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  • Writer's pictureElle Cecil

Newborns In the Entertainment Industry

Is it worth it?

Employers within the entertainment industry will always want to create content or advertisements that are the most realistic to their products, or eye-catching to an audience. However, if you do this and then you need to employ an infant, things become a lot more complicated.

Victoria’s Child Employment Act 2003 subjects infants to strict criteria if they are going to work within the entertainment industry. This work will often consist of advertising for products such as nappies or baby formula, television shows such as Neighbours or Home and Away, film, modelling or other related productions.

When the parent of a newborn baby, who is under 12 weeks, wishes for their child to partake in a role, they need to provide their written consent. However, there are still many other factors that could possibly render the child unable to partake in work, that the parents have no control over.

To employ a newborn baby in Australia, an employer will need to gain a work permit. However, the baby must also meet certain key health and developmental criteria. They must have been delivered full term, in good health with a birth weight of at least three kilograms, and be exhibiting satisfactory weight gain. The child mustn’t have had any post-natal problems and should be feeding successfully. Even if the child satisfies all requirements except one, they will be unable to work until they are older than 12 weeks of age.

So, even if an opportunity presents itself to your newborn, if you do not meet the criteria you will be unable to legally have your child in the industry.

Of the 83,493 Victorian babies born in 2017, Victoria’s Consultative Council on Obstetric and Paediatric Mortality and Morbidity (CCOPMM) report states that 83.1% had a birth weight of between 2,500 and 3,999 grams. This is the most common weight category and is associated with the least health risks.

These health and developmental conditions are seen in the legislation of Victoria, Queensland, and New South Wales. However, New South Wales laws also maintain that a baby must be handled by no more than four people, including the child’s parent or guardian and a registered nurse or midwife.

Once an employer has satisfied all regulations relating to a baby’s birth and development, they must commit to upholding further regulations pertaining to the care and treatment of the baby on set.

Records of the child’s employment must be recorded and maintained. A baby must not be exposed to harmful lighting during their employment. An employer must also ensure that makeup is not applied to a baby unless the makeup is non-irritating and uncontaminated. Finally, the child must not be exposed to anyone suffering from any illness during the baby’s employment. These are fair and justifiable conditions that any reasonable person would adhere to, and are solidified in Victoria, New South Wales, and Queensland’s related legislation. However, NSW is the only state that requires a licensed medical professional to be present.

In 2020, we were also introduced to a new set of challenges when dealing with newborns on set and that was the risk of COVID-19. Even now, some states are hesitant to allow them on set because the risk isn’t worth it for the liability.

Though Victoria, New South Wales, and Queensland share many common regulations, all other states and territories have vastly different laws relating to the employment of children and babies. The inconsistency and ambiguity surrounding such laws make child employment difficult for employers and parents to navigate.

From an agency perspective, having newborns on the books can pose a challenge. This is because they grow so quickly and by the very nature of the newborn category, babies only fall into it for a very short period of time. So, agencies that do take on this category prefer to offer a low cost, or reduced period of representation instead. Many agencies will also use a more common option of having open castings and putting them out to the public via social media. This is because it can be difficult to maintain a good roster of children within the newborn category, so they will only do an open casting call if they don’t have talent on their books that fits all necessary criteria.

So, is it worth it? Many employers believe so. The authenticity of having an actual newborn baby in your advertisement or show will not compare. Many will go through this process just for the sake of the end product, and well that’s the basis of this industry; the outcome is the most important aspect of all.

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