Victoria to Pay for Compulsory Police Checks
21 April 2005 at 1:04 pm
It’s anticipated that the Victorian Government will pay for compulsory police checks on 70,000 volunteers working with children as part of controversial new legislation to be introduced in May.
The Bracks Government will provide more than $20 million over four years for police checks on volunteers; the details of which will be announced in the May Victorian Budget.
As well authorities will be alerted whenever an approved person has been accused of a crime.
News of the free police checks are a major breakthrough for hundreds of sporting and community groups that had feared the cost would decimate volunteer numbers and send many organisations broke.
A spokesperson for the Attorney General confirmed that the police checks would be carried out by a new unit to be set up in the Department of Justice.
About 70,000 professionals working with children, such as childcare and kindergarten staff, will also be checked by the unit. The police checks cost around $70 each.
The spokesperson also confirmed that the names of professionals and volunteers will be placed on a register linked to Crimtrack, the national police database, and to various professional databases.
Regular checks of the names would highlight any person approved to work with children who was accused of a crime or other notifiable activity.
Police checks on all people working with children were part of new laws proposed by the Government in December last year.
Lobbying by volunteer sporting and community groups is believed to have convinced the Government that the State should pay for checks, and limit their scope.
However the government spokesperson said just who will and who won’t be required to undergo a police check is still to be determined.
Privacy Commissioner Paul Chadwick has supported the proposal for police checks but warned last month that the law as it was originally put provided little room for discretion and meant unnecessary invasion of privacy for thousands of people.
Under the crackdown, a person who does child-related work without proper approval could be jailed for up to two years and fined $2400.
Many Victorian organisations already operate under a policy of voluntary police checks for their employees and volunteers who are working with children based on an initiative to prevent child abuse within community organisations across Australia by the Australian Council for Children & Youth Organisations.
ACCYO CEO, Netty Horton supports the Government’s decision and says it brings Victoria into line with Queensland which is the only State were police checks for volunteers who work with children is already compulsory and free.
The NSW Government has been lobbied to cover the cost of police checks as part of changes to its Child Protection laws. In NSW it is not compulsory for volunteers working with children to have a compulsory police check but employers and organisations may request one.
In March, the South Australian Government announced widespread police checks for teachers.
The Victorian government says it is now considering the 160 public submissions following the draft release to determine exactly which volunteers will be subject to the new laws, which could come into force by the end of the year.
Life Saving Victoria CEO Nigel Taylor has welcomed the free police checks for volunteers.
Life Saving Victoria estimated that checks on about 1450 volunteers across the organisation’s 58 clubs would have cost more than $100,000.
Under the proposal, a person who does not have a police assessment and engages in child-related work will be deemed guilty of a criminal offence and could be jailed for up to two years and fined $2400.
The Government spokesperson said details of the provision of the $20-million would be outlined in the May 3rd Victorian Budget