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What is a working with children check?

The Act governing working with children clearances (assessments) changed on 1 February 2021. There have been some changes to terminology but the underlying processes and principles remain the same. This topic is in the process of being updated to refer to the new Act. People who already have an assessment notice need not reapply. For a summary of the transitional changes see Key changes to Working with children checks.

What working with children checks are

Working with children checks (WWC) are carried out by the Department of Justice and Community Safety to help protect children from physical harm and sexual abuse.

Unless an exemption applies, people who are engaged in child-related work (including volunteers) need to apply for a working with children check.

It is a minimum check that screens individuals in relation to their criminal history so that persons who have been charged with, or convicted of, certain offences are not granted ac clearance which allows them to work with children. It does not check the suitability of a person to do particular work.

From 1 February 2021, the laws about working with children is goverend by the Worker Screening Act 2020. This Act also governs checking workers doing work related to the Natioanl Disability Insurance Scheme (NDIS).

See Key changes to working with children checks.

The kinds of situations that are considered to be child-related work are listed in the Worker Screening Act 2020 (Vic)(opens in a new window). It usually involves direct contact with a child. It is irrelevant whether the person is being supervised or not.

Work

'Work' is not child-related work just because there may be occasional direct contact that is incidental to the work.

Work includes 'work':

  • under contract of employment,
  • as a minister of religion or as part of the duties of a religious vocation
  • as an officer of a body corporate, committee member, member of a partnership
  • practical training as part of educational or vocational course
  • as a volunteer, including as unpaid community work under a community treatment order.

Work does not include unpaid work engaged in for a private domestic purpose.

See Working with children check—When you need a check(opens in a new window) and ss. 3(1)—Worker Screening Act 2020 (Vic)(opens in a new window).

Direct contact

Direct contact means:

  • physical contact
  • face-to-face contact
  • contact by post or other written communication
  • contact by phone or other oral communication
  • contact by email or other electronic communication.

See s. 3(1)—Worker Screening Act 2020 (Vic)(opens in a new window).

What checks are done?

The Department of Justice and Community Safety will investigate the applicant's criminal history. Decision-makers must be mindful of the overarching principle under the Act, which is to protect children from physical and psychological harm. If the person gets a clearance, they will be issued with a card which remains current for 5 years.

Not all offences are relevant, and some are treated more seriously than others. The kinds of offences that are relevant are divided into 3 categories (Category A is the most serious). This check involves:

  • a national police records check that looks at person's criminal history specifically serious sexual, violence or drug-related offences, and
  • a review of relevant findings from prescribed professional disciplinary bodies.

See Prior offences and failing the check.

Offence to work without a clearance

A person can be fined if they do child-related work without a working with children clearance or if they have been given an exclusion.

See ss. 121, 122—Worker Screening Act 2020 (Vic)(opens in a new window).

Employers and agencies have to make sure employees have been checked

Employers, agencies and volunteer organisations can be fined if they do not check to make sure that the kind of work the person will be doing requires them to have a working with children clearance. They must ask to see the person's WWC clearance card.

See ss. 123, 124—Worker Screening Act 2020 (Vic)(opens in a new window).

More information

Legislation

Worker Screening Act 2020 (Vic)

  • s. 3—defines 'direct contact'
  • s. 7 defines 'child-related work', 'word'
  • s. 11—protection of children is paramount consideration

Chapter 3—Working with children screening

  • s. 121—engaging in child-related work without a working with children clearance
  • s. 122—offence for person given a working with children exclusion to apply for child-related work
  • s. 123—offence to engage a person who does not have a working with children clearance
  • s. 124—offence for agency to offer the services of a person who does not have a working with children clearance
  • Schedule 2—WWC category A offences (most serious)
  • Schedule 4—WWC category B offences

See Worker Screening Act 2020 (Vic)(opens in a new window).

Reference

Department of Justice and Community Safety (DJCS)

The working with children check website explains what the check involves and and how to apply.

See:

Updated