ID Cards To Protect Children
HUNDREDS of thousands of workers and volunteers will have to carry photo ID cards proving they have passed police checks to be around children under new laws.
About 670,000 people involved in child-based activities who have regular, direct and unsupervised contact with children under 18 will be required to have police checks before being issued with a permit.
The Working With Children laws will cover activities from child care and children's hospital wards to foster carers and sporting and social clubs.
Anyone caught without a permit will face up to two years' jail or a $240,000 fine.
Premier Steve Bracks yesterday said the laws, to be introduced to Parliament today, were about protecting children from harm while allowing people to go about their business.
Mr Bracks said the checks would ensure those working with children had not been found guilty of a serious sex, violence or drug offence or of serious professional misconduct.
Parents, grandparents, older siblings and uncles and aunties involved in activities that a child from their own family normally participates in will be exempt from checks.
People under 18, visitors to Victoria and teachers and police, who already have compulsory checks, will be exempt.
Mr Bracks said the new law would be applied with common sense and the Government was open to making future adjustments should unexpected outcomes arise.
As the Herald Sun revealed in April, checks for volunteers will be free, with $20 million put aside in the State Budget to cover the cost of the $70 checks.
Australian Council for Children & Youth Organisations CEO Netty Horton said the new laws were a good start.
The Opposition backed the changes but said confusion still surrounded details such as what is meant by regular, direct and unsupervised contact.
To be phased in over five years from next April, the first round of checks will be undertaken on child protection workers, juvenile justice workers, foster carers, childcare workers, those involved in school camps and school crossing attendants.
Next will be non-teaching staff in schools, pre-schools and kindergartens, religious organisations and workers in refuges and residential facilities.
By mid-2009 workers in pediatric wards, commercial child-minding and babysitting services, will have been checked, followed by private coaches and tutors and clubs and associations.
The last checks will be on workers at commercial entertainment centres, children's gym or play facilities and photography and talent services specifically for children.
Once a permit is issued continuing checks will be automatic, with the database to be linked to Crimtrack, the national police database and various professional databases.
Anyone on the Sex Offenders Register or subject to an extended supervision order under the Serious Sex Offender Monitoring Act will be automatically banned from working with children and cannot appeal.
People charged with offences such as murder, rape, kidnapping and drug trafficking or cultivation offences will also be automatically banned but can appeal to the Victorian Civil and Administrative Tribunal.
People with serious professional misconduct records will have their applications determined at the discretion of Secretary of the Department of Justice and can also appeal.
Herald Sun (20-7-2005)