Working with Children Check – Howard’s experience

Working with Children Check – Howard’s experience

Working with Children Check – Howard's experience

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

Howard is a retiree and volunteers with an organisation that supports people with physical challenges. He is valued for his temperament and skills and his ability to mentor new volunteers.

He found that volunteering enhanced his already full life, in a happy marriage and with a growing number of grandchildren.

When Howard received news that his application to renew his Working with Children Check (WWCC) had been refused, he was distressed to realise it was based on a crime he had committed many decades ago – one that he still deeply regrets.

Past offence causes concern

Howard was in his early twenties when he started dating Angela, with her parents’ permission. Angela was in her early teens.

‘What started out as a friendship escalated into something more serious and I was too immature and in love to control it,’ he recalled.

The relationship resulted in a pregnancy. Angela wanted some time to think over her options before she told her parents, so they disappeared for a few days.

When Angela said that she was ready to go home, Howard contacted her parents and they collected her. Howard was arrested on his doorstep and charged with abduction and carnal knowledge of a girl under 16.

Angela’s parents asked for leniency and he was placed on a good behaviour bond requiring that he had no further contact with her.

His apology to the family after the court’s decision was the last time he spoke to them.

How Howard challenged his assessment notice

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.

Not getting a WWCC would have had a terrible impact on Howard’s ability to live his life. He had been involved in his children’s sporting lives and wanted to continue the same involvement with his grandchildren. He also wanted to continue his significant volunteer work.

He decided to get legal help and to approach his family and work supervisor for their support. They were happy to give a character reference. 

We asked the Victorian Civil and Administrative Tribunal to review Howard’s case.

What the Tribunal considered

The tribunal noted the seriousness of Howard’s offences. The question for the tribunal, however, was whether Howard currently poses an unjustifiable risk to the safety of children.

The tribunal noted that there had been:

  • frank and full disclosure from Howard in relation to the past offending
  • no record of offending since then
  • involvement with sporting organisations involving children with no complaints
  • genuine remorse and understanding of the impact of his offending on his ex-girlfriend from many years ago
  • support from his work supervisor for continuing involvement.

Life since offending

The tribunal assessed Howard’s behaviour relating to the application as ‘exemplary’.

‘His life since offending has dramatically changed without any evidence of further offending, antisocial behaviour, substance abuse, mental health issues or anger management problems,’ the tribunal said.

‘In the tribunal’s view it would be … in the public’s interest to facilitate [Howard’s] participation in a charitable organisation … and it is also beneficial for the community generally for retired persons to be engaged in community activities.’

The tribunal decided that giving Howard a WWCC did not pose an unjustifiable risk to children and directed the Department of Justice and Community Safety to issue Howard with a Working with Children Check.

How we can help

Find out more about Working with Children Check. Also:

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