You should always obtain the consent of children and young people to participate in organisational decision making at any level.

Core principles

Valid consent rests on the following core principles.

Consent must be informed

Children and young people must have the capacity to understand the situation and the consequences of taking part. They should be provided with comprehensive information about the project that is clear and understandable.

Consent must be voluntary

This can be difficult to achieve given the nature of power relations between children and adults. Organisations that seek to recruit children and young people through schools should be particularly mindful of this, given that it is typically compulsory for students to comply with adult requests in the school environment. A child or young person’s refusal to participate should always be respected.

Consent must be current and renegotiable

Consent must be checked regularly throughout a project since a child or young person’s relevant circumstances or views may change over time. Children and young people should know that they are free to withdraw from a project at any time.

When to obtain parental consent

People have the legal capacity to consent if they have the mental ability and maturity to understand the nature and effect of what they are consenting to. Age is a relevant, but not decisive, factor in assessing this (Youth Affairs Council of Victoria, 2004).

However, when seeking to involve the participation of children and young people under the age of 16 years, your organisation generally should obtain the permission of an adult who has legal responsibility for the child or young person, such as a parent, carer or government official.

Often the age where consent is required will vary according to the particular young person and the nature and environment of the particular project. For example, organisations recruiting children and young people through schools will need to obtain parental consent in addition to children and young people’s consent regardless of the age of the children and young people. There may be instances where seeking parental consent  is inappropriate and/or offers no protection, such as when parents are neglectful or abusive (Spriggs, 2010). If parental consent is sought, children and young people should be informed and consulted about participation in  a way that facilitates them making a choice separate from that made by their parents or carers.


  1. Do you need to obtain parental consent in addition to the consent of the children and young people themselves?
  2. If obtaining parental consent, will you use active or passive consent procedures?
  3. Have you included all the necessary information in the information sheets and consent forms?
  4. Are the information sheets and consent forms for children and young people written in a way that is appropriate for their age, competencies and circumstances?
  5. Have you made it clear that children and young people can refuse to participate or withdraw their consent to participate at any time?
  6. If photos, video, or audio recordings are to be taken of children and young people, have you obtained separate written consent from both the children and young people and their parents or carers?
  7. If you are seeking the participation of particular groups of children and young people, have you consulted the relevant guidelines and rules relating to these groups of children and young people?