The McGowan Government has introduced laws to the Parliament of Western Australia that will strengthen Working with Children Checks and better protect children from harm.
The Working with Children Check is a screening process for people undertaking paid or unpaid child-related work and is a key strategy to increase child safety in WA.
Under the proposed changes to the Working with Children (Criminal Record Checking) Act 2004, criminal offences that trigger an automatic Negative Notice will be expanded. It is an offence to carry out child-related work whilst holding a Negative Notice.
Convictions for all sexual offences against children, and violent offences against children that involve intent to kill or cause life-threatening harm, will result in an automatic Negative Notice, if committed when an adult. This will also apply if charges are pending.
Offences such as persistent family violence, and suffocation and strangulation will also result in a Negative Notice unless there are exceptional circumstances.
Importantly, authorised officers will have capacity to execute entry warrants to investigate suspected offences under the Act or determine compliance.
Information gathering and sharing powers under the Act will be strengthened, including between WA Police and the Department of Communities.
The reforms will deliver on the McGowan Government’s commitment to implement recommendations of the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse.
Since coming into office, the McGowan Government has undertaken a significant program of work to safeguard children, protect victims and heal survivors. This includes the recently passed Children and Community Services Amendment Act 2021, which expanded the categories of mandatory reporters of child sexual abuse to new reporter groups, including Ministers of Religion.
Applications for Working with Children Checks are growing every year. In the 2021-22 financial year, the Department of Communities received more than 146,000 Working with Children Check applications.
For employees, volunteers, or organisations who breach their obligations under the Working with Children Act, fines of up to $60,000 and five years jail can apply.
Information about the Working with Children Check can be found at www.workingwithchildren.wa.gov.au
As stated by Child Protection Minister Simone McGurk:
“The McGowan Government is committed to a range of law reforms that will better protect children from harm.
“Working with Children Checks are a vital screening tool to protect young people from potential predators, and I’m proud we are strengthening and modernising these laws.
“People who prey on children come in all forms. We are making it harder for people with convictions or pending charges to obtain a Working with Children Check. This will better protect children in WA.
“The updated laws will also give authorised officers powers to investigate suspected offences or determine compliance with the Act, to help keep children safe.”