The Government has introduced legislation to change the Working with Children Check (“WWCC”) requirements in Victoria.
Proposed changes to Working with Children Check
Changes proposed by the Working with Children Amendment Bill 2016 (Vic) (“the Bill”) include the following:
- WWCC required whether or not contact with children is supervised
In Victoria, an individual must obtain a WWCC if he or she is engaged in “child-related work”. This is required by the Working with Children Act 2005 (Vic) (“the Act”).The current legislation provides that “child-related work” is work that “usually involves direct contact with a child and that contact is not directly supervised by another person” (emphasis added).Those words at the end of the sentence “..and that contact is not directly supervised by another person” will be removed from the legislation. So, people working with children will need to get a WWCC even if their contact with children is supervised.
- WWCC required for online, phone or other electronic communication contact
Due to the definition of “child-related work” set out above, a WWCC is required where a person has work that usually involves “direct contact” with a child.At present, “direct contact” is defined to mean “any contact between a person and a child that involves (a) physical contact or (b) face to face oral communication”. To reflect the growing use of technology in child-related work, which can facilitate the abuse of children, the meaning of “direct contact” will be expanded to include all of the following:
- physical contact
- face to face contact
- contact by post or other written communication
- contact by telephone or other oral communication
- contact by email or other electronic communicationThis means that people working with children in online settings will need to consider if they are required to have a WWCC.
- WWCC will reveal criminal charges that did not result in convictions
The WWCC will reveal charges for serious offences that have been finally dealt with other than by way of conviction or finding of guilt in certain applications. This means that the WWCC will show more information about a person than they have in the past. At present, Victoria does not consider non-conviction charges when assessing a person’s suitability for obtaining a WWCC. A non-conviction charge is a charge that has not resulted in a finding of conviction or guilt. The Bill proposes that non-conviction charges be considered as relevant matters when assessing a person’s criminal history. However, it limits this to the most serious offences such as sexual, violent or drug offences.Remember: police checks are different from WWCC, and police checks cannot be a substitute for WWCC. See here for a comparison.
We have outlined above some of the key changes that will impact Not for Profit organisations, but there will also be changes to WWCC requirements for kinship carers, greater powers for the Department of Justice to require a person to produce information, and some other technical amendments.
What should your organisation do?
The Bill has not yet been passed by the Legislative Council in the Victorian Parliament, so it is not yet law. However, assuming that it is passed, your organisation should:
- Review its policies and procedures to check that they are up-to-date and follow the new requirements.
- Ensure that the leadership and staff (including employees and volunteers) of your organisation are aware of the WWCC requirements in Victoria.
- Ensure that any person required to have a WWCC obtains a WWCC – particularly people who were not previously required to do so because they were supervised, or because they only dealt with children online or via other forms of electronic communication with children.
- Ensure that WWCC are regularly updated and reviewed – remember that WWCC will reveal criminal changes that did not result in a conviction.
We can assist your organisation with reviewing or updating its policies or procedures, or with understanding its legal obligations in this area. You can contact us (03) 9629 9629.
If you need help with this, please contact Elizabeth Shalders (Senior Associate, Head of Not-for-Profit Law) or Caroline James (Corporate Law) or (03) 9629 9629. Click here for more information on Not for Profit Law.