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A Working with Children Check (WWCC) is an essential means to protect Australian children from harm, especially children who are more vulnerable in the community. It is a mechanism to deter individuals from seeking contact with children where their background or criminal record reveals that they may put a child at risk. In addition, WWCCs detect any new criminal activity from people who already hold a WWCC. This allows authorities to remove children from the care of people who pose a future threat.

There are stringent guidelines, which vary from state to state. These guidelines govern the steps that businesses must take to register their organisation for the WWCC system and that individuals must take to obtain a WWCC. This article will unpack how WWCCs work and provide guidance on how to know if you, or your employees, need to obtain a WWCC. 

What is a Working With Children Check?

The function of a WWCC is to identify if an individual working or interacting in any way with a child or children could cause any harm to them. Additionally, a WWCC aims to carefully screen a person’s background, any criminal past and prior employment to determine if there are any risk factors. 

Each state and territory have different colloquial terms for describing a WWCC. For example, in Queensland, a WWCC is referred to as a ‘Blue Card’. However, in the Australian Capital Territory is called the ‘Working with Vulnerable People Registration’. 

Although all states and territories have distinct WWCC (or comparable schemes), they have similar structures. Further, registration is required if a person or business provides services that come under a set category. The lists are comparable in each state and territory. Additionally, whilst a WWCC (or comparable scheme) involves a check of a person’s police records, it is not itself a police check

Do I Need a Working With Children Check?

As a rule of thumb, it is compulsory for all individuals who work in jobs or roles (paid or unpaid) that deliver services to children to attain a WWCC certificate. An employer must certify anyone they propose to hire has a valid WWCC before that person is hired and begins working with children. 

For example, types of people that deliver services to children may include: 

  • employees of businesses that offer education programs to children, including tutors; 
  • people who work as childcarers in schools and nurseries; 
  • volunteers who work with children at sporting events; and 
  • people who provide counselling or disability support services. 

How Do I Apply for a WWCC?

Each state and territory have their own set of processes to obtain a WWCC. This information can be found on the Australian National Character Check website. WWCC certificates cannot be transferred between states and territories and a new WWCC certificate must also be obtained in every state or territory in which you work, or your business operates. 

There are similarities in the level and type of information that needs to be provided by an individual when they apply for a WWCC, including that you have: 

  • applied through the correct authorised government screening unit for your state or territory; 
  • accurately and honestly filled out the application form and made relevant disclosures; and
  • provided sufficient proof of identity documents which may include your driver’s licence, passports, birth certificate and photograph. 

In most states and territories, you will also need to physically present to the relevant authority for verification of your identity. 

Government Screening Units 

Applications should be lodged with the following Government Screening Units in each state and territory: 

State or Territory

Government Screening Unit

New South Wales

New South Wales Office of the Children’s Guardian

Queensland

Blue Card Services

Victoria

Department of Justice and Regulation, Working with Children Check Unit

South Australia

DCSI Screening Unit (Department for Communities and Social Inclusion)

Australian Capital Territory

Background Screening Unit, Access Canberra

Tasmania

Department of Justice

Western Australia

WWC Screening Unit (Department for Child Protection and Family Support)

Northern Territory

Screening Assessment for Employment – Northern Territory (SAFE NT)

There are very wide-ranging and extensive powers (including legislative powers) for checks to be conducted on WWCC (or comparable) applications in each state and territory, including to obtain further information as required from government entities and the details of any past offences. 

Consequences of Not Having a WWCC?

The range and severity of penalties for non-compliance with WWCCs vary from state to state. However, they include severe penalties and imprisonment. 

Mandatory Reporting 

It is imperative that individuals and businesses are also aware of their mandatory reporting obligations, to report suspicions of child abuse. Every state and territory has different mandatory reporting laws. However, the general principle is that specific types of employment and business must report any suspicious behaviour to the relevant authority. 

The Australian Institute of Family Studies provides a detailed review of the mandatory reporting laws which apply to each state and territory. 

Key Takeaways 

WWCCs are essential in our community to protect children. Therefore, there are significant penalties for not holding a valid WWCC if you work with children. If you have any doubts about whether you are required to obtain a WWCC certificate, it is essential that you make enquiries with your relevant Government Screening Unit. If you would like more information or to talk with a lawyer, contact LegalVision’s regulatory lawyers on 1300 544 755 or fill out the form on this page. 

Frequently Asked Questions 

What is a Working with Children Check?

A Working with Children Check (WWCC) is a means to protect Australian children from harm. Further, it deters individuals with a background or criminal record revealing that they may put a child at risk, from seeking contact with children. It also detects new criminal activity from people who already hold a WWCC.

What are the consequences of not having a WWCC?

The range and severity of penalties for non-compliance with WWCCs vary from state to state. However, they often include severe penalties and even imprisonment.

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