Page 2944 - Week 07 - Thursday, 30 June 2011

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Generally, spent convictions will not be considered when a person seeks, for example, a motor vehicle licence or employment in most fields. So why are we intending to assess teachers in this way? The government believes protecting the safety of our children is critical. We need to be certain that teachers working with children have nothing in their history which would make them unfit to work with children.

Currently, the Department of Education and Training, the Catholic Education Office and independent schools conduct pre-employment checks prior to employing teachers. Under the Teacher Quality Institute Act, teachers must be registered with the institute before seeking employment in an ACT school. It is therefore important that, in order to comply with the Spent Convictions Act 2000, spent convictions are included in the assessment process leading to the issue of a police certificate or criminal history check.

This amendment to consider spent convictions will align the criminal history checks required under the Teacher Quality Institute Act with those across Australia and also avoid the need for an additional criminal history check to satisfy employer requirements. The Teacher Quality Institute Amendment Bill 2011 will provide the necessary requirement to ensure that spent convictions are assessed as part of the preparation of the police certificate or criminal history check for persons seeking employment as teachers in all ACT schools.

The institute will develop and apply guidelines on how an assessment is to be conducted of a person’s police certificate or criminal history record, including the following: the nature, gravity and circumstances of the offence, the relevance of the offence in relation to the teaching profession, how long ago the offence was committed, the age of the person and the victim at the time of the offence, whether the person’s circumstances have changed since the offence was committed, the person’s attitude to the offence, if the person has undergone a program of treatment or intervention for the offence, any assessment of the person following that program, if the offence was committed outside Australia whether the offence is an offence in Australia, whether the person has committed any other offence and any submission made by the person in relation to these matters.

Personal information about the conviction will only be used to meet the requirements of the act. This information is protected by, and is covered under, section 92 of the ACT Teacher Quality Institute Act 2010. However, a thorough examination of spent convictions is necessary if we are to ensure that those who work with our most vulnerable are fit and proper persons and are worthy of the considerable trust that is placed in them.

The outcome of an assessment of spent convictions can have one of three results: the spent conviction included in the police certificate or criminal history check does not preclude the applicant from teaching in an ACT school; the spent conviction is appropriately addressed if the applicant is granted provisional registration with conditions, for example, they do not give the Teacher Quality Institute cause to review their registration within a given time frame; or, finally, the spent conviction included in the police certificate or criminal history check is such that registration should be refused. Under the act, a negative assessment decision is reviewable and the applicant can, if they wish, seek a review of the decision by the ACT Civil and Administrative Tribunal.

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