The Victorian Government remains committed to strengthening the protection of children through Working with Children Checks (WWCCs).
The National Standards for WWCCs, endorsed by the Victorian Government in 2019, establish nationally consistent parameters for the screening of persons who propose to engage in child-related work. The National Standards were developed together with the Australian and state and territory governments, with reference to Royal Commission recommendations and existing best practice.
Most of the recommendations in the Royal Commission’s WWCCs Report relate to the implementation of the National Standards for WWCCs. The Victorian Government continues to work with the Australian Government and other states and territories regarding the implementation of the National Standards, noting Victoria’s WWCC scheme already aligns with, or exceeds, most of these standards.
On 1 February 2021, the Worker Screening Act 2020 (new Act) commenced, replacing the Working with Children Act 2005 and creating a broader legislative framework to accommodate both the WWCC and worker screening for the National Disability Insurance Scheme.
Reforms included in the new Act enable Australian jurisdictions to share information in cases where an individual has been refused a WWCC under the WWCC National Reference System. The WWCC National Reference System (NRS) is a central database established and maintained by the Australian Criminal Intelligence Commission that records WWCC decisions and was accessible to all WWCC screening agencies as they continued to onboard during 2021.
Following completion of IT systems changes and testing in late-2021, Victoria connected to the NRS on 16 December 2021 and commenced uploading those decisions where an individual has been refused a WWCC in Victoria. Further IT systems changes will be progressed in 2022 to enable full interoperability with the system. The reforms also enable WWCC Victoria to refuse an applicant from obtaining a Victorian WWCC if a person has been refused a WWCC interstate. Such initiatives align with recommendations in the Royal Commission’s WWCCs Report. Compliance with WWCC requirements also continues to be a key element of Victoria’s Child Safe Standards.
The Victorian Government continues to work with the Australian Government and other states and territories regarding the implementation of the National Standards, for example, to improve national consistency in the categorisation of WWCC offences that result in an automatic exclusion or presumed exclusion.