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Northern Territory

Frequently Asked Questions

If you are under 25 and you are unsure about your rights or responsibilities or what to do next, you can get free, confidential legal advice at Lawmail.

Question: Hi, my name is Jamie and I live in Darwin. I’m 14 and my teacher at school has been saying rude comments about me in class for the past six months. It makes me feel bad. What can I do?

Answer: Hi Jamie,

We’re sorry to hear this has been happening! You have a right to feel safe and comfortable at school.

Bullying (including by teachers) is not acceptable in any school. Public school teachers in the Northern Territory owe a duty of care to their students and must abide by the Department’s Code of Behaviour, which prohibits bullying. If you don’t think your teacher has been doing this, we recommend speaking to your school principal.  

What is bullying and what happens when a teacher does it?

Bullying is when another person behaves in a way that is cruel or hurtful. This includes someone being physically violent, making threats or harassing another person. Harassment can include ongoing verbal attacks, like teasing, name calling or put downs.
Public schools in the Northern Territory must abide by the Department of Education and Training’s "Safe Schools NT Code of Behaviour" which aims to create learning environments which are free from bullying, harassment, aggression and violence in any form. This Code of Behaviour applies to students, teachers and other staff and should be followed at all times.

The Code of Behaviour states that teachers are expected to provide a safe and supportive learning environment in a respectful and responsible manner. They are also to maintain constructive communication and relationships with students. If your teacher has not been doing this, they are breaking the Department’s Code of Behaviour.

You can find the Code of Behaviour at:

Teachers and school staff also owe you, as a student, a duty of care. This means that they are expected to provide a safe and supportive learning environment for you. For more information on the duty of care owed by teachers, see:

What can you do?

  • Talk to your parents or a trusted adult

Jamie, if you haven’t already, we encourage you to tell your parents what’s been happening at school. They can give you some support and advice about what to do. They can also help you arrange a meeting with your school to talk about what’s happened. You could also talk to a trusted adult, like your school counsellor or a family friend, instead if you feel more comfortable doing this.

  • Speak to your Principal

We think that the best option to try and resolve the situation as quickly as possible would be to talk to the principal. You can take along your parents or a trusted friend for support if you want.

Before setting up a meeting, we recommend that you write down what you want to say so you don’t forget anything. This could include when the teacher has said hurtful things, what kinds of things the teacher has said, how long it has been happening and how it has affected you. This will help make sure the principal has specific examples to work with and is aware of the extent of the problem.

You can also check your school's website or ask the office for a copy of its anti-bullying policy, if it has one, to see what procedures may be in place to address this type of situation. You can inform the principal if you think you are being bullied (under the definition set out above and/or the school's policy) and let them know that this behaviour is against the Code of Conduct for Northern Territory Schools.

It's also a good idea to have a think about what outcome you want from the principal - Do you want to be moved to another class? Or do you think that the situation could be resolved by the teacher being made aware of the effect their actions are having on you? If you have a clear idea of what you want before you go to see the principal, you can let them know what you expect to happen after the meeting. Hopefully, you and the principal will be able to come up with a solution that works for everyone.

  • Complain to the department

If you still have not been able to resolve the problem and you go to a public school, you could complain to the Northern Territory Department of Education and Training about the bullying and the school’s mishandling of it.

Complaints can be made to the Department either in person, in writing, or by telephone. You should tell them exactly what happened and how the school has not helped.

The phone number for complaints is 8901 1371. Alternatively, you can send them an email at

You can find out more about the complaints process here:

Where can you get some support?

There are lots of services which offer free and confidential counselling for young people.

If you would like talk to someone about how you're feeling, you can call a counsellor from Kids Helpline on 1800 55 1800 or visit their website here:

You can also call headspace on 1800 650 890, or if you would prefer to chat online you can go to:

If you have any other questions we haven’t answered here, please send us a Lawmail from

Page last updated on 26 June 2015.

Question: Hi my name is Brian and I live in Darwin. I’m 16 years old and I want to leave school to do an apprenticeship. Can I leave?

Answer:  Hi Brian,

The law says that a student cannot leave school until he or she is 17 or he or she completes year 10, whichever is earlier. There are some exceptions which allow for a child to leave school earlier if they have completed certain approved courses.

The only exceptions are where a child has participated in certain other types of approved education or training. These include where a child has completed:

  • An accredited course or approved apprenticeship
  • Certain university and higher education courses
  • Year 11 or 12

Once you have completed such a course, even if you are still under 17, you can leave school.


Where can you get more information?  

  • The Northern Territories Department of Education and Training has some pages providing information on apprenticeships and traineeships which you may find useful. You can access it here:
  • There is an Australian Government initiative in the Northern Territories called Australian Apprenticeships, which you could check out. Their website is: 
  • There is also a program in the Northern territories called Vocational Education and Training in Schools which gives students the chance to try out professions whilst still in school. The work that students do on the program contributes towards them achieving their Northern Territory Certificate of Education. You can find more information about the Program, and an Expression of Interest form, here:

If you have any other questions we haven’t answered here, please send us a Lawmail from

Page last updated on 26 June 2015.

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