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Do Volunteers Need Police and Working With Children Checks?

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Many charities and not-for-profit organisations require volunteers to undertake Police and Working With Children checks, particularly where volunteers work with vulnerable people and children. However, each state and territory has various requirements and processes for these searches. So, whether you are applying to be a volunteer or are a volunteer manager, you should be aware of the policies and requirements in each jurisdiction.

New South Wales

Volunteers can apply for working with children checks from the Office of the Children’s Guardian. This check lasts for five years and carries from one job to another. If you are hiring volunteers, you should request a copy of your volunteer’s working with children check or application number so that you may verify the check via the online portal. 

You should also register online as an employer of individuals who require working with children checks.

The NSW check involves searching the volunteer’s criminal history across all states and specific findings of workplace misconduct, such as a finding at a previous employer such as a school. The check sets out whether the volunteer has been cleared rather than providing a summary of their record. 

If the employee is barred, they cannot work with children regardless of whether you engage them in paid or unpaid work. On that note, hiring a barred worker for child-related work is an offence.


The Victorian Working with Children Checks works similarly to New South Wales. Both involve searches for the volunteer’s national criminal history and professional findings. The Victorian Working with Children Check lasts five years, even when the individual transfers employment. Nevertheless, you should note that:

  • checks may take 3 to 12 weeks to process; and
  • volunteers must pay $123.20 if they later require the check for paid work.
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In Queensland, the working with children check is called the ‘Blue Card system’. It involves a screening process of the individual’s national criminal history and ongoing monitoring of the individual by the Queensland Police. The check is free for volunteers and students, but employees must pay $97.95. 

Volunteers need a blue card where the services or activities fall within one of the 16 categories of regulated employment under the Working with Children (Risk Management and Screening) Act 2000.

There are also restrictions on who can apply for a check, primarily around individuals convicted of offences related to the abuse of children or other extremely serious offences. Those deemed “disqualified persons” cannot apply for a blue card. Organisations under the Act must implement risk management processes to identify any potential risks of harm to children and minimise or manage these. 

South Australia

In South Australia, people working with children must obtain a Working with Children Check. The check will remain valid for five years, regardless of moving employment. After the working with children checks is granted, government bodies, including the police and Department of Child Protection, will monitor the applicant. 

As an organisation engaging individuals who will be working with children, it is your responsibility to:

  • verify the employee’s check at least once every five years online; and 
  • advise the screening unit if you become aware of any assessable information concerning the individual, such as if they have been convicted of an offence. 

Western Australia

Volunteers require a Western Australian Working With Children Check if their duties involve or are likely to involve contact with children in connection with one of the 20 prescribed categories detailed in the relevant legislation. 

The card is valid for three years unless revoked. As a volunteer manager, you should:

  • keep appropriate records concerning the status of your volunteers working with children checks; and 
  • have the proper processes to alert the relevant body where you become aware of any relevant information. 

Notably, volunteers must pay $11 for the check, whilst employees must pay $87.

Australian Capital Territory

The Australian Capital Territory requires that volunteers or employees with contact with a vulnerable person (including children) undertake a Working With Vulnerable People check. These checks are now valid for five years. 

A vulnerable person is a child under 18 or an adult experiencing a disadvantage who accesses a regulated activity or service related to the disadvantaged.

Recent amendments have been made to the law, which means that all NDIS workers and volunteers must hold a valid check. Additionally, the relevant body will now conduct monitoring of all registration holders to ensure they remain suitable to hold the position.


The Tasmanian Working with Children Registration operates similarly to the checks in other states and territories. Volunteers are subject to a Risk Assessment, and where approved, they receive a Registration to Work with Vulnerable People card, which must be renewed after three years.

Northern Territory

In the Northern Territory, a working with children clearance is called an Ochre Card. The clearance process assesses the risk of harm or exploitation a volunteer poses to children by checking their:

  • police history;
  • employment records;
  • character references; and 
  • reports on recent behaviour. 

The Northern Territory Screening Authority conducts the check, which is valid for two years. Notably, volunteers must pay $7 and employees $76. 

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What About Police Checks?

A police check does not substitute working with children checks or vice versa, as both cover different searches for different purposes. After all, a police check may show spent convictions or a not recorded conviction. Police checks also differ from working with children checks in that they capture a result in time. Therefore, employers often request a new police check when employees or volunteers start a new role.

The information displayed on an individual’s National Police Certificate may differ from state to state. As a result, you should request a policy check from the police agency in your particular state or territory as necessary.

Key Takeaways

When hiring volunteers working with children, not-for-profit organisations (and organisations working with children) must comply with reporting and screening obligations. Working with Children checks are the first step in ensuring the safety of the children your organisation works with. There are also ongoing reporting requirements that may apply to your organisation under state law. It is essential to have a detailed working with children policy for your not-for-profit to reduce the risk of harm. 

If you need help drafting these policies, our experienced charity lawyers can assist as part of our LegalVision membership. For a low monthly fee, you will have unlimited access to lawyers to answer your questions and draft and review your documents. Call us today on 1300 544 755 or visit our membership page.

Eleanor Kenny

Eleanor Kenny

Law Graduate

Eleanor is a graduate lawyer in LegalVision’s Employment team. She graduated in 2020 with a Bachelor of Business and a Bachelor of Laws from the University of Technology Sydney. She began her career working in an international professional services firm providing corporate clients with regulatory tax advice in relation to their globally mobile employees.

Qualifications: Bachelor of Laws, Bachelor of Business, University of Technology Sydney. 

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