The work of the New South Wales, Queensland and South Australian arms of the Royal Commission Into Institutional Responses To Child Sexual Abuse has commenced already.  New South Wales has already acquired permanent premises at 1 Farrer Street, Sydney and plans to open its premises in July 2013.  New South Wales and Queensland have commenced taking evidence from victims in private sessions, with South Australia and Western Australia to follow shortly.

The Royal Commission has foreshadowed that it will be releasing issues papers on a range of topics that are relevant to the work of the Royal Commission.  The topics of such future issues papers will shortly be published on the Royal Commission’s website (http://www.childabuseroyalcommission.gov.au).

On 17 June 2013, the Royal Commission released its first Issues Paper seeking submissions from interested parties in relation to the issues raised by the working with children check.

Issue

All Australian states and territories have a system whereby, in general terms, adults working with children, on a paid or unpaid basis, are subject to some level of pre-employment screening to determine their suitability to work with children.

In the majority of states, individuals need to apply for a Working With Children Check (WWCC) before they may work in child-related employment.  The sources used for screening checks vary across states and territories, but may include a police check, criminal history check, relevant employment proceedings and / or findings from professional disciplinary bodies.

A number of individuals and organisations have raised with the Royal Commission that the WWCC should be nationally and consistently applied.

Submissions sought by the Royal Commission

The Royal Commission is seeking submissions from interested individuals and government and non-government organisations on this issue.  The following matters are of particular interest to the Royal Commission:

  1. Should there be a national WWCC?
  2. What features should be included in any national scheme?
  3. If there is no national scheme, should there be minimum requirementsfor each state and territory scheme?
  4. How long should any clearance be granted for?
  5. Should a person be able to commence work before the check iscompleted?
  6. How should child-related work be defined?
  7. How should child-related sectors and roles be defined?
  8. Are current exemptions for a WWCC adequate or appropriate – in particular, should a WWCC apply to those:
    1. living in the homes of children in out-of-home care?
    2. parent volunteers?
  9. What records should be included in the check? For example, should  the check include juvenile records?
  10. How should an appeal process operate?
  11. What issues arise from the current regime of records that result in automatic barring of a person from working with children?
  12. The adequacy of the risk assessment process.
  13. To what degree should the WWCC minimise the need for institutionsto establish clear processes for responding to inappropriate behaviourof staff in child-related positions?
  14. How should the effectiveness of any existing or proposed WWCC be evaluated and / or monitored?

Submissions are welcomed on any aspect of the WWCC.  Submissions will be made public unless the person making the submission requests that it not be made public or the Royal Commission considers it should not be made public.  That will usually only occur for reasons associated with fairness.

The Royal Commission has requested that submissions on this Issue be made by Monday 12 August 2013, preferably electronically, to solicitor@childabuseroyalcommission.gov.au, otherwise in writing to GPO Box 5283, Sydney NSW 2001.