Page 1047 - Week 04 - Thursday, 21 May 2020

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I am pleased to introduce the Working with Vulnerable People (Background Checking) Amendment Bill 2020.

The working with vulnerable people scheme is an important part of the ACT’s system for keeping vulnerable people safe in our community. I am confident that this bill delivers on the government’s commitment to providing strong safeguards for vulnerable people in our community, particularly children and people living with disability.

The Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse recommended, in its Working with children checks report of 2015, that all jurisdictions implement agreed national standards for working with children checks and a national information exchange framework for background screening of people seeking to work with children. This bill implements these recommendations in the ACT to give added assurance to systems to keep children safe. This bill enables this high standard by better informing decisions about whether a person with a history of certain types of serious charges or convictions should be registered or maintain their registration to work with children.

The bill also introduces a high standard of background screening into areas of child-related work and regulated activities under the national disability insurance scheme, the NDIS.

The objectives of the bill are to protect children and other vulnerable people from harm by preventing people from applying to work with children, or NDIS recipients, if they have criminal records that indicate they may harm children or people with disability; establishing consistent standards for background screening for working with children and people with disability; and contributing to the awareness that keeping children safe is a whole-of-community responsibility.

This bill is part of a suite of legislation changes to keep children safe that have already been introduced by this government. These include the introduction of the reportable conduct scheme, failure to report and failure to protect offences under the Crimes Act 1900, and work to consult on child safe standards.

The bill sets out a framework for making decisions about whether a person who has been convicted of, or charged with, certain disqualifying offences should be registered to work with children. Disqualifying offences were first introduced in 2019 and applied to NDIS workers. The amendments in this bill extend the application of disqualifying offences to people intending to engage in regulated activities involving children.

The government’s intention is that the best interests of children and vulnerable people are the paramount consideration. This means that keeping children safe is more important than allowing people with charges or convictions of serious offences to work with children or people with disability.

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