Any individual working with children in Australia is required by law to obtain a Working with Children Check (WWC check) or its equivalent – Blue card (QLD); Ochre card (NT) and Working with Vulnerable People Registration (WWVP) (ACT). The WWC check was introduced in response to incidents where those who had previously been convicted for child related crimes were able to work in positions where they had direct contact with children.
What is the purpose of the Working With Children Check?
The WWC check has three main purposes:
1. To deter people with a criminal record that indicates they may cause harm to a child from applying for positions that involve working around children.
2. It enables employers to detect new convictions of those who currently hold a WWC check and prevents them from continuing in the kind of employment where they are able to harm a child.
3. It helps protect children from predators and raises awareness of child safety in the community.
Who needs a Working With Children Check?
Anyone who engages in paid or voluntary child related work requires a WWC check. Each state and territory has a list of occupations defined as child related and include roles in places such as child care services, kindergartens, educational institution, care of children, and detention centres. Some states list specific occupations while others list the type of role. WA lists the location of the jobs that require a WWC check. Occupations include children’s health services, early education, and child care and transport for children.
In some instances, you will be exempt from the requirement to produce a working with children check, for example if you are a parent or close relative of a child and you are volunteering at the child care centre or school they go to. Other exemptions of the screening process include working in a role that is not child related or only involves contact when other adults are present such as a child entertainer or sports referee. Each state and territory has its own categories for exemptions.
Who is not eligible for a Working With Children Check?
If you have a criminal history, you may not be able to obtain a clearance to work with children. People who have been convicted of child-sex offences of any kind including filming or images, murder, manslaughter of a child, physically harming a child and kidnapping are all convictions that will disqualify a person from obtaining a WWC check.
When should I apply for my Working With Children Check?
Some places, for example the NT, suggest applying six months prior to beginning employment. If you are studying towards a child care qualification, put your application in as soon as possible. Some locations allow you to begin work as soon as you have applied, depending on your own circumstances but most places will require the WWC check to be approved before you can start working in a child-related industry.
How do I apply for a Working With Children Check?
You are required to fill out a form, which is usually found on the government website of the state and territory you reside in. Alternatively, your child care employer may provide the form for you. You will need to make separate applications for each state or territory, even if you have obtained one already in the place you currently live.
Some states allow you to apply online, others require paper forms to be filled in which can be obtained at the local Post Office. In this case each form has a numeric identifier on it. For online forms you may require a passport size photo. You will need to provide information about the category of work you are applying for and may have to state the organisation you will be working for.
Collect all the required information before you begin your application. You will need the following:
- Credit or debit card for payment
- Email address
- Current Australian address, both residential and postal
- Identity documents:
- Australian driver licence or learner permit
- Australian passport
Other government-issued ID
- Medicare card
- Foreign passport with Australian visa
- Australian birth certificate
- Australian citizenship certificate
- Pensioner concession card
- Health care card
- Commonwealth seniors’ health card
What do I do if my Working With Children Check application is turned down?
If you fail the WWC check you will be excluded from all occupations that are child-related. If you have not been convicted of an offence that includes serious child abuse you are allowed to request a review of the decision.
If you are excluded, you cannot reapply for another five years, and will need to find other employment which is not child related. Before considering jobs that require a WWC check you should study the list of offences and exclusions and see if you are likely to be eligible to receive one.
If a person who is working with children is subsequently charged with a crime that is listed in the exclusion category or becomes subject to reporting obligations or supervision under the Sex Offenders Registration Act 2004 (VIC) they are obliged to report this to the government agency, and their WWC check will be revoked.
Renewing your Working With Children Check
The WWC check is not a set and forget certificate. It will expire after a set number of years according to the state or territory you reside in and you will have to reapply to continue working in your child related field. Make sure you are aware when your card expires, or you may end up in breach of compliance for your organisation.
Organisations are responsible for ensuring all their employees have valid WWC checks. If any of their employees does not have an eligible check, they are liable to penalties. As well as the financial penalty, organisations that have not ensured all their employees have a current WWC check are putting children in danger and failing to protect them from harm.
Working With Children Check by state or territory
Expiry: 3 years
Application Fee: Employed: $87, Student or volunteers: $11
Fines for Organisation: Maximum – $60000
Fines for Individual: Maximum – $60000 and/or 5 years jail
Expiry: 5 years
Application Fee: Employed: $80, Student or volunteers: Free
Fines for Organisation: Maximum – $11,000
Fines for Individual: Maximum – 2 years jail and/or $11,000
Expiry: 5 years
Application Fee: Employed: $121, Student or volunteer: Free
Fines for Organisation: Maximum – $198,264
Fines for Individual: Maximum – $89000 and/or 2 years
Expiry: 3 years
Application Fee: Employed: $99.55, Student or volunteers: Free
Fines for Organisation: Maximum – $6800
Fines for Individual: Maximum – $68,925 and/or 5 years jail
Expiry: 3 years
Application Fee: Employed: $115, Student or volunteers: $19.80
Expiry: 3 years
Application Fee: Employed: $87 Student or volunteer: $11
Fines for Organisation: Maximum – Max $7000 and/or 2 years jail
Fines for Individual: Maximum – Max $7000 and/or 2 years jail
Expiry: 2 years
Application Fee: Employed: $74 Student or volunteers: $7
Fines for Organisation: Maximum – Max $76500
Fines for Individual: Maximum – Max $76500