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Victoria’s Working With Children Legislation


Thursday, 28th July 2005 at 1:07 pm
Staff Reporter
Victoria has introduced legislation for compulsory police checks under a new system of checking those who volunteer or work with children.

Thursday, 28th July 2005
at 1:07 pm
Staff Reporter


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Victoria’s Working With Children Legislation
Thursday, 28th July 2005 at 1:07 pm

The new laws, introduced to the Victorian Parliament on July 20, 2005 set minimum standards to take into account criminal records and charges, as well as professional disciplinary records, to assess if a person is eligible to work or volunteer with children.

The Legislation comes after long and often heated discussions with many stake holders about the extent and coverage of the legislation.

The Bracks Government says the new checking system will take into account criminal history of a serious sexual, violence or drug nature and professional disciplinary records.

It says while it is a rigorous system that puts children’s safety first, the new screening process also aims to ensure appropriate people are not prevented from working or volunteering.

Attorney General Rob Hulls said the checking system would be phased in starting April 1, 2006, and a community education campaign would help employers, individuals and organisations understand their rights and responsibilities under the new laws.

This Legislation takes over from a voluntary ‘police check’ program already undertaken by many Not for Profit organisations in Victoria.

The check will be free for volunteers and will cost $70 for those who do paid work with children. Many Not for Profit organisations originally objected to the legislation fearing the cost of the check would limit their ability to attract volunteers.

The Attorney General says he does not want to make this legislation a burden on sporting clubs, community groups, religious organisations or anyone who gives their time to volunteer or work with children.

Everyone who is checked and passes the new standards will be issued with a card enabling them to work or volunteer with children for five years.

A new unit is being established in the Department of Justice to carry out the checks and undertake an education campaign.

In developing the Bill, the Government considered more than 160 submissions in response to a discussion paper and exposure draft Bill released last December.

Mr Hulls says a review of the legislation would be undertaken after three years and it would be continually monitored by the Child Safety Commissioner, Bernie Geary.

He says a right of appeal will exist to VCAT and in certain circumstances, the Secretary of the Department of Justice would have discretion to allow people to work or volunteer with children.

Those who are on the Sex Offenders Register or subject to an Extended Supervision Order will have no appeal rights.

Key features of the new checking system include:

Who will be checked and how will the checks operate?

-The first round of checks will apply to child protection workers, juvenile justice workers, foster carers, family day care and outside school hours childcare workers and school crossing attendants. The second round will be non-teaching staff in schools, workers in refuges and residential facilities and workers in religious organisations.

-The check will be free for volunteers.

-A $70 fee will apply to people who work with children in a paid capacity

-The check will be regularly updated after a card has been issued.

-People who work or volunteer in childcare, schools, coaching or private tuition, religious organisations, sporting groups, paediatric wards of hospitals, overnight camps and foster families and who have direct, regular and unsupervised contact with children will be subject to the checks.

-People helping out at school under the supervision of a teacher and those helping out at sporting events under the supervision of coaches and staff will not require checks.

Who is exempt?

-Police and teachers who already have rigorous checking systems in place.

-Parents whose child participates in the activity for which they volunteer – however, if their child is not a regular participant, a check will be necessary.

-Children under 18 will be exempt.

Penalties

-An individual can be imprisoned for two years or receive a fine of $24,000.

The final groups to be checked will be volunteers in sporting clubs and community organisations.

By 2011, it was anticipated more than 600,000 people would have been checked.

For further information visit
http://www.justice.vic.gov.au/workingwithchildren

The phasing plan is being developed but it is anticipated sectors will be checked in the following order:

Mid 2006/07
Child protection, juvenile justice, foster carers, school crossing services, outside school hours care, family day care, schools and overnight camps

2007/08
Childcare services, pre-schools and kindergartens, religious organisations, refuges and other residential facilities, transport and counselling services for children

2008/09
Paediatric wards in hospitals, commercial child minding and babysitting services, and Clubs and Associations.

2009/10
Coaching or private tuition, and Clubs and Associations.

2010/11
Commercial entertainment, gym or play facilities, photography and talent services specifically for children, and Clubs and Associations.

Similar legislation already exists in NSW, Queensland and Western Australia.

If you would like an electronic version of the Legislation ‘Working with Children’.pdf please email us at probono@probonoaustralia.com.au



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