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State of Play: The Complex Landscape of Working with Children Checks Across Australia

Anyone who works with, cares for, or volunteers with children under the age of 18 is required to undertake screening known as a Working with Children Check (WWCC). By screening individuals involved with children, the Working with Children Check is one element of ensuring that children are protected from sexual or physical harm.

Throughout Australia, millions of employees and volunteers hold a Working with Children Check. Each state and territory has different legislation governing WWCCs. The result is a mish-mash of rules, regulations, exemptions and exclusions that can be a headache for both individuals and organisations trying to do the right thing and ensure compliance.

The goal of this piece is to provide a resource for organisations that engage staff and volunteers operating across multiple states and territories understand and meet their obligations.

Below you'll find:

  • The different requirements for WWCCs in each state and territory, things to watch out for and links to more information to help ensure you, your staff and volunteers are compliant;
  • The future of Working with Children Checks in Australia.

Select a State or Territory

Victoria Victoria

What's it called?

Working with Children Check

What does it screen for?

Criminal history across an individual's lifetime - specifically sexual, violent or drug offences. More information.

Who needs one?

Any individual involved in ‘child related work'. This includes volunteers as well as employees. More information.

Where to get it?

You can apply for a check through the Victorian Department of Justice website here.

How long is it valid?

5 years.

Can I do child-related work in Victoria as a visitor?

Interstate visitors can do child-related work in Victoria without a Victorian Check for a period of up to 30 days in the same calendar year for:

  • Several events or occasions with an equivalent Check from their state or territory; or
  • Only one event or occasion without an equivalent Check from their state or territory.

More information.

Penalties

Organisations engaging individuals without a valid check can face fines of over $190,000. More information.

Things to watch out for...

Employees and volunteers require different checks in Victoria. Employees require the payment of a fee whilst volunteer checks are free. More information.

Registered teachers and police officers are exempt from requiring a WWCC in Victoria.

On 1 August 2017, the scope of those requiring WWCCs was broadened to include people who have oral, written or electronic communication with children as well as several other changes. More information.

The Future of Working with Children Checks

On 17 August 2015, the Royal Commission into Child Sexual Abuse released its report on Working with Children Checks.

The report noted that "each state and territory has its own scheme, and each of the eight schemes operates independently of the others. They are inconsistent and complex, and there is unnecessary duplication across the schemes. There is no integration of the schemes, and there is inadequate information sharing and monitoring of WWCC cardholders."

The Report recommends a national approach to WWCCs. "We have determined that implementing a national approach to WWCCs is overdue. For too long, governments have favoured maintaining their own systems over working together to achieve a more nationally consistent approach. We have therefore recommended a national model for WWCCs, by introducing consistent standards and establishing a centralised WWCC database to facilitate cross-border information sharing."

You can access the full report here.

However, in more than 2 years since the report was released, little progress has been made towards a national approach. In the meantime, remember to stay up-to-date and compliant with all legislation for your state. And if you're planning an interstate trip, and will be working with children in that state, make sure you're aware of the specific obligations of that state.

The content on this page is intended only to provide a summary and general overview. It is not intended to be comprehensive nor does it constitute legal advice. You should contact the relevant or authority or seek legal advice before acting or relying on any of the content on this page.