rental house to take time. It can sometimes be tough to find a place to rent because Real Estate Agents and landlords often discriminate against young people.

  • Public Housing. This type of accommodation is provided by the government, which means that it is cheap compared to renting from a private landlord (it's usually only about 20-25% of your income). Public housing can mean flats, houses or high-rise estates. There's a waiting list for most types of public housing, but if you've left home because of violence or abuse you may be able to apply for priority, which means that you can be pushed up the waiting list and get in quicker. To find out about it, talk to one of the services listed, or contact the government department that deals with housing.

For more info on what other people did when the left home, see Stories From Young People

I don't have much money

It can be very difficult to have enough money to get by on if you have left home.

In most states, you have to stay at school until you're at least 15 years old (for more info on this, see the Lawstuff website Staying at school as long as possible can help you to get a better paying job in the future.

Basically, your options when it comes to money are:
  • to get help from a family member
  • to work in a casual, part-time or full-time job (to find jobs, see the 'Situations Vacant' section of Saturday newspapers). In most states you need to be 15 years or older to get a job (for more info on this, see the Lawstuff website
  • to work occasionally and apply for a Centrelink (government welfare) payment
  • to apply for Centrelink (government welfare) payments to live on.
Centrelink (government welfare) payments

If you become homeless, or are living in a refuge or some other form of accommodation because of abuse at home, you should apply for a payment like Youth Allowance through Centrelink. This is a fortnightly payment that is worked out based on your income. If you let Centrelink know that you're homeless, they probably won't make you look for a school or a job until you get stuff sorted out.

You may also be eligible for other Centrelink services, like Rent Assistance, training schemes, or a HealthCare Card (this gives you medical care at reduced cost). Other government departments offer forms of finance, like Bond Assistance, to help you secure rental accommodation. If you have a disability or are sick and can't work, you can get some money from Centrelink. Centrelink will be able to provide information on these things.

Even if you're not sure if you can get money from Centrelink, it's probably worth checking with them to find out. For more info on government payments, look at Centrelink website, or The Source website (under the money section). or see 'What services can help me?'

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