School attendance infringements

​​This page includes information for school attendance officers about when to issue an infringement notice.

All department regional directors have been appointed as school attendance officers by the Minister for Education. This guidance only relates to regional directors in their roles as school attendance officers.

Infringements and the law

Issuing an infringement notice or starting proceedings in court is a last resort.

Infringement notices must comply with the Infringements Act 2006. You must familiarise yourself with the provisions of the Infringements Act 2006, particularly in relation to the meaning of special and exceptional circumstances.

Decide to issue an infringement notice

You have discretion about which action to take. Actions include:

  • taking no further action
  • sending an official warning
  • issuing an infringement notice (except for the offence of providing false information)
  • starting proceedings in the Magistrates' Court.

Before deciding, consider any other information about the circumstances of parents.

The infringement regime recognises there are circumstances where a person's capacity to comply with a law or regulation is limited for reasons beyond their control. In these circumstances, it would be unfair to punish the person for their non-compliance.

Considerations

There are circumstances where you should not issue an infringement notice.

Ideally, any underlying circumstances would be picked up by the principal or school staff and considered by the principal before you are involved in the process as an attendance officer.

However if those circumstances were not known or considered by the principal, you have a chance to consider these circumstances before deciding on further actions.

Whenever possible, you should identify cases that may have special or exceptional circumstances. This is best done when assessing the response to a school attendance notice, rather than issuing an infringement notice and waiting for the parent to appeal.

Special circumstances

Under the Infringements Act 2006, special circumstances covers specific situations where the person is:

  • impaired by a mental or intellectual disability, disorder, disease or illness resulting in the person being unable to understand or control the conduct that constitutes the offence
  • a serious addiction to drugs, alcohol or a volatile substance (e.g. chroming) resulting in the person being unable to understand or control the conduct that constitutes the offence
  • homelessness (within the meaning of the Infringements Act 2006), where homelessness results in the person being unable to control the conduct that constitutes the offence
  • a victim of family violence within the meaning of the Family Violence Protection Act 2008 and the family violence results in the person being unable to control conduct which constitutes an offence.

Exceptional circumstances

Exceptional circumstances cover less enduring circumstances than special circumstances. They include where a person has enough awareness and self-control to be liable for his or her conduct, but has a good excuse.

This category can encompass other areas of disadvantage which do not fall within the narrow definition of 'special circumstances'.

You have considerable discretion for deciding what is an exceptional circumstance and whether a penalty is justified. There is little legal guidance in terms of defining exceptional circumstances.

You can consider the circumstances of the parent and use your discretion when deciding whether or not to issue an infringement. Consider circumstances such as a genuine attempt to comply or reasons beyond a person's control.

Examples of when not to issue an infringement notice

  • If you form the view that a parent with a mental or intellectual disability did not have the ability to understand or respond to the school attendance notice.
  • If you form the view that there were circumstances. For example, the parent or a family member was ill or absent from home during the prescribed period for responding to the notice.
  • Where false information has been provided in response to a school attendance notice. This offence should be the subject of court proceedings.

The Education and Training Reform Act 2006 does not permit an infringement proceedings to commence against the following people:

  • The secretary of the Department of Health and Human Services carrying out parental responsibilities under an order made under the Children Youth and Families Act 2005
  • A person carrying out parental responsibilities for a child on behalf of the secretary of the Department of Health and Human Services.

When to send an official warning

An official warning would be appropriate for the first time a parent fails to comply with a school attendance notice, and there may be special circumstances or exceptional circumstances.

The school attendance officer can send an official warning to the parent by using the official warning template. See official warning: failure to respond to school attendance notice (password required).

When to send an infringement notice

An infringement notice would be appropriate when:

  • a parent has not responded to a school attendance notice
  • a parent has responded giving an explanation that is not reasonable, and provided no further information about circumstances that may indicate special circumstances or exceptional circumstances
  • after an official warning has previously been issued to the parent.

You must:

  • operate within the code of conduct when issuing an infringement notice.
  • refer to these guidelines
  • keep reliable records of decisions that involved the exercise of some discretion or the consideration of information or excuses provided by the parent.

Factors such as cultural/linguistic background, economic conditions and social disadvantage do not have to be part of considerations at this point.

These factors can be considered earlier in the process by the principal when deciding to make a referral to a school attendance officer and by the school attendance officer in deciding to issue a school attendance notice. To access the code of conduct see attendance resources for regions.

How to send an infringement notice

Complete the infringement notice template. See School attendance resources for regions.

The notice should then be mailed to the recipient using registered mail and to Fines Victoria, GPO Box 1916, Melbourne, 3001.

A copy of the infringement notice and any subsequent correspondence should also be provided to the director, Wellbeing, Health and Engagement Division at Level 27, 80 Collins Street, Melbourne 3000.

From this point onwards this division, in conjunction with the Legal Division will manage proceedings. All evidence required to this point should be forwarded to the director, Wellbeing, Health and Engagement Division.

Review of decision to issue an infringement notice

Any person receiving an infringement notice may apply for an internal review of the decision, on one of more of the following grounds:

  1. There was a defect or mistake made in the decision to serve the notice. This ground encompasses two possibilities:
    • the decision to issue the notice was contrary to law
    • there was a mistake of identity.
  2. There are special circumstances.
  3. There are exceptional circumstances that justify excusing the conduct for which the notice was issued
  4. The intended recipient of the school attendance notice was unaware of the notice being served and that service was not by personal service.

The Department will consider the appeal and make one or more of the following decisions:

  • confirm the decision to issue an infringement notice
  • withdraw the infringement notice and issue an official warning in place of the infringement notice
  • withdraw the infringement notice
  • withdraw the infringement notice and refer the matter to court
  • waive all or any of the prescribed costs that have been attached to the infringement notice
  • approve a payment plan.

Bringing proceedings in court

If you form the view that court proceedings are the most appropriate course of action, you should refer the matter to the Wellbeing, Health and Engagement Division for a final decision.

Before contacting the division, make sure you have evidence or reliable records of decisions that involved the exercise of some discretion or the consideration of information or excuses provided by the parent. This includes decisions made by a school principal before referring the matter to you as school attendance officer.