A travelling circus has pleaded guilty in the Magistrates’ Court of Victoria to breaking child employment laws and been ordered to pay $21,000 in fines and costs, following a prosecution by Wage Inspectorate Victoria.
Circus Royale Australia Pty Ltd (Circus Royale) pleaded guilty to three charges, admitting it had breached section 9(1) of the Child Employment Act 2003 by employing three 13-year-old Chinese nationals as acrobats without a mandatory child permit in place for their employment.
The children were away from their families and had been performing across multiple cities.
The Wage Inspectorate investigated Circus Royale after it was alerted to one of the children spending 10 days in the Royal Children’s Hospital suffering brain bruising and concussion after being hit by a trapeze.
In sentencing, his Honour Magistrate Foster said it was ‘perplexing’ that the company, which has been operating in Australia for about 50 years, didn’t apply for permits given it had done so before.
His Honour also stated that general deterrence looms large in cases like this to guard against when an employer doesn’t apply for a permit and child employment officers are unable to consider a range of factors, including potential health and safety risks.
The company narrowly escaped conviction, with his Honour acknowledging its good character and the absence of prior convictions.