Stronger working with children laws passed

Legislation to strengthen working with children laws was passed by the Victorian Parliament last night.

Under the new legislation, all work done by a minister of religion, regardless of religion, faith or congregation, will be treated as child-related work requiring a Working with Children Check unless any contact is only occasional and incidental.

Under existing laws, ministers of religion are not required to hold Working with Children Checks unless their contact with children is direct and unsupervised.

“These reforms implement an important recommendation of the Betrayal of Trust report,” Attorney-General, Robert Clark, said.

“The changes make clear that all ministers who have contact with children in their congregation as part of their work, or who visit or take part in church schools, kindergartens, Sunday schools, youth camps or any other church activities involving children, will need to have a Working with Children Check,” Mr Clark said.

“These reforms build on a suite of changes introduced by the Victorian Coalition Government to improve the safety of children following theBetrayal of Trust report.

“The Napthine Government has introduced new anti-grooming laws and has created a new offence for people in positions of authority who fail to protect children and another new offence for failing to disclose to police that a child is being abused, as well as requirements for organisations working with children to meet new child safe standards.”

Other amendments to the Working with Children Check laws included in legislation passed last night ensure that the protection of children is the paramount consideration for all decision-makers when deciding whether to issue a Working with Children Check clearance.

The legislation also includes clearer definitions and offence classifications, and greater powers to revoke a Woking with Children Check where a person fails to provide required information.

It makes clear that the role of the Working with Children Check is to screen a person’s criminal history and not to assess their suitability to work with children. This is the responsibility of organisations as they must consider other important factors when deciding whether prospective employees or volunteers should be engaged to work with children.