When hiring, many charities require volunteers to undertake both Police and Working with Children Checks. Where volunteers are working with vulnerable people and children, it may be a requirement under state legislation to have these checks in place.

The checks can also help the charity to make sure each volunteer is appropriate for the role. Each state and territory has a variety of different 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 request their working with children check from the Office of the Children’s Guardian. This check lasts for five years and can be used from one job to the next. Therefore, when bringing on a volunteer, they may present their current check to you or have to renew their check. You should confirm that the check is up to date in your screening process.

The NSW check involves a search of the volunteer’s criminal history across all states and specific findings of workplace misconduct (for example, a finding at a previous employer such as a school). The check sets out whether the volunteer has or has not been cleared, rather than just providing a summary of their record. Requesting a check is free for volunteers, whereas employees are required to pay a fee.

Apply online here.

Victoria

The Victorian Working with Children check works similarly to New South Wales in that it involves searches for both the volunteer’s national criminal history and professional findings, lasts for five years and can transfer from one role to the next. Volunteers must pay a fee if they require the check later on for a paid role.

Apply online here.

Queensland

In Queensland, the working with children check is called the “Blue Card system,” involving both a screening process via a working with children check and ongoing monitoring of a person who holds such a card. The check is free for volunteers and students but employees are required to pay. There are also restrictions on who can apply for a check. Those deemed “disqualified persons” cannot apply. Organisations that fall under the Working with Children (Risk Management and Screening) Act 2000 (Qld) are required to comply with risk management processes.

Apply online here.

South Australia

In South Australia, organisation’s working with children who are engaging workers and volunteers must undertake their own screening process which may require them to conduct an evaluation of the relevant person.

This process can involve either a police check or the organisation may request a child-related employment screening from the DCSI Screening unit. Alternatively, your organisation may choose to conduct the assessment themselves via the review of other evidence. If you are working with children in South Australia, your organisation should have clear policies in place to deal with the assessment of each volunteer.

Apply online here.

Western Australia

The Western Australian Working with Children Check is required for certain types of work in Western Australia. The Working With Children Card is valid for three years unless revoked earlier. As a volunteer manager, you should be aware of the obligations imposed on the cardholder, who is volunteering for your charity.

Apply online here.

Australian Capital Territory

The Australian Capital Territory requires that volunteers or employees who have contact with a vulnerable person (including children) undertake a Working With Vulnerable People check. The card with verification of the search lasts for three years. As the implementation of the legislation is relatively recent, the organisations that require checks and obligations is slowly being rolled out and should be complete by the end of 2018.

Apply online here.

Tasmania

The Tasmanian Working with Children Registration operates in a similar manner to the Working With Children Check in other states and territories. Volunteers are subject to a Risk Assessment, if approved they receive a Working with Children Registration, lasting for three years after which they are be required to renew.

Apply online here.

Police Checks

Police checks are nationalised and only need to be requested from your police agency in your particular state of territory. The police check does not substitute the working with children check or vice versa as both cover different searches and purposes. A police check may show spent convictions or where a conviction was not recorded. The exact information displayed on your National Police Certificate may differ from state to state. Police checks also differ from a working with children check in that they capture a result in time, therefore often employers will request a new police check when starting a new role or volunteering.

Key Takeaways

When hiring volunteers that will be working with children, not for profit organisations (and organisations working with children) must take obligations around reporting and screening seriously. Working with Children checks are one step in the process of ensuring the safety of the children you are working with. There are also ongoing reporting requirements that may apply to your organisation under state law. It is important to have in place a detailed working with children policy for your not for profit, to reduce the risk of harm. Beyond the legislative requirements, your organisation should have policies across the board to address how your volunteers and employees should interact with children.

If you are a volunteer that is required to undertake a working with children check, you should contact the appropriate authority and be aware of your obligations including when you need to renew your check or card. Questions? Get in touch with our lawyers on 1300 544 755.

Edith Moss

Next Steps

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