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This article was written by Sally Crosswell

Sally Crosswell has a Bachelor of Laws (Hons), a Bachelor of Communication and a Master of International and Community Development. She also completed a Graduate Diploma of Legal Practice at the College of Law. A former journalist, Sally has a keen interest in human rights law.

Working With Children Check (VIC)


A Working With Children Check clearance is generally required by those who work or volunteer with children in “child-related work” in Victoria. The system aims to keep children safe from harm by assessing and monitoring those involved in activities such as childcare, education and sport.

Working With Children Checks are governed by the Working with Children Act 2005 and administered by the Department of Justice and Community Safety. A “positive notice” lasts for five years unless it is revoked by the department.

“Child-related work”

The Act defines “child-related work” as work at or for a service, body or place, or an activity, that usually involves direct contact with a child. Such services, bodies, places or activities include:

  • child protection;
  • child care;
  • educational institutions;
  • detention centres;
  • accommodation;
  • paediatric wards of hospitals;
  • clubs, associations or other bodies providing services for children (cultural, recreational or sport);
  • religious groups;
  • fostering children;
  • transport services;
  • coaching or tuition;
  • counselling;
  • overnight camps;
  • school crossing services;
  • entertainment or party services.

Applications and screening

There are 3 categories of applications. The Department of Justice and Community Safety must conduct a police record check on every applicant.

Category A

An applicant under this category must not be given a Working With Children Check positive notice, due to them having committed an offence such as rape or a child abuse offence.

Category B

An applicant in this category has been convicted or found guilty of an offence such as a drug offence, armed robbery, child neglect, or a sexual offence against a child. The department must not issue a positive notice to an applicant in this category unless it is satisfied the applicant does not pose an unjustifiable risk to the safety of children.

In making an assessment, the department can consider factors such as:

  • the nature and gravity of the offence;
  • the time since the offence;
  • the sentence imposed for the offence;
  • the age of the person at the time of offence;
  • the age of any victim at the time of offence;
  • the likelihood of repeat offending;
  • whether the offence has been decriminalised since the offending.

In granting a Working with Children Check positive notice, the department must be satisfied that a reasonable person would allow their child to have direct contact with the applicant while the applicant was engaged in any type of child-related work.

Category C

An applicant in this category must be granted a Working with Children Check positive notice unless the department is satisfied the applicant would pose an unjustifiable risk to the safety of children, and that a reasonable person would not allow their child to have direct contact with the applicant while the applicant was engaged in any type of child-related work.

Exemptions

People who are exempt from a Working With Children Check include:

  • a parent volunteering at a child’s activity;
  • a child’s close relative is engaging in child-related work and is required to have direct contact with the child (including grandparents and half-siblings);
  • anyone aged under 18;
  • an adult student aged under 20 who is volunteering at their educational institution;
  • a registered teacher;
  • a police officer;
  • anyone visiting Victoria for fewer than 30 days.

Offences

It is an offence for a person to engage in child-related work without a Working With Children Check positive notice, and they know it is child-related work, and they know they do not have a positive notice. The maximum penalty is a fine of 240 penalty units ($39,652.80) or imprisonment for 2 years, or both.

It is a defence to the charge if the person had applied for a Working With Children Check and it had not been decided, or they were exempt. It is also a defence if the person had been issued a negative notice and they were in the process of being transferred into work that was not child-related work.

A person who had been issued a negative notice must not apply for or engage in child-related work. The maximum penalty is a fine of 240 penalty units ($39,652.80) or imprisonment for 2 years, or both. It is a defence if the person did not know the work was child-related work.

A person must not allow a worker to engage in child-related work if the person knows the worker does not have a Working With Children Check positive notice. The maximum penalty is a fine of 240 penalty units ($39,652.80) or imprisonment for 2 years, or both. It is a defence if the worker had applied for a Working With Children Check, or was exempt, or was in the process of being transferred into work that was not child-related work, or was having their employment terminated.

An agency must not offer the services of a worker in child-related work when the agency knows the worker does not have a Working With Children Check positive notice. The maximum penalty is a fine of 240 penalty units ($39,652.80) or imprisonment for 2 years, or both. It is a defence if the worker had applied for a Working With Children Check, or was exempt.

For advice on Working with Children Checks or representation in any legal matter, please contact Armstrong Legal.

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