It is common for Volunteers to be required to go through screening processes such as a background check in order to assess their suitability for different roles. This is particularly the case where Volunteers work with "vulnerable" populations such as the elderly, children, or those with disabilities. It may also be required where Volunteers are responsible for financial or driving duties.
Reasons that Volunteers may need a Background or Police Check (also known as a Criminal History Check):
In some organisations there are arrangements where organisations will offer to pay Volunteers for their National Police Check. They will generally have Volunteers fill out information, a consent form and identification requirements and submit the application on their behalf, with instructions to return the Police Certificate by post to the individual.
Other organisations may ask Volunteers to cover the cost of a National Crime Check or even request Volunteers go through their own process to obtain them. Police Checks are discounted by the Australian Government in all states and territories for Volunteers - see pricing details.
In some states (such as South Australia) where work is specifically with "vulnerable" groups it is possible to access free Police Checks for Volunteers - however an organisation must apply for this privilege and meet eligibility criteria set by the Australian Government.
In yet other circumstances individuals may also be able to claim a Police Check as a work-related expense for tax purposes. For more information see the Australian Taxation Office website.
Police Checks are valid at the time of issue and report only on offences up to this date; they do not have an expiry date. It is up to an organisation's discretion as to whether they request an up-to-the-minute police check from a Volunteer, or are willing to accept an older check.
The Working With Children Check is mandatory in most Australian states and territories for people who come into contact with children in their employment, however requirements for Volunteers vary and in some jurisdictions a check is not needed.
Whilst Police Checks disclose only current "unspent" convictions, Working With Children Checks retrieve information on "spent" (or expired) offences and other offences and issues which may impact on the suitability of Volunteer to work with children.
There are different requirements for Volunteer screening in different states and territories of Australia.
All Volunteers that work in government-funded or supported aged-care facilities are currently required to have a police check every three years.
Volunteers in any state or territory may request a Volunteer Police Check via National Crime Check using our quick and easy online application form. Most checks are returned within 1-2 business days.
As noted above Volunteer Police Checks may be required for individuals volunteering in a government-funded aged care organisation.
Working With Children Checks are mandatory for Volunteers coming into contact with children in Victoria. The Victorian Working With Children Check is valid for five years and is designed to be transferable between organisations in Victoria.
As above, Volunteer Police Checks are mandatory for anyone working in an aged-care facility supported or funded by the Commonwealth Government, and are also mandatory for anyone coming into contact with children in their employment.
In South Australia it is an employer's responsibility to ensure that Police Checks are obtained for employees working with "vulnerable" populations (among other areas).
Free Volunteer Police Checks may be provided in South Australia where the organisation they volunteer for meets specific criteria (ie they are not-for-profit organisations that work daily with "vulnerable" populations). These organisations are provided with a special Volunteer Organisation Authorisation Number (VOAN) which enables Volunteer Checks to be provided for free by the SA Government. More information can be found on the SA Police website. Note, however that the SA Government does not meet the cost for paid Volunteers in these organisations.
As in all states and territories, Police Checks are mandatory for Volunteers who work in Government-funded aged care organisations in Queensland.
Where Volunteers come into contact with children they are also required to obtain a Working With Children Check known as a "Blue Card". The Blue Card System requires a National Police Check and consideration of any disciplinary information held by professional organisations. The System monitors criminal histories in an ongoing fashion and reports these to employers. The Blue Card is conveniently designed to be transferred between organisations and is valid for two years.
Whilst Volunteers in the Australian Capital Territory are not legally required to complete a Police Check or Working With Children Check, government services are required to employ "fit and proper" people. This has been interpreted by most organisations as a requirement to obtain a Police Check, and most organisations request this as part of their own risk management procedures.
Volunteers in New South Wales are required by law to obtain a Police Check where they work in the aged-care field, however they are not able to get a Working With Children Check.
In cases where Volunteers will be working with children they are required to sign a "Prohibited Employment Declaration" form confirming that they have not been involved in or convicted of offences relating to children. In NSW it is the responsibility of the employer to provide this form, and it is an offence to engage anyone in paid or Volunteer capacity without it.
Volunteer Police Checks are mandatory in the Northern Territory where individuals work in the aged-care field. In March 2011 it became mandatory for Volunteers who may come into contact with children to have a Working With Children Clearance Notice and an "Ochre Card".
As per other states it is mandatory to get a Volunteer Check in Western Australia where a Volunteer works in aged care. Working With Children Checks are also mandatory where individuals volunteer in child-related work (though on occasion exemptions apply, such as where parents volunteer in activities where their children are also involved). Working With Children Checks must be made in person at Australia Post outlets in WA.
Note that if a Volunteer requires both a Police Check and Working With Children Check, a free Police Check will be provided where evidence can be provided of an application for a Working With Children Check.
For Volunteers in Tasmania there is currently no legislation requiring people working with children to obtain a Police Check. However organisations who employ Volunteers often have their own policies as part of individual risk management practices.
*Note that every effort has been made to ensure the most current and accurate information on police checks and working with children checks, however legislation and requirements can change. National Crime Check recommends you approach your local police station for up-to-the-minute accuracy on the topics above. This article is current at November 2011.