Church cautious about Vic police checks

The Archdiocese of Melbourne has reacted cautiously to the enactment of legislation that will see hundreds of thousands of Victorians who work with children undergo compulsory police checks that aim to weed out pedophiles.

Under tough new legislation to be introduced in State Parliament today, 670,000 Victorians who have "direct, regular and unsupervised" contact with children will be made to have a police check to obtain an ID card. Failure to do so could mean two years in prison or a $24,000 fine.

Parents who are directly involved in their children's sporting teams, schools or community organisations will be exempt, as will close relatives, which include grandparents, aunts, uncles and siblings.

Today's Age newspaper quotes Melbourne's Vicar-General, Monsignor Les Tomlinson, whom the paper said was "wary of the laws' potential impact".

"I would hope any laws introduced were proportionate to the risks that (children) face," said Monsignor Tomlinson. "In NSW and Queensland, these sort of laws have been carried to the extreme, where it impacts on priests celebrating the liturgy, which is quite a public situation."

The new checks will be phased in over five years beginning in April next year, with child protection workers among the first to undergo the police checks.

If the police check is clear then people will be issued an "assessment" card, valid for five years, with name, assessment number, expiry date and photo ID on it.

The Government has allocated $20 million over five years to pay for police checks for all volunteers. People who do paid work with children will have to meet the $70 cost themselves.

670,000 face police checks (The Age 20/7/05)

LINKS (not necessarily endorsed by Church Resources)
Working With Children Check (Department of Justice, Victoria)
Working With Children Check (NSW Commission for Children & Young People)

ID gets tick (Herald-Sun 21/7/05)
Youth group questions volunteer crackdown (ABC Gippsland 20/7/05)

21 Jul 2005