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Court finds fashion event employed 129 children illegally

Wednesday, 2 September 2020

The Melbourne Magistrates Court found today that 129 children were employed illegally by the organiser of a children’s fashion event. The organiser of the event was fined $2,000 and escaped a conviction only as a result of 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 as part of the Virgin Australia Melbourne Fashion Festival Offsite Runway Program.

Wage Inspectorate Victoria investigated the event, which employed more than 150 children as fashion runway models. It discovered that 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 $ 9,514.20 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 previous instances, so she had acted willfully by employing the children illegally.

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

Working in the entertainment industry can be a positive experience for children, but safeguards are needed to ensure a child’s safety and wellbeing. Child Employment Permits are unique to Victoria, and help ensure that requirements regarding breaks, hours of work, education, toilet and change facilities, supervision, and appropriate content are met.

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 and ‘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, and 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. Please call 1800 287 287.

Reviewed 24 September 2020

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