AKQA Pty Ltd (trading as Millipede) today pleaded guilty to 10 rolled up criminal charges for failing to obtain child employment permits and for failing to comply with the Mandatory Code of for the employment of children in the entertainment industry.
The company contravened sections 9(1) and 32 of the Child Employment Act 2003 (Vic) between January and May 2021 when it employed 23 children on 24 occasions without first applying for the necessary permits, denying Wage Inspectorate child employment officers the chance to first assess if the work was safe and appropriate for children. It also subsequently failed to display any permits while the children were employed.
The children typically worked shifts of up to 45 minutes at a Balaclava sound recording studio. Once there, they were recorded reading voiceovers, and in some cases singing, for the company’s learning apps, including apps such as the Early Learning Languages Australia program (ELLA) for pre-school kids and the Our Special Island (OSI) program for Tongan children.
In sentencing, his Honour Magistrate Doherty said he accepted the offending was at the “lower end of the spectrum” but noted there was a need for general deterrence to discourage similar offending by other companies that employ children.
His Honour did not impose a conviction, noting that no children were harmed during the employment and that the company had no prior record of offending. He also noted the company had since taken steps to amend its protocols to require child employment permits.
Victoria’s child employment laws require employers of children under 15 to obtain a free permit from the Wage Inspectorate before any work takes place. The law also allows child employment officers to impose special conditions on the employment to protect a child’s safety.
Employers, parents and children can visit for information on child employment laws or call the Wage Inspectorate’s Helpline on 1800 287 287.
Last financial year the Wage Inspectorate assisted more than 15,000 Victorians with information about their rights and obligations and issued more than 7,700 child employment permits to help businesses safely employ children under 15 years.
Quotes attributable to Commissioner of Wage Inspectorate Victoria, Robert Hortle:
“It’s disappointing the law was broken, but thankfully no harm came to the children while they were working. However, if businesses fail to apply for permits it denies our officers the opportunity to examine the proposed employment, identify any risks and step in to prevent harm to kids.”
“This case shows that Wage Inspectorate Victoria takes child employment laws extremely seriously. We will take action to investigate and enforce the law to protect the safety of children without hesitation. Parents, guardians and the community expect nothing less.”
“We know employment can provide valuable experience for children, but it must be done safely. The permit system exists to ensure matters like hours of work, rest breaks and supervision are properly considered before a child starts work, and we’re here to help businesses comply.”
In Victoria, employers need a permit before a child under 15 years of age can be employed, although there are some exemptions, such as for children employed in family businesses.
Permits are free, and the online application process is straightforward. Employers can apply online at .
Decisions to prosecute are made in line with the Wage Inspectorate’s Compliance and Enforcement Policy. Other recent child employment court outcomes include:
- In June 2022, a Bright cafe was fined $5,000 in the Melbourne Magistrates’ after pleading guilty to nine breaches of the Child Employment Act 2003.
- In October 2021, a travelling circus pleaded guilty in the Magistrates’ Court of to breaking child employment laws and was ordered to pay $21,000 in fines and costs.
- In June 2021, a fashion company that owns and licences various iconic was also fined after pleading guilty in court to five charges laid by the Wage Inspectorate.
A licensing system will be introduced from 1 July 2023 as part of changes to Victoria’s child employment . The new system will strengthen protections for children in the workplace and make it simpler for employers to understand their obligations when employing children.
Reviewed 17 August 2022