One of the recommendations from the Betrayal of Trust Report in Victoria was that the Government clarify the requirements for religious organisations to ensure ministers of religion have a current Working with Children Check.

A minister with children in his or her congregation or who otherwise comes into contact with children as part of his or her duties will be required to obtain a WWCC.  Child-related work includes work engaged in as a minister of religion or as part of the duties of a religious vocation and therefore covers work as a School Chaplain.  

Ministers of religion are currently only required to obtain a WWCC in relation to child-related work if such work usually or is likely to involve regular direct contact with a child that is not directly supervised.  "Direct contact" is currently any contact that is physical, face to face oral communication or physically being within eyeshot.  

From 26 October 2014, as a result of amendments to the Working with Children Act 2005 (Vic), all work done by a minister of religion, including work at a school, will be treated as child-related work.  However, such work will not be child-related work if there will only be occasional direct contact with children that is incidental to the work of the minister.  

Further:  

  • direct contact will no longer include being within physical eyeshot (this phrase was considered to make the application of the definition of "direct contact" too difficult to apply)  
  • religious leaders in any organised religious institution or congregation will be required to undergo a WWCC unless their role involves only occasional direct contact with children that is incidental to their work (this clarifies that it is not the intention of the Act to require a person, including a minister of religion, to have a WWCC when the person doing the work has only occasional direct contact with children that is incidental to the work).  

Under the Act, a minister of religion is defined as follows:  

  • a person ordained or appointed as a recognised religious leader in an organised religious institution;  
  • the appointed leader of a local religious congregation in an organised religious institution who has general authority over the operations of that congregation within the institution.