CHOICE membership

WWCC - Working With Children Check: Is It Working? Is It Enough?

Anyone in Australia who works or volunteers in a role that involves children will be familiar with the Working With Children Check (WWCC, a Government check provided as a service to the public to ensure our kids are safe from ‘bad people’) and should have such a clearance … shouldn’t they?

Well, nearly everyone … or at least most will … unless your organisation doesn’t mandate having one for certain roles, or doesn’t oversee/administer/police it strictly enough, or at all, or unless a person qualifies for an exemption under one of the myriad of different exemptions available variously across the different jurisdictions that administer such checks - for example:

Yes … really …

Of course, a WWCC will only uncover people who have a defined history/conviction related to abuse or other act that is deemed to make them unsuitable - which also varies by jurisdiction. ‘Bad people’ who are yet to be caught ‘being bad’ can easily get a WWCC or equivalent, hardly surprising …

If one searches for “working with children” and your state/territory one should fairly quickly find the relevant information. Some variations and nicknames are used, “Ochre Card” in the Northern Territory, “Blue Card” in Queensland, “Working with Vulnerable” People in ACT and Tasmania … but things they have in common are excessive size, complexity, a myriad of exemptions and lack of enforcement from what I can tell.

On the subject of exemptions - some jurisdictions specifically allow for a workplace or association/club/etc to demand more than the legislation requires of an individual employee or volunteer - ie WWCC or no role even if there is an exemption under the relevant legislation.

Some questions/etc I would raise are:

  • Why should the cost of such a check be different for people ‘working’ to people who are ‘volunteers’, moreover why should there be a cost at all? This is one area where I am happy for my taxes to be invested in our future (our kids), as I see it.
  • Why would there ever be exemptions? Take the police for example, set the standard which for them is so easy to comply with - I’m sure they have full criminal records checks done simply as a matter of course for their job, so issue them with a WWCC - see, even I have one, says Inspector Plod.
  • Why is there (apparently) little or no effective auditing of records relating to WWCC? Companies are required to submit tax returns/etc, clubs and associations are required to submit financials to the government on a regular basis, why not the status of their peoples WWCC. If children are involved in a given organisation as participants, customers, whatever then surely anyone who has a defined job, role, etc should have a WWCC - include the grounds-people, cleaners, back-room/office people, etc. Try getting approval to serve alcohol at a given business or organisation - harder than working with children by a long shot. Clubs involved with firearms - far more controls on the firearms than people working with children there (not saying there shouldn’t be controls on firearms ownership/use, but equally there should be controls on people in contact with children).
  • I’m sure there is more …

A bit of a touchy subject. I wouldn’t be surprised if there are people who have had a WWCC refused for some reason that seem arguably not relevant to the safety of children. I know only too well there are people who have had their children at significant risk due to a number of factors, some of which detailed above.

For me, this is a bit of a zero tolerance topic. I’d be very interested in the experiences and thoughts of others …

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Even the idea it could be otherwise is frightening. Would it be AI or a psychological test requirement to detect who might even in theory be predisposed to offend? How else could it work?

We have a local club that has been refusing to mandate members have a WWCC check for many years. Their argument includes the cost/complexity for members who do not directly interact with children, and the reality they are at arms length from children who are their main ‘customer’, excepting a ‘ticket collector’ taking tickets or if a safety breach occurs and someone has to take protective action.

I know many who decline getting involved in various community things because of the WWCC and similar [onerous] requirements to do so. It is a tricky political problem to do something without dissuading the pool of volunteers.

If you have nothing to hide, why would that be the case? Just because it is human nature. Not even the most honourable or the most crooked pollie will willing expose themselves to an ICAC-like so why should the ‘people on the streets’ is another argument I hear.

As you wrote the actual checks and exemptions behind a WWCC are spotty and make their real value questionable, but the process might deter the most egregious.

Which of our government operates as anything but user pays? We have come to accept our tax dollars fund pollie pay and perks, defence such as it is, pork barrel projects, and everything else is an add-on funded by fees by whatever word they use. It is like the ETA for foreign visitors; it is free but there is a $20 service charge. :expressionless: We willingly with only minor whinging pay top dollars in the world for passports. Driver licenses? $US26 for 6 years in Texas, $283.60 for ten in Victoria. Not counting that government fees are indexed but wages are not. Sorry for straying but you posed a valid question and ‘we’ have voted for government as it has become over many decades with Tweedledee and Tweedledum being much of a muchness.

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I do some volunteering and if I were asked for a Blue Card check (QLD),and had to pay for it myself (about $100 in Qld), then this would be a significant impediment to volunteering due to cost. I believe that there is merit for volunteers to have free bluecards or at least the organisation where the volunteering occurs to to able to do their own free checks. Volunteers save the community and taxpayer significant amounts of money each year, and providing some support to volunteers in return overrides any cost to due such searches.

In Queensland, parents are exempt from bluecards where a parents is volunteering in the same location as their own child (such as in a classroom). There has been discussion whether parents who volunteer at say schools should be subject to the same checks as a non-parent.

I think if they start including parents in the blurcard checks, then all employees of any company/organisation that employs or has minors should also be subject to the same checks (such as all employees of a fast food outlet who employee minors etc).

Then where does the checking stop…all retail workers as they will be in contact with minors, anyone who works in a public place as there could be minors etc etc.

It is also worth noting that most abuse occurs from family members or close friends. Broadening the net to capture more and more for a check is unlikely to have any merits or real measurable effect.

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I have had held a WWCC in both NSW and now the NT. The cost of obtaining one entails the cost of a police check. Just to clarify that any police check required costs money.

The issue with the police check is that it’s relevant to the state that you apply only. I’m not convinced that it’s a national police check even but really, due to the importance that is placed on the WWCC, surely the minimum should be a Federal Police Check.

Another issue with the WWCC is, it’s not that familiar to people who don’t require it. In my mind, I’d you hold a WWCC or Ochre Card as it’s known here in the NT, that should be enough to secure your ID but it’s not recognised and I’ve never been asked to present mine when I’ve applied for a job that requires it and I have been required to undergo another police check while in recent possession of a WWCC for a job.
So…
What’s the point of it? I’ll explain.
I had my WWCC approved. Two weeks later, I applied for a job that required a WWCC and a police check. I explained that I had had a police check 2 weeks ago to obtain my WWCC but they said it didn’t matter. You’ll have to have another one. So 2 X $49 in 4 weeks for two police checks through the same venue, Safe NT who do the checks.
So in my mind, it’s pointless to a degree.

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This system is sooooo painful. We employ plumbers and when it first started we are told to get Blue Cards (QLD) so we could do the plumbing at schools. We went through the process paid got them issued. A few months later we started a new employee and the department advised we shouldn’t have Blue Cards as we were not working directly with children and we had to sent all of our previously issued ones back. Fast forward 5-6 years and we needed to have them again. So basically if we have to go into a childcare center and clear a blocked toilet (no children are allowed in the area when we are doing this), the centers insist on us having a blue card. Blue cards are only in Qld. So we then have to have federal police checks and it goes on and on. All of this is the same no matter what industry you are in or what the regulation is. The people that are going the to do the right thing will and the ones that don’t won’t ever and will try and work out ways around any system

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Part of the solution can be making it a criminal offense to not take adequate steps to protect children in your care. That way organisations are held accountable to do their own training and checks in addition to a mandated WWCC.

I have done work on a church council for a smaller denomination. They did not make notable appearances at the royal commission into institutional abuse, but none the less decided to strengthen training to protect against it. As a council member I was required to undergo a training course that covered various aspect of identifying potential abuse and preventing it

In a similar way criminal liability could drive training specific to each organisation/business, rather than a broad approach which works for some but not others. And it would allow proper punishment of people who allow abuse in their care through negligence.

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I am in Melbourne and have a working with children certificate since I can be around kids in animal shelter work and junior yacht racing. It cost nothing, as a volunteer, to apply and get the subsequent photo card.

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If someone gets through the process and offends, who and how is responsibility assigned? What is an ‘adequate step’ in law? If the step failed a plaintive argument could be it was not adequate so criminal penalties apply. If ‘adequate steps’ are enumerated they could become check box exercises, so back to deuce?

If a club does due diligence but fails, does the club suffer? Are the officers liable as if company directors trading whilst insolvent? Would there be any officers willing to be in office with that exposure? So many questions to what should seem a straight forward problem…

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Well ultimately whether ‘reasonable steps’ were taken is always clearer in retrospect. Could further vetting have prevented the incident or was it not predictable/out of their control? And in organisations like these there’s always people with dedicated roles to manage these incidents (I oversaw the appointment of ours in my earlier mentioned role). It would then be up to a court to assess whether the incident was reasonably preventable.

I just brought up this idea because of my experience volunteering with an organisation in this area

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Some time back I posted a topic in the Lounge regarding being ‘a good idea to volunteer on the committee’ - the summary being, in my view, it’s a great thing to do if ones peers and members are of like mind, otherwise to do so would be lunacy. Many office bearers are already incredibly exposed because they have never read or understood their own constitution and the Act - and typically Governments seem to want to foster associations (clubs) so they aren’t heavy handed until forced to be, which sadly means they are often incredibly lenient.

I suspect there would be very few willing to put their hand up if they understood their legal responsibilities and what is at risk if they don’t ‘do the right thing’ as things stand now.

I feel all the club would need to do as ‘due diligence’ is implement a policy that all office bearers and people with defined roles (coaches, assistants, etc if not already office bearers, canteen staff, umpires, whatever) must have a current WWCC - no check, sit in a chair and watch. Additionally some promotion of WWCC - signs saying its OK to ask if someone has one, and telling people they need one for to participate in a role. It’s fairly trivial stuff, but then I’ve seen enormous failures with things as simple as a key register, so …

Maybe the prospect of being charged with aiding and abetting a child sex offender might help them take it seriously? :wink: Probably not … but I’m currently a member of three national organisations that appear to have not a single policy in place about WWC - they all have something to say about alcohol, smoking, drugs (some would say I repeat myself), dogs, mobile phones - all the important things, but not a whisper about the formality of WWC …

If a bad person slips through, and the club has done some due diligence, the law should then protect the people in said roles … shouldn’t it? I wouldn’t mind betting it doesn’t …

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In the days BEFORE the introduction of the Working with Children (Risk Management and Screening) Act 2000 in Qld, well-known youth organisations did police checks (at their expense, not the expense of the would-be volunteer).

Nationally the term “blue card” refers to trade qualification held by professional trades men and women in the construction industry. No idea how the term “blue card” became slang/idiom for Working with Children Check card (I’ve had one of them and it wasn’t coloured blue!).

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Not being a Queenslander since 1974 I am far from expert and could not find the history but in Qld the card is apparently blue in these times, and the Qld agency is ‘Blue Card Services

The term ‘blue card’ is not used for WWC checks in other states.

There is also a Qld Yellow card for police checks, a term also not apparently shared by other states.

Maybe calling them by colour keeps it simple in the public eye and makes it less onerous in the minds of applicants?

In Victoria a coloured card is foremost a sports thing.

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old cards, new cards, ochre cards, blue cards …

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The Qld Construction Industry did have a ‘blue card’ which was effectively a generic safety induction scheme to ensure all workers met a minimum standard of safe work.

It’s now white although holders of the older ‘blue cards’ appear to be accepted unless otherwise noted.

P.S.
Just how many cards do we need?

I have a Qld Construction Industry ‘blue card’ from ten+ years back some where. Along with a collection of various industry and employer issued induction or authorisations. Duplicated across two states to ensure a full set! Some with photo ID that was acceptable at the time when you needed some extra points at the bank etc.

I never had one of the working with children cards, although our three sons might suggest it was a good reason to refuse assistance when asked to help outside with the yard in the FNQ summer. :rofl:

Outside of home the current desire to ensure we all know what appropriate behaviour around others children in our care seems a worthwhile community request. As for those who can’t be relied upon …!

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I’ve got a pile of cards too, from various organisations showing I have passed various inductions, authorities, courses etc. Most valid at a point in time, but if I ever “failed” a criteria, who would take it off me?

I have had the Qld Working With Children card since inception and renewed through Scouts. When I moved and volunteered with the local school - a service which is overseen by a Volunteer Organisation, I had to renew through them.

What a mess! They “lost” my application for near two months, as it was near expiry I chased them. They sent me forms (again), I filled them in and returned them, they sent blank forms to Blue Card, I chased them again, with them replying I did not fill in the forms, sometimes giving me less than an hour to get it witnessed and returned. Four times I had my identity witnessed by a JP, until finally I was allowed to deal directly with Blue Card and I sent all of them in. I was renewed, but missed the opportunity at the school and couldn’t volunteer with my usual groups.

Why can’t we deal directly with the Govt and just list all the organisations we are volunteering with?

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Wouldn’t it be easier and more intelligent if it were like a drivers license? That they apparently have to be ‘attached’ to a group seems unnecessarily over the top, does it not? Volunteer and the group could enter the number into a web site and it should return any relevant information. There should also be a reasonable way to have errors corrected / challenged.

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We have a similar problem in WA. Although applications are made directly through government agencies, you need an organisation to sign off that you’re currently working/volunteering with children.

Mine expired a few years back because I wasn’t volunteering at the time and therefore wasn’t allowed to renew it. Now I may need to again I have to go through the whole process from the start. Or if I want a job working with children I have to get the job before I can apply for a check. WHY?

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Everything needs complexity, because without it we would need less people meddling with stuff and how would governments and the public service survive then?

Here it is a ‘Driver Licence’ - and here, I am pedantic :wink: but aside from that I agree completely. Why can’t one just apply to be on the monitored list of WWC card holders? whether volunteer or professional, for the same cost - a nominal one at that. If one is prepared to subject ones-self to the checks and ongoing maintenance then what does it matter? It is simply a card that says ‘I have applied to have a criminal records check and accept I am on a list to be monitored for future criminal activity relevant to the act’, or something like that. People between volunteering roles, or volunteers who take up a professional position need not stress about the technicalities of what they have applied for or paid for - it is simply a check the same for everyone, and ongoing monitoring the same for everyone - ready when needed, as useful as something like this is but at least a start.

Maybe there are good reasons it is not done this way but a standard across the board check for minimal fee is something I’d be happy for my tax dollars offsetting …

But that is all probably way too simple :slight_smile:

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