Working with Children Check – Helen’s experience

Working with Children Check – Helen’s experience

Working with Children Check – Helen's experience

Note – real names have been changed. Published with the client’s permission.

Helen had been refused a Working with Children Check which she needed to keep her job as a cook at a short-term accommodation hostel helping young Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people.

Her life had been overshadowed by alcohol addiction and difficult family relationships. This job was Helen’s first in many years.

Helen hit a crisis point in an argument with her teenage son, who was drug-addicted and suffering mental health issues. Addicted to alcohol herself at the time, Helen accidently hurt her son with a knife during a scuffle. They were both intoxicated.

Helen had pleaded guilty to this offence against her son. While it had been the catalyst to seek urgent treatment for them both, and to commit to changing her life, the crime resulted in the Department of Justice and Community Safety refusing her a Working with Children Check.

How Helen challenged the refusal

The purpose of the Working with Children Act is to help protect children from sexual or physical harm by screening those who work with or care for them.

Helen could not afford to let her Working with Children Check cut off her access to work. She decided to get legal help. We asked the Victorian Civil and Administrative Tribunal (VCAT) to review Helen’s case.

Over three hearings at VCAT, Helen’s lawyer argued that her mistake should not keep her trapped in a cycle of poverty and disadvantage.

Her lawyer made the case that the community could only benefit from giving Helen the chance to rejoin the workforce and prove her efforts to overcome her difficulties were not fruitless.

Helen also had references from friends, managers and her GP to confirm that she is a good, trustworthy person.

Another chance to get her life back on track

The question for the tribunal was whether Helen currently poses an unjustifiable risk to the safety of children.

Helen turned up at VCAT quite overwhelmed by her situation. She was delighted when the hearings were over and the tribunal had decided to issue her with a Working with Children Check.

Her lawyer said that Helen’s case was rewarding to help with, especially as she could have resigned herself to the cultural and other disadvantages she has faced.

With a lot to offer the kids in the hostel, a lot of life experience, hard-won knowledge and the ability to strike a bond with them, Helen is now able to continue getting her life back on track.

How we can help

Find out more about Working with Children Check. Also:

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