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Child Sex Fears Over Volunteers

THOUSANDS of volunteers working with young people could be forced to reveal if they have a criminal history in a bid to protect children from sexual predators.
Paedophiles are feared to be taking jobs that bring them into contact with children because background checks are not required for volunteers in NSW.
The Daily Telegraph can reveal that Ombudsman Bruce Barbour is working on a recommendation to the Iemma Government aimed at tightening the rules for volunteer workers.
Concerns for the safety of children follow an explosion in the number of sexual predators using internet-capable mobile phones and computers to target and "groom" their victims.
At one private school a parent volunteer failed to disclose he had been charged with sexual offences against a child. The volunteer was later convicted of aggravated indecent assault and sexual assault.
Mr Barbour said child protection safeguards generally worked well but there were "growing challenges" around volunteer organisations that did not have monitoring systems.
These include hundreds of sports clubs, youth clubs and other organisations that are not subject to working-with-children checks. Parents who volunteer to work in schools are a major group in this category.
"This is an area to work at, one that is a potential risk in the future," Mr Barbour said.
"Maybe we need to identify the high-risk areas such as where kids spend time (with an adult) unsupervised or on overnight (excursions). We might have the Government look at it through some recommendations."
The Commission for Children and Young People met significant resistance when it canvassed plans to extend the checking system to volunteer organisations.
In a submission to the Special Commission of Inquiry into Child Protection Services headed by Justice James Wood, the CCYP said it did not want to "impose unrealistic administrative burdens on volunteer organisations".
The CCYP said safeguards would be needed to ensure the "sensitive information" provided through background checking remained confidential.

Daily Telegraph (12-5-2008)
Bruce McDougall

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