Back to Publication

General Issue

Mature Minors and Parenting Disputes in Australia: Engaging with the Debate on Best Interests v Autonomy


Lisa Young

Australia lags behind other jurisdictions in considering the relevance of a mature minor’s decision-making capacity to parenting disputes. Gillick competency, as it is known, is routinely discussed in the case of medical decision-making, however is ignored when it comes to parenting decisions concerning very mature minors. This article explores this failure and in particular considers a) the jurisdiction of the court to determine a matter when a child is competent; b) the extent to which the courts are entitled to ignore a child’s competency, based on their best interests; c) to the extent a court should, but does not, consider a child’s competency, why they do not; and d) the arguments for overriding, or not, competency where there is a discretion. The article concludes that the court needs to reconsider this area of law, highlighting that this would play a part in the larger project of giving due recognition to children’s rights in parenting proceedings.

Please access full article here or via PDF link to the left.