Pre-employment screening: Working With Children Checks and Police Checks
Last updated October 2013

Each day, children across Australia come into contact with a variety of organisations such as schools, childcare centers, medical centres, and sports and recreation clubs. The development and implementation of policy and legislation that provides for the pre-employment screening of adults who work or volunteer in child-related organisations is an important strategy for creating and maintaining child-safe organisations. However, it is by no means sufficient. For other strategies to ensure organisations are child-safe see Child Maltreatment in Organisations: Risk Factors and Strategies for Prevention (Ireny, Bromfield, Beyer, & Higgins, 2006) and Child-Safe Sports Environments (Higgins, 2013).

This document is provided as a guide only. Information is current at the time of publishing. Individuals are encouraged to check the currency of any information that is provided by contacting relevant departments or organisations.

Overview

There is no single national framework setting out the requirements for obtaining Working With Children Checks or Police Checks. Each state and territory has their own procedures and it is necessary to fulfil the requirements in the jurisdiction(s) in which you are working.

Most states and territories have introduced legislation providing for child-related employment pre-screening, or are working towards such legislation. The legislation identifies broad categories of child-related work where employers, employees and volunteers must fulfil screening requirements. There are important differences across jurisdictions regarding the type of screening programs that are in place, what records are checked, and who is required to undergo screening.

Police check and child safety screening programs

There are three types of screening programs operating in Australia. South Australia has an employer-driven system that makes it mandatory for employers in relevant fields to carry out background checks on prospective employees or volunteers.1 This system provides a "point-in-time" background check and individuals must undergo screening each time they enter into a child-related position.

The second and most common type of screening program in operation offers certification to engage in child-related work to individuals (Qld, NSW, Vic., WA and the NT). These certifications are valid for a period of time (e.g., 3 years in WA) and provide for ongoing monitoring of an individual's suitability for child-related work. This means that if a relevant criminal offence is committed during the validity of the check, or if the individual is subject to relevant work-related disciplinary procedures, the administering authority may inform employers of the offence, and alter or withdraw an individual's entitlement to work with children. Individuals can also carry their certification between positions and do not have to undergo repeated screening while their Working With Children Check is valid.

The third type of screening program is the Working with Vulnerable People Background Check operating in the ACT that provides three types of certification based on the eligibility of individual applicants. The "general certification" provides for the same conditions to engage in child-related work as found in individual screening checks discussed above, including a 3-year certification period, ongoing monitoring, and mobility between role positions. The second type of certification is role-based. Similar to the point-in-time background check, this certification restricts individuals to engaging in specified regulated activities with a stated employer. The role-based certification cannot be moved freely between regulated activities. The third type of registration is conditional, imposing specific conditions on an individual's registration.

Table 1 outlines the relevant legislation in each state and territory and explains the type of system in place in each.
Table 1. Relevant legislation and state and territory screening programs
Jurisdiction Act Type of program
ACT Working with Vulnerable People (Background Checking) Act 2011 (ACT) The ACT Working with Vulnerable People Background Check requires that individuals engaging in regulated activities or services, including where these are provided to children, must be registered. A statutory Screening Unit within the Office of Regulatory Services, Justice and Community Safety Directorate is responsible for applications for registration. The registration is valid for 3 years and is subject to ongoing monitoring. There are three types of registration administered to individuals under the Working with Vulnerable People Background Check: general registration, which is transferable across all roles and organisations; role-based registration; and conditional registration.
NSW Child Protection (Working with Children) Act 2012 (NSW) The NSW Working With Children Check that came into effect 15 June 2013 has resulted in a move from an employer driven "point-in-time" system to a system where individuals, including volunteers, are responsible for their own application for certification. Employers operating within a child-related industry are required to register online with the NSW Office of the Children's Guardian and to subsequently conduct online verification of new paid employees clearance. Existing paid workers and all volunteers (new and current) also need to have clearance validated online as they are phased in to the new check system. The check is valid for 5 years and subject to ongoing monitoring.
NT Care and Protection of Children Act 2007 (NT) Individuals are required to apply for a Working With Children Check, known as an "Ochre Card" in the NT. The Ochre Card, which is also known as a Clearance Notice is valid for 2 years, and applies to employers and volunteers in child-related employment settings.
QLD Commission for Children and Young People and Child Guardian Act 2000 (Qld) Individuals are required to apply for a Working With Children Check, known as a "Blue Card" in Queensland. Valid for 2 years, Blue Cards entitle individuals to engage in child-related occupations/volunteering. Organisations providing child-related services must also have policies and procedures in place to identify and minimise risk of harm to children, which are monitored by the Commissions for Children and Young People and Child Guardian.
SA Children's Protection Act 1993 (SA) The South Australian system is an employer driven point-in-time system requiring employers and responsible authorities to obtain National Police Checks and conduct wider screening assessment for those engaging in child-related occupations/volunteering.
TAS Education and Care Services National Law (Application) Act 2011 (Tas.) The Good Character Check screening program came into force on 1 January 2012, requiring that staff members, volunteers and students on practicum placement obtain a security screen clearance in order to engage in work with regulated education and care services only. The Good Character Check includes consideration of crimes of violence; sex-related offences; serious drug offences; crimes involving dishonesty; and serious traffic offences. Employers in other child-related work may require police checks at their discretion.
VIC Working With Children Act 2005 (Vic.) Individuals are required to apply for a Working With Children Check. Valid for 5 years, the check entitles individuals to engage in child-related occupations/volunteering and practical training.
WA Working with Children (Criminal Record Checking) Act 2004 (WA) Individuals are required to apply for a Working With Children Check. Valid for 3 years, the check entitles individuals to engage in child-related occupations/volunteering.

Professional registration and child safety policy development

In addition to child-related employment legislation (where it exists), all states and territories have legislation that requires people who wish to register in certain occupations (e.g., teachers, doctors or childcare workers) to be screened for criminal offences. This means that even if child-related employment legislation did not exist there are still requirements for adults working in certain occupations to undergo screening (e.g., the Education and Training Reform Act 2006 [Vic.]; the Medical Practitioners Registration Act 2001 [Qld]; the Child Care Act 2001 [Tas.]). Due to the screening already being part of the registration requirements, certain persons are exempt from Working With Children Check requirements (e.g., in Victoria, persons registered under the Education and Training Reform Act 2006 are exempt from the Working With Children Check).

Organisations may also have developed their own policies that require employees and volunteers to undergo criminal record checks. State and territory police provide criminal history checks to individuals and organisations wishing to obtain Police Checks for employment, voluntary work and occupation-related licensing or registration purposes.

The difference between a Police Check and a Working With Children Check

Police Checks identify and release relevant criminal history information relating to convictions, findings of guilt or pending court proceedings. However, due to spent conviction/non-disclosure legislation and information release policies, there are limitations on the information a Police Check can provide (e.g., the Spent Convictions Scheme stipulates that prior convictions are not to be disclosed where 10 years have passed from the date of the conviction).

As the object of a Working With Children Check is to make an assessment of the level of risk an individual poses to children's safety, Working With Children Checks are more extensive, but also more targeted than Police Checks. For example, Working With Children Checks draw together information from various sources, but may include a primary focus on certain types of offences (e.g., sexual offences, offences related to the harm or mistreatment of a child). In general, Working With Children Checks give consideration to:

  • convictions - whether or not they are considered spent or were committed by a juvenile;
  • apprehended violence orders and other orders, prohibitions or reporting obligations;
  • charges (i.e., where a conviction has not been recorded because, for example, a proceeding has not been heard or finalised by a court, or where charges have been dismissed or withdrawn);
  • any relevant allegations or police investigations involving the individual; and
  • relevant employment proceedings and disciplinary information from professional organisations (e.g., organisations associated with teachers, childcare service providers, foster carers, and health practitioners).

Across the five jurisdictions that currently carry out Working With Children Checks (NSW, NT, Qld, Vic. and WA) and the ACT, which carries out a Working with Vulnerable People Background Check, there are differences in what information is considered and what sources of information are drawn upon. Table 2 provides a comparison of the information considered in Working With Children Checks and the Working with Vulnerable People Background Check across these jurisdictions.

Table 2. Information considered in Working With Children Checks
Jurisdiction Information considered
ACT

The Vulnerable People Background Check is comprised of:

  • A risk assessment conducted by the Commissioner for Fair Trade which can include checking for charges and convictions whether committed in the ACT or elsewhere for any: sexual offence; offence against the person; offence involving violence; offence involving dishonesty or fraud; offence relating to property; offence involving possession of or trafficking in a drug of dependence or controlled drug; an offence against an animal; and a driving offence.
  • Consideration is given to non-conviction information in relation to a relevant offence (or an alleged relevant offence) involving the following: where a person has been charged with the offence but a proceeding is not finalised; the charge has lapsed, been withdrawn or discharged, or struck out; the person has been acquitted of an alleged offence; a conviction for an alleged offence has been quashed or set aside; an infringement notice for an alleged offence has been served, or the person has a spent conviction for the offence.
  • Consideration may also be given to apprehended violence orders; care and protection orders for a child for whom the person has or had parental responsibility; and professional disciplinary proceedings against the person.

NSW

The Working With Children Check is comprised of:

  • A National Police Check for charges and convictions (including spent convictions) for: any sexual offence (including but not limited to, sexual assault, acts of indecency, child pornography, child prostitution and carnal knowledge); any assault, ill treatment, neglect of, or psychological harm to a child; any registrable offence; offences of attempting, or of conspiracy or incitement, to commit any of the above offences.
  • Consideration of whether any of the above offences were committed in New South Wales and were punishable by penal servitude or imprisonment for 12 months or more; or whether any of the above offences were committed elsewhere and would have been an offence punishable by penal servitude or imprisonment for 12 months or more if the offence had been committed in New South Wales.
  • Consideration of relevant matters, including all matters irrespective of whether they are considered spent or were committed as a juvenile (relevant matters include charges that may not have been heard or finalised by a court; are proven but have not led to a conviction; or have been dismissed, withdrawn or discharged by a court).
  • Consideration of relevant Apprehended Violence Orders.

Consideration of relevant employment proceedings, reportable conduct, any sexual offences or sexual misconduct, committed against, with or in the presence of a child, including a child pornography offence; any child-related personal violence offence; any assault, ill treatment or neglect of a child; any behaviour that causes psychological harm to a child; or an act of violence committed by an employee in the course of employment and in the presence of a child. As part of an additional risk assessment, the Children's Guardian may give consideration to a range of different factors regarding previous matters that triggered the risk assessment. The Children's Guardian may also consider any other matters deemed necessary for an assessment to be made.

NT

The Working with Children (Ochre Card) Clearance Screening is comprised of:

  • A National Police Check - offences of most significance included sexual offences involving children, violent offences involving children and drug related offences involving children.
  • An analysis of employment history, including an assessment of references and/or disciplinary proceedings instigated as a result of malpractice.
  • Other material, which may include assessing whether an individual has attempted to change behaviours or address triggers to behaviours if they have a criminal history, etc.

QLD

The Blue Card screening system is comprised of:

  • A National Police Check.
  • Consideration of any charge or conviction for an offence, whether or not a conviction is recorded.
  • Consideration of whether a person is a respondent to or subject to an application for a child protection prohibition or disqualification order; or whether a person is subject to reporting obligations under the Child Protection (Offender Reporting) Act 2004.
  • Disciplinary information from professional organisations associated with teachers, childcare service providers, foster carers, nurses, midwives and certain health practitioners.
  • Information from police investigations into allegations of serious child-related offences will be taken into account even if no charges were laid because the child was unwilling or unable to proceed.
SA

Under the Children's Protection Regulations 2010, the Department of Communities and Social Inclusion provides a wider screening assessment which includes:

  • A National Criminal Records Check.
  • South Australian Police information regarding alleged offences regardless of outcome, including spent convictions, pending charges and non-conviction charges and circumstantial information around charges and convictions.
  • Information from other jurisdictions.
  • Information sourced from professional registration bodies.

VIC

The Working With Children Check is comprised of:

  • A National Police Check - offences with most significance include serious sexual offences, serious violent offences, serious drug related offences, offences against the Working With Children Act 2005 (Vic.) itself.
  • A review of relevant findings from prescribed professional disciplinary bodies.
  • Information sought from other bodies such as courts, the Director of Public Prosecutions and any employee within the meaning of the Public Administration Act 2004, Corrections Victoria and employers - including, where a court: made a formal finding of guilt in relation to an offence; convicted the applicant of an offence, accepted a plea of guilt from the applicant, or acquitted the applicant of an offence because of mental impairment.
  • Information about any spent convictions, juvenile convictions and findings of guilt, pending charges, and the circumstances surrounding any charges or convictions.

In addition, the following individuals are ineligible to apply for a Working with Children Check:

  • Registered sex offenders within the meaning of the Sex Offenders Registration Act 2004, or subject to an extended or interim extended supervision order under the Serious Sex Offenders Monitoring Act 2005.
  • Individuals subject to a detention order, including a interim detention order, or a supervision order including an interim supervision order under the Serious Sex Offenders (Detention and Supervision) Act 2009.

WA

The Working With Children Check considers:

  • Relevant national criminal record information to see if the applicant has charges or convictions that indicate that he or she may be of harm to a child (relevant criminal records include information about: convictions for any offence whether committed as an adult or a juvenile; any "spent" convictions; any pending charge for a Class 1 or Class 2* offence; and any charge that has been finalised by a court for a Class 1 or Class 2 offence, but which did not result in a conviction).
  • Information may also be obtained from authorised bodies in WA and similar authorities in other states and territories such as: the Police, the Director of Public Prosecutions, the Department of Corrective Services, the Department of the Attorney General, and courts.

* Class 1 and 2 offences include various sexual offences against a child as well as offences such as murder, manslaughter, grievous bodily harm, indecent assault, making/viewing child pornography and involvement in child prostitution and other offences.

Note: Tasmania only has a system for National Police Checks (see Table 1).

Who must undergo pre-employment child safety screening?

As of June 2013, all jurisdictions in Australia have some form of child-related employment pre-screening legislation. These laws make it mandatory for certain individuals engaged in occupations such as education and childcare, child protection, child and family welfare, health, entertainment and recreation, and religious instruction to meet screening requirements. There are differences across the states and territories in who is required to undergo screening, and how different occupations are identified. An outline of the settings in which pre-employment screening is required in each jurisdiction is provided in Table 3.

If you are unsure whether you need to obtain a Working With Children Check, it is advisable that you check with the relevant body in your state or territory. State and territory contact details are provided in the following section, as is a summary of requirements for each jurisdiction.

Table 3. Child-related settings subject to screening regulations
Jurisdiction Types of child-related settings subject to regulation
ACT

Employees and volunteers aged 16 years and over working in regulated activities or services for children are required to obtain a Working with Vulnerable People Background Check. Regulated activities and services are those provided under the Children and Young People Act 2008; child protection services; justice facilities for children, or activities or services resulting from a sentence, detention, probation, parole or other order that could be made by a court in relation to a child; childcare services; child education services; child accommodation services; counselling and support services for children; and commercial services for a child or young person. Commercial services or activities conducted for children include: an entertainment or party service, a gym or play facility, photography service, or a talent or beauty competition.

Individuals need to be registered to work in these child specific regulated activities and services by 7 November 2013 as part of phase 1 of the implementation of the Working with Vulnerable People Background Checking Act 2011. The following activities or services that are provided to children or mainly used by children will also be regulated and phased in over years two through five of the implementation: religious organisations (phase 2); coaching and tuition, vocational and educational training, activities or services provided by clubs, associations or movements (e.g., sports clubs) (phase 3); providing public or private transport (phase 5).

Services contracted to government are required to employ "fit and proper" people. This is interpreted as a requirement to obtain a National Police Check.

NSW

Employees and volunteers over the age of 18 engaging in child-related works are required to hold a Working With Children Check clearance. Individuals who work face-to-face with children in one of the following child-related industry sectors need to obtain a check: child development and family welfare services, mentoring or counselling services; child protection; children's health services, including in wards of hospitals where children are treated; clubs, associations, movements or other bodies (including cultural, recreational or of a sporting nature) providing programs or services for children; respite care or other support services for children with a disability; early education and child care services, including nanny services; education services such as provided by schools and other education institutions, including private coaching or tuition of children; sporting, cultural or other entertainment venues used primarily by children and entertainment services for children; detention centres and juvenile correctional centres; any religious organisation; residential services including refuges used by children, long-term home stays, boarding houses and overnight camps; transport services for children, including school bus services and taxi services used for children with disabilities; supervision of school road crossings; and youth workers. In addition the following child-related roles are defined as child-related work: an approved provider or manager of and education and care services; a certified supervisor of education and care services; an authorised carer (foster carers and other authorised carers of children in statutory and supported out-of-home care); an assessment officer; the Principal Officer of a designated agency; and the Principal Officer of an accredited adoption service provider. Prospective adoptive parents; adults who reside at the home of an authorised carer, family day care service provider or home-based education and care service provider also require a Working with Children Check.

NT

Employees and volunteers aged 15 years and over working in the following areas are required to obtain Working With Children Checks: child protection services; education or care services; education facilities for children; juvenile detention centres; accommodation services for children in private residential premises; refuges or other residential facilities used by children; wards of hospitals or any other facilities for health services in which children are ordinarily patients; clubs, associations or movements (including those that are of a cultural, recreational or sporting nature) with significant child membership or involvement; religious organisations; babysitting or child-minding services; fostering of children; transportation services for children; private tuition services for children; counselling or support services for children; overnight camps for children; road crossing services for school children; sports coaching or sport lessons for children; gym or play facilities, photographic services, talent or beauty competitions and entertainment or party services provided for or arranged for children. The Working With Children Check also applies to members of boards, management committees and partners in businesses that perform work with children (e.g., members of school councils or basketball associations) and anyone performing child-related work as a minister of religion or religious vocation; or a student conducting practical training for an education or training course.

QLD

Employees and volunteers including business operators working in the following settings are required to obtain a Blue Card: residential facilities; child accommodation services funded by the Commonwealth or under the Education (General Provisions) Act 2006; school boarding facilities; schools; child care; education and care services; churches, clubs and associations involving children; health counselling and support services that come into contact with children; private teaching, coaching or tutoring; education programs conducted outside of school; child accommodation services including home stays; religious representatives; sport and active recreation activities directed towards or mainly involving children; emergency services cadet program; school crossing supervisors; and the care of children under the Child Protection Act 1999 (Qld). Note that volunteers who are under 18 years of age do not require a Blue Card, however, employees under 18 years of age do require a Blue Card.

SA

Employers and responsible authorities for government organisations and non-government organisations that provide health, welfare, education, sporting or recreation, religious or spiritual, child care or residential services wholly or partly for children must ensure that assessments are undertaken of the criminal history of persons before they are engaged or appointed as employees, volunteers, agents, contractors or subcontractors in prescribed positions. Prescribed positions are defined as involving regular contact with children or work in close proximity with children on a regular basis, unless the contact or work is directly supervised at all times; people supervising or managing persons in such positions; persons with access to records relating to children; or persons engaged in any other function prescribed by regulation. The Children's Protection Act 1993 does not stipulate an age at which criminal history checks are to be obtained. Practice guidelines recommend that all persons (including young people under 18 years of age) be checked.

TAS

Employees, volunteers and students on practicum placements aged over 18 engaged in an approved education or care program under the Education and Care Services National Regulations 2011, Regulation 344 are required to undergo a safety screening clearance. The Good Character Check is undertaken for people who are employed, engaged or appointed as educators; nominated supervisors; people who work within family day care coordination units; and ancillary staff members of centre-based services such as cooks, gardeners and others who work as part of an education and care service. These services were previously licensed as long day care, outside school-hours care and family day care (or approved registration bodies). Services still regulated/licensed under the Child Care Act 2001 include Centre Based Care Class 4 and Centre Based Care Class 5 (previously licensed as occasional care) and In-Home Child Care.

Note that the Teachers Registration Board undertakes screening for Teachers with criminal convictions or charges considered under the Teachers Registration Act 2000 (Tas.).

VIC

Employees and volunteers and those involved in practical training are required to obtain a Working with Children check if they are working in the following settings: child protection services; child care services; children's services; education and care services within the meaning of the Education and Care Services National Law (Victoria); educational institutions; out-of-home care services, remand centres, youth residential centres, youth supervision units or youth justice centres or probation services, within the meaning of the Children, Youth and Families Act 2005; refuges or other residential facilities used by children; pediatric wards of public hospitals or of denominational or private hospitals; clubs, associations or movements (including of a cultural, recreational or sporting nature) that provide services or conduct activities for, or directed at, children or whose membership is mainly comprised of children; religious organisations; baby sitting or child minding services arranged by a commercial agency; fostering children; providing, on a publicly-funded or commercial basis, a transport service specifically for children; coaching or tuition services of any kind for children; counselling or other support services for children; overnight camps for children regardless of the type of accommodation or of how many children are involved; school crossing services; providing, on a commercial basis and not merely incidentally to or in support of other business activities, an entertainment or party service specifically for children; providing, on a commercial basis and not merely incidentally to or in support of other business activities, gym or play facilities specifically for children; providing, on a commercial basis and not merely incidentally to or in support of other business activities, photography services specifically for children; talent or beauty competitions held for children on a commercial basis and not merely incidentally to or in support of other business activities.

Children (under the age 18 years), teachers registered under the Education and Training Reform Act 2006 and police officers within the meaning of the Police Regulation Act 1958, or the Working with Children Act are exempt from a working with children check.

WA

Employees and volunteers in the following settings are required to obtain a Working With Children Check: child care services; community kindergartens; educational institutions for children; coaching or private tuition services; arrangements for the accommodation or care of children, whether in a residential facility or private residence; placement arrangements made under the Children and Community Services Act 2004 (WA); child protection services; detention centres; community child health services; counselling or other support services; religious organisations; a club, association or movement (including of a sporting nature and whether incorporated or not) with a significant membership or involvement of children); wards of public or private hospitals in which children are ordinarily patients; babysitting or child minding services; overnight camps, transport services specifically for children; school crossing services; children's entertainment or party services. Note that volunteers who are under 18 years of age do not require a Working With Children Check, however, employees under 18 years of age do require a Working With Children Check.

Is my pre-employment screening transferable between states?

It is important to note that the Working with Children Clearance Checks, Working with Vulnerable People Background Checks and Good Character Checks are not transferable between states and territories. Organisations or individuals that work or volunteer with children across state or territory boundaries need to ensure that the appropriate clearance checks and screenings are obtained for each separate jurisdiction. A nationally consistent approach is being progressed under the National Framework for Protecting Australia's Children 2009-2014. The National framework lists this approach as action under Outcome 2 "Children and families access adequate support to promote safety and intervene early". A Working with Children Checks Working Group has been formed to inform the national alignment, however, they have noted that a national approach to legislation will not necessarily protect all children and that such screening practices and processes must sit in a broader organisational environment determined to ensure the safety of children (Department of Families, Housing, Community Services and Indigenous Affairs, 2011).

Requirements in Australian states and territories

Australian Capital Territory

The Working with Vulnerable People (Background Checking) Act 2011 (ACT) was enacted on 8 November 2012 and requires people who have contact with vulnerable people while engaging in regulated activities and services to register with the Office of Regulatory Services. Individuals working or volunteering in activities or services for children have until 7 November 2013 to become registered, while individuals working or volunteering with other groups of vulnerable people will need to register between years 2 and 6 of the schemes operation.

Individuals are responsible for making their own applications through the Office of Regulatory Services, Department of Justice and Community Services. A background check and risk assessment will be conducted prior to registration and requires applicants to provide information on their criminal history, all non-conviction information and any other relevant information. The type of registration issued will be the most general type of registration for which an applicant is eligible. Three types of registration are currently issued:

  • general registration - allows individuals to move between all regulated activities for up to 3 years without the need to reapply;
  • conditional registration - imposes specific conditions on an individual's registration, for example, not being able to transport vulnerable people due to a person's license being cancelled as a result of drink driving offences; and
  • role-based registration - restricts individuals to engaging in specified regulated activities with a stated employer and cannot be moved freely between regulated activities.

Services contracted to government have a contractual obligation to employ "fit and proper" people. This has been interpreted as a requirement to obtain a National Police Check.

Residents of the Australian Capital Territory can take a simple online test to determine if they are required to register. In addition, the Office of Regulatory Services Working with Vulnerable People website provides further information on how to apply for a background check, including application forms and fees.

Further information about obtaining a National Police Check, including forms and fees can be obtained from the Australian Federal Police.

New South Wales

The new Child Protection (Working with Children) Act 2012 (NSW) came into effect on 15 June 2013 and requires that all employees and volunteers working in child-related roles hold a Working With Children Check clearance. The NSW Commission for Children and Young People oversees the Working With Children Check program. All applicants are subject to a National Police Check. If findings of misconduct involving children are identified (including offences occurring outside NSW and findings of misconduct reported by a reporting body; or a notification by the Ombudsman) a risk assessment will also be conducted

Successful applicants will be issued with a Working With Children Check Number. The worker must provide this number to their prospective employer, along with their surname and date of birth for online verification. Employers are responsible for checking the validity of a Working With Children Check prior to engaging any new individual for child-related work. In order to verify the status of a Working With Children Check, employers need to register with the current system. It is mandatory for the employer to conduct an online verification of the Working With Children Check using the unique number provided by the prospective worker. Paper verification is not permitted under this new system; therefore employers cannot accept the worker's notification letter as proof of clearance.

Employees and volunteers who were engaged in child-related work before 15 June 2013 will be phased into the new Working with Children Check program over a 5-year period based on industry sectors.

Self employed people who hold a Certificate for Self-Employed People (CSEP), as required under the previous legislation, may continue to use their CSEP until it expires. Once the CSEP expires, self-employed people must apply for the Working with Children Check.

Applicants precluded from receiving a Working With Children Check include persons convicted of an offence as listed comprehensively in schedule 2 of theChild Protection (Working with Children) Act 2012 (NSW).This preclusion comes into effect on or after 15 June 2013 and applies if the offence was committed as an adult. In addition, if proceedings for an offence listed in schedule 2 have commenced against a person and the offence was committed as an adult, no Working With Children Check approval will be given until the outcomes of existing proceedings are determined

The Commission for Children and Young People website provides comprehensive information and guidelines for individual applicants, employers and self-employed people, in relation to the Working With Children Check program, including details of the phase-in periods for individual sectors.

Northern Territory

The Care and Protection of Children Act 2007 (NT) came into force in 2008. The Act legislates for screening of employees and volunteers in child-related employment and broadly identifies occupations and activities for which an Ochre Card is required. An Ochre Card is photo ID proof that individuals have passed the Working With Children clearance screening process and received a Clearance Notice. It is the responsibility of the person who wants to work or volunteer with children to apply for the Working With Children Check. As of July 2011, anyone employed or volunteering in child-related work is required by law to hold an Ochre Card.

Individuals can download an application form for an Ochre Card through the Northern Territory Government website. Forms are also available from any Northern Territory Police station or from Territory Business Centres located in Darwin, Katherine, Tennant Creek or Alice Springs.

Employers or volunteer coordinators of people who work or volunteer with children are responsible for making sure that the people working or volunteering for them have a valid Working With Children Clearance and to maintain records that show compliance with the Working with Children Check scheme.

Queensland

The Commission for Children and Young People and Child Guardian Act 2000 (Qld) provides minimum standards for those who work or volunteer with children in broadly identified occupations or activities to undergo screening for criminal offences. The Queensland Commission for Children and Young People and Child Guardian is responsible for administering the Working With Children Check program, which is known as the Blue Card System. The Blue Card System entails a National Police Check, a review of disciplinary information held by certain professional organisations, and consideration of relevant police investigations. The Blue Card System also provides for ongoing monitoring and notification of changes in Blue Card holders' criminal histories. Blue Cards entitle individuals to work or volunteer in child-related occupations or operate child-related businesses. Blue Cards are valid for 3 years and can be carried between positions by individuals. See Blue Card System website for more information.

Since January 2007, employers and businesses that require employees to have a Blue Card must also have a written risk management strategy in place (Commission for Children and Young People and Child Guardian Act 2000 (Qld) s 99G).

The Commission provides information about what an organisation's risk management strategy should contain, as well as training about organisational risk management.

South Australia

It is the responsibility of government and non-government organisations that come into regular contact with children to obtain Police Record Checks for employees, volunteers, agents, contractors and sub-contractors is embedded in the Children's Protection Act 1993 (SA). The Act also requires that organisations have a policy framework relating to child-safety.

The Department for Communities and Social Inclusion provides a screening and assessment process for employers who have obtained consent from prospective employees or volunteers. Under the Children's Protection Regulations 2010 child-related employment screening takes into consideration a National Criminal Record History provided by The Commonwealth CrimTrac Agency along with a wider range of information sourced from professional registration bodies and South Australian police, courts and prosecuting authorities. Further information is available at the departments Screening and Background Checks website.

Police Check application forms can be obtained from the South Australian Police.

Tasmania

At present there is no legislation in Tasmania that identifies broad categories of child-related work and mandates for employees or volunteers to undergo a Working With Children Check. However, in 2012 the Tasmanian government introduced the Education and Care Services National Law (Tas), Education and Care Services National Law (Application) Act 2011 (Tas)and Education and Care Services National Regulations 2011, providing for the Department of Education to administer a safety screening program for employers, individuals and students engaged in the education and childcare industry. Information regarding the Good Character Check (PDF 512 KB) and application forms (PDF 97 KB) are available from the Department of Education. The Good Character Check includes a National Police Check, which considers crimes of violence; sex-related offences; serious drug offences; crimes involving dishonesty; and serious traffic offences.

Additionally, government and non-government organisations may have developed their own requirements and procedures for screening. Police Checks can be obtained from the Tasmanian Police Department.

Victoria

The Working With Children Act 2005 (Vic.) sets out the legislative requirements for child safety screening in Victoria. Individuals who work or volunteer, and those involved with practical training with children are required to undergo a screening process known as a Working With Children Check. Information, guidelines and application forms for the Working With Children Check are available from the Department of Justice.

The Working With Children Check is different from a Police Check as it provides ongoing monitoring for criminal offences for the duration of the validity of the check (5 years) and can be carried across employment/volunteer positions.

Police Checks can also be obtained through Victoria Police.

Western Australia

The Working With Children (Criminal Record Checking) Act 2004 (WA) legislates for child-safety screening and identifies broad categories of employment that require safety-screening. Information, guidelines and application forms are available from the Working With Children Check website. The program is administered by the Working With Children Screening Unit (WWCSU), Department for Child Protection.

The Working With Children Check is a compulsory criminal check. Working With Children Checks are different from Police Checks as they offer ongoing monitoring and may be updated if a person's criminal record changes while the check is valid (3 years). They can also be carried across employment/volunteer positions. Additionally, Working With Children Checks are only concerned with child-related offences. Therefore, employers may require that employees or volunteers obtain both a Working With Children Check and a National Police Check.

Information on obtaining a National Police Check (including the National Police Check for Volunteers Program) can be obtained from the WA Police.

Conclusion

Screening helps to prevent people with a known history of violent and abusive behaviour gaining access to children through organisations. However, screening alone is not sufficient (e.g., it is limited to identifying known perpetrators) and needs to be coupled with interviews, thorough reference checks, policy development for child-safe environments, and robust accountability frameworks for responding to allegations.

Further reading

References

Acknowledgements

This paper was updated by Deborah Scott, Research Fellow with the Child Family Community Australia information exchange at the Australian Institute of Family Studies.

Previous editions have been compiled by Claire Berlyn, Prue Holzer, Daryl Higgins and Nick Richardson.

Publishing details

Published by the Australian Institute of Family Studies, October 2013

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Footnote

1 SA's screening relates only to Police Checks, rather than a Working with Children Check

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