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Court finds fashion event illegally employed 129 children

Wage Inspectorate Victoria investigated an event that employed children as fashion runway models.

01/09/20 23.00pm

The Melbourne Magistrates Court has found that 129 children were illegally employed for a children’s fashion event. The event organiser was fined $2000 and escaped a conviction after pleading guilty to offences under the Child Employment Act 2003.

Ms Elissa Thomas of Event Theatre produced the ‘Run: Kids Fashion Runway’ event in March 2018. It was part of the Virgin Australia Melbourne Fashion Festival Offsite Runway Program.

Ms Thomas also pleaded guilty to failing to fully comply with a statutory Notice to Produce Documents issued by the Wage Inspectorate under section 44 of the Child Employment Act 2003. Magistrate Hawkins noted the difficulties experienced by agencies when proceeding with prosecutions. This is why the Act includes powers to request records.

Wage Inspectorate Victoria investigated the event.

Wage Inspectorate Victoria investigates

The event employed more than 150 children as fashion runway models. Ms Thomas did not seek or obtain appropriate permits for 129 of the children.

In Victoria, the employment of a child under 15 without a permit is a criminal offence under the Child Employment Act 2003. In March 2018, this offence attracted a penalty of up to $9514.20 per offence for individuals and up to $15,857 per offence for a body corporate.

The Inspectorate believed Ms Thomas was aware of the need to apply for permits because she had done so in the past. By not obtaining permits, she had acted wilfully by illegally employing the children.

Safeguards for children in entertainment

Working in the entertainment industry can be a positive experience for children. But we need safeguards to ensure a child’s safety and wellbeing. Child Employment Permits are unique to Victoria and help ensure requirements are met. They cover:

  • hours of work
  • education
  • toilet and change facilities
  • supervision
  • appropriate content

Magistrate Hawkins referred to the protective nature of the legislation and said these were serious matters. Ms Thomas was responsible for the welfare of those children. So also said that ‘being busy’ cannot allow for the protection of children to go by the wayside.

Wage Inspectorate Victoria enforces Victorian employment laws covering:

  • child employment
  • long service leave
  • independent contractors in the transport and forestry sectors

Under the recently passed Wage Theft Act 2020, the Inspectorate will also investigate and prosecute wage theft cases.

The inspectorate runs an information line to answer questions about employing children under the age of 15.

Contact the Wage Inspectorate

Inspectorate Officers are available to provide information and answer queries:

Reviewed 03 February 2021

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