Volunteer Life
Postcard with Purpose

Police checks and working with children checks
By Lisa Saremel

Volunteering in certain areas requires legal checks. Below is a list of questions and answers that provide information about the prerequisites for gaining such positions:

1.   Would I always need a police check to become a volunteer?
Many volunteer roles involve working with vulnerable groups in society, such as children or the aged. Therefore you might be asked to apply for a police check or working with children check but only in certain states.

Other volunteer jobs involve situations where it is important to be responsible, as in a service that has access to large amounts of money.

2.   Why do I need a police check?
Police checks assess the suitability of an applicant for a volunteer role, sometimes for the reasons mentioned above, but also for other requirements. For example, some departments and organisations must carry out police checks on volunteers to satisfy funding requirements or for insurance purposes.

3.   What is a police check?
A police check involves a search of police records to determine whether any criminal offence has been recorded under your name. It is a means of ensuring that volunteers are of suitable character for the sort of work involved in their roles.

However, the checks only include current convictions, so offenders who have not been convicted will not appear on a police check, and the check only covers convictions up to that date. Thus any case currently before the courts will not appear on a police check.

4.   When do I have to have a police check done?
Many volunteer roles will require that you have a police check before you can start volunteer work. These sorts of roles include working with the aged, working with children and working in community centres. This is mandatory in certain Australian states such as Queensland but, in other states, might not be mandatory.

Other volunteer positions might also require a police check depending on the circumstances.

5.   What is the working with children check?
The working with children check is mandatory for any person wanting to work unsupervised with children in a paid capacity in most Australian states. However, for volunteer roles, legal requirements vary as to whether a working with children check is needed.

In NSW, volunteers wanting to work with children are asked to complete a Prohibited Employment Declaration form to state that they have not been convicted of offences involving children.

6.   What if I want to volunteer overseas?
A national police certificate issued by the Australian Federal Police, either before travel or when you have reached your destination overseas, takes approximately 10 working days to obtain.

7.   How do I apply for a police check?
Organisations usually initiate a police check, usually through local police stations, and will ask you to sign a consent form. It is worth noting that the requirements for police checks differ widely from state to state in Australia, as do the cost and processing times. Checks are not transferable between states or organisations within states or territories.

More information
Please read Volunteering Australia's Information Sheets

Volunteering Australia

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The Centre for Volunteering [ABN 28 002 416 024]
Level 2, 228 Pitt Street, Sydney NSW 2000
T: 02 9261 3600 | F: 02 9261 4033 | E: info@volunteering.com.au

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