The Tasmanian Department of Health and Human Services has recently initiated consultation on draft legislation, namely; the Working with Vulnerable People (Background Checking) Bill 2013. The draft Bill proposes to introduce legislation to support a system of centralised background checking and risk assessment processes for individuals who are working with children and other people considered to be vulnerable people in Tasmania.
In Tasmania to date there has been no specific legislation requiring specific screening for working with children, however employers have often acted on their own discretion to request Criminal History/Police Checks.
The draft Bill currently open for consultation is reported as being "the final product of an extensive analysis of issues at national and state levels on the subject of creating safe environments and maintaining safe organisations for children and other vulnerable people". The centralised screening process proposed in the draft Bill is considered one of the strategies that will support creating and maintaining those safe environments.
The key premise of the proposed law is that by granting individuals what could be described as an "occupational license" to work with children, to work with vulnerable people or to work with both children and vulnerable people, then vulnerable people and their families and carers can be assured that all individuals delivering vital services have been subject to a minimum level of checking.
There are a number of "Working With Children Checks" and "Police Checks" that are different types of pre-employment screening programs which ensure child-safe working environments in Australia.
The pre-employment screening of adults and volunteers who come in contact with children is mandatory and legislated across most states and territories in Australia. At present however, there is no national framework setting out the requirements for obtaining a Working With Children Check (or Police Checks) instead each state and territory has their own procedures and requirements as follows:
New South Wales: In NSW the Commission for Children and Young People is responsible for the Working with Children Check, which helps determine whether people are suitable to work in child related employment. A check list aims to create workplaces where children are safe and protected, and where the people who work with children are appropriately screened (see below at Sources for a link).
South Australia: Under the Children's Protection Act (s 8B), people in SA who work in jobs requiring regular contact with children are required to obtain police clearance before they commence employment. A National Police Certificate application form is available from the SA Police Department.
Queensland, Victoria, Western Australia and the Northern Territory: In Qld, Vic, WA and the NT Working With Children certification (valid for different periods of time in each state) is provided to work in child-related areas. The system is structured so that if a criminal offence is committed whilst the check is valid employers are contacted by the administering authority and can withdraw the certification.
Australian Capital Territory: The ACT has enacted legislation with the Working with Vulnerable People (Background Checking) Act 2011 (No. 44 of 2011) and useful information on the legislation can be located here.
Consultation on the proposed Tasmania Draft Legislation closes on 11 October 2013. A copy of the draft Bill is available on LawOne for TimeBase subscribers and a series of Fact Sheets on the subject can be found at the Tasmanian Office for Children Website. For national coverage of the topic the National Crime Check website provides a useful overview and links to even more information.
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