Victorian Government to tighten tests for working with children checks
Thursday, 24 May 2012 14:22

The Victorian Coalition Government has today introduced legislation into Parliament to crack down on applicants being authorised to work with children when they have previous convictions for serious crimes.

Attorney-General Robert Clark said the Coalition Government had become increasingly concerned about the legal tests for issuing checks that it had inherited from the previous Labor government.

"In recent years, a number of decisions by the Victorian Civil and Administrative Tribunal have overturned decisions by the Department of Justice refusing working with children clearances to applicants with serious criminal histories," Mr Clark said.

"The Government believes that the top priority for working with children checks should be the interests of children and their families. However, the current tests are too focused instead on the interests of the individuals who apply for checks.

"The amendments we are introducing today will require that before VCAT can overturn a refusal of a working with children check by the Department, VCAT will have to be satisfied that a reasonable person would allow his or her child to have direct unsupervised contact with the applicant.

"VCAT will also need to be satisfied that an applicant is suitable to engage in any type of child-related work without posing an unjustifiable risk to the safety of children. At present, VCAT often considers only the particular type of work with children that the applicant says he or she wishes to undertake," Mr Clark said.

The same new tests that will apply to reviews of refusals by VCAT will also apply to assessments of suitability by the Department of Justice.

Other amendments being introduced today will prevent a person with a serious prior conviction from engaging in child-related work while his or her application for a check is assessed, and will specify murder as an offence for which the Department must automatically issue a negative notice.

"These amendments will strengthen the operation of the working with children check scheme to better ensure that families can be confident about the people who work with their children," Mr Clark said.