Posted on 09. Jun, 2010 in News

Children will be further protected under proposed changes to the Working with Children Check as the number of checks issued exceeds 620,000, Deputy Premier and Attorney-General Rob Hulls said today.

Introducing the Working with Children Amendment Bill 2010 to Parliament today, Mr Hulls said Victorians had demonstrated their commitment to protecting children, with 624,236 assessment notices issued to people who work or volunteer with children in the four years to May 31, 2010.

“The Working with Children Check is a state-wide minimum standard introduced in 2006 which aims to prevent people who are a safety risk, such as child sex offenders, from working with children,” Mr Hulls said.

“The responsibility of protecting our children demands that the check be kept under constant scrutiny and these amendments will provide additional protection, streamlined administration and improved information sharing between agencies.”

Mr Hulls said while registered sex offenders, or people subject to an extended supervision order or detention order are currently denied Working with Children Checks, the new legislation would add an extra layer of protection by prohibiting them from even applying for an assessment notice, and subjecting them to penalties if they try.

He said the proposed legislation improved information sharing between similar screening units in other jurisdictions and required the Chief Commissioner of Police to notify the Secretary of the Department of Justice of any offence that presented an unjustifiable risk to the safety of children.

“The legislation allows the Secretary to suspend an assessment notice if a person undergoing re-assessment fails to provide the requested information, meaning they will not lawfully be able to work with children until that request is fulfilled,” Mr Hulls said.

“At the same time, the new laws simplify the renewal process required after five years.

“It also makes it an offence if applicants and assessment notice holders fail to notify the Secretary of a change of employer, agency or volunteer organisation within 21 days of the change occurring.”

Mr Hulls said in the fourth year of the five year phase-in, the check had been successful in preventing many people who were a safety risk from working with children, including 436 people who were refused a card.

“The Working with Children Check is an example of a strong and continuing partnership between the community and Government, working to create safe environments for Victorian children while supporting volunteers and workers,” Mr Hulls said.

As part of the check, the Department of Justice conducts a national criminal history check and considers findings from relevant professional bodies. It is a criminal offence to work or volunteer in designated occupational categories without a valid check, with a maximum penalty of up to two years’ jail and/or a $28,000 fine.

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