Boy looking at climbing wall

In Victoria, key child protection responsibilities for sport and recreation relate to:

Working with Children Checks and Child Safe Standards

In 2006, the Victorian Government introduced a new screening system to help protect children from physical or sexual harm. The system, established under the Working with Children Act 2005 (the Act), was phased in between April 2006 and June 2011. It has now been fully implemented.

The Working with Children Check (the Check) helps protect children from physical and sexual harm. It does this by screening people’s criminal records and professional conduct and preventing those who pose an unjustifiable risk to children from working with or caring for them.

On 1 August 2017, a number of important amendments to the Working with Children Check Act 2005 (the Act) came into effect. The Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse made several recommendations aimed at strengthening the protection children receive through Working with Children Checks. The following amendments to the Act includes:

1. Expand the definition of ‘direct contact’ in the Act. The definition of direct contact now includes oral, written or electronic communication as well as face-to-face and physical contact. The Act will continue to provide that a Check is not required in circumstances where the contact with a child is occasional and incidental to the work.

2. Remove references to ‘supervision’ from the Act. This means that even if a person’s contact with children as part of their child-related work is supervised by another person, they will still need to apply for a Check.

3. Create a new occupational category of ‘child-related work’, known as ‘kinship care’. Family members or other persons of significance caring for a placed by Child Protection under the Youth and Families Act 2005 are required to obtain a Check.

Who has to apply?

Not everyone who has contact with children needs a Check. Under the Act, people need a Check if they are doing child-related work and are not exempt from needing one (see below). This applies to both paid and volunteer workers. Ministers of religion, who more than occasionally, have direct contact with children and religious leaders with children in their congregation, must also hold a Check. To find out if you need a Check, or if you are exempt, you will need to answer a few questions. Go to this link to find out if you need a check.

What are employer’s requirements?  Organisations need to:

  • determine which paid and volunteer workers require a Check
  • ensure workers have a valid Check
  • ensure new starters apply for a Check before commencing child-related work.

The Check is just a starting point. It screens a person’s criminal records and any reports about professional conduct by the bodies listed here. The Check does not assess a person’s suitability to work with or care for children in a particular role. It is the responsibility of organisations to assess if a person is suitable to work with children and to continue monitoring their workers' behaviour around children.

Organisations should be vigilant at all times by doing thorough reference checks and establishing sound, ongoing supervision practices so that children are safe from harm. This forms part of an organisation’s obligation to meet the Child Safe Standards established under the Child Wellbeing and Safety Act 2005, which will applies to organisations providing sport and recreation services to children. The requirements for a Check remain the same under the Child Safe Standards. For more information go to: Vicsport - Child Safe Standards

What are the requirements for visitors from other states/territories?

To learn about Check requirements across states and territories you can download this document.

Exemptions

There are several situations listed in the Act where people doing child-related work are exempt and do not need a Check.

  • Children – if you are under 18 years of age you are exempt from a Check
  • Some student volunteers – if you are a student who is 18 or 19 years of age, you are exempt from the Check for volunteer work organized by or held at your educational institution
  • Parents volunteering in an activity with their child - if you are a parent volunteering in an activity in which your child participates, or normally participates, you are exempt and do not need a Check
  • Family members and people who are closely related to the child
  • Registered Teachers
  • Sworn police officers
  • 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 a Check from their state or territory, or
    • only one event or occasion without a Check from their state or territory.

You may find that you are exempt for the purposes of one type of work but not another, so you may still need a Check.

Are there penalties for not conducting the Working with Children Check? Yes. There are significant fines and prison sentences for employers, employees and volunteers who fail to comply with the legislation.

How do I get a Working with Children Check done?

The first step is to complete an application form online by going to www.workingwithchildren.vic.gov.au. Victorian applicants can verify their identity online and finalise their application at a participating Australia Post outlet using the barcode and instructions that will be emailed to them. Interstate applicants have to follow a different process. Information on how to apply for a Check from interstate is available here.

People renewing their Checks can complete the process online.

Useful information

  • The Check is different to a Police Check as the Check includes ongoing monitoring of criminal offences. If you are doing child-related work and are not exempt, you must have a Check even if you have had a Police Check. Read more
  • When you get a Check card you must show your card to every organisation that engages you in child-related work
  • By law, if you change from volunteer to paid child-related work you must apply for an Employee Check, as it is an offence to do paid child-related work with a Volunteer Check
  • If you start child-related work with another organisation you must show the new organisation your Check card and add your organisation to your Check details within 21 days of starting with the new organisation.
  • You can check the status of your applications and update your details here.
  • You can check the status of applications and whether they can, under the Act, work with children by entering the applicant’s surname and application number into the Status Check

How much does it cost?

Paid employees pay $121.40 for a new application ($89.90 to renew your Check after 5 years) but there is no fee for volunteers. Fees change annually. Current fees are available here.

Who is responsible for payment? The person applying for the Check is responsible for payment.

What is checked? The Check examines relevant information from your national criminal records and, in some cases, reports by some professional bodies about your professional conduct.

How long is it valid for?

Five years, unless revoked or cancelled due to a change in the Check holder’s circumstances. If you’re a Check holder you must advise the Department of Justice and Regulation of the following to maintain the Check :

  • any ‘relevant change in circumstances’, including if you change your name
  • any change of address details
  • any change of employer or volunteer organisation, including changes to their
    contact details.

Is it transferable to a different organisation? Yes.

More information

Working with Children Check Unit, Department of Justice and Regulation
Telephone: 1300 652 879
Email: workingwithchildren@justice.vic.gov.au

Reporting child abuse

Who is required to report? It is not mandatory for people in sport to report suspected child abuse unless they are prescribed in the law such as doctors, nurses, teachers, principals and police. However, anyone can report suspected child abuse to the Victorian Child Protection Service, within the Victorian Department of Human Services. It is the Child Protection worker’s job to assess and, where necessary, further investigate if a child or young person is at risk of harm.

What gets reported? Any reasonable suspicions of abuse or neglect should be reported without delay.

Where to make a report

  • If you believe a child is in immediate danger or in a life-threatening situation, contact the Police immediately by dialling 000.
  • You can make a report about a child at risk of harm to the Victorian Child Protection Service on 131 278. This is a toll free number operating 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.

Failure to disclose child sexual abuse offence

The offence requires that any adult who holds a reasonable belief that a sexual offence has been committed in Victoria by an adult against a child (aged under 16) disclose that information to police. The offence applies to all adults in Victoria, not just professionals who work with children, unless they have a reasonable excuse. For further information about the offence and how to report is available here.

Leaving children unattended

In Victoria it is an offence for a person responsible for a child to leave the child unattended for any longer than is reasonable, without making appropriate arrangements for the child’s supervision and care. This includes leaving a child at home, or in a car, or anywhere else unattended. More information and guidance for adults responsible for children about leaving children unattended is available here.


Updated: August 2017