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  • Can I Volunteer with a Criminal Record?

    Volunteers are important members of the community irrespective of where they work or what they do. They are known for showing altruism, and diligence in the job they perform. And make every task smooth and possible.

    However, volunteer police checks must be done before an organisation or other agency can accept a volunteer. In some roles, it is an offence if you accept a volunteer without assessing their criminal records.

    Volunteering with a Criminal Record

    Volunteering with a criminal record can be difficult, especially if it relates to the role you apply to volunteer. You cannot get some volunteering roles if you have been convicted of an offence (serious) in the past that will jeopardize the role.

    For example, you will not be able to volunteer in children related roles if you have a criminal record of;

    • Child abuse
    • Child molestation
    • Drug Trafficking & Related offences
    • Rape and other sexual offences
    • Aggravated assaults
    • Offences against corporate bodies

    However, the organisation can accept you for the volunteer role if your criminal record is not related to the position you apply for.

    If your criminal record doesn’t necessarily “affect” you for the role, the organisation will assess your suitability by considering factors such as:

    • The nature and seriousness of each offence;
    • The court outcome and penalties imposed
    • Your age at the time;
    • How recently the offence is;
    • Evidence of multiple or repeated offences;
    • The surrounding circumstances;
    • Your attitude to your record.

    For example, the organisation may accept you to volunteer as a Driver if your convictions had nothing to do with a traffic, road or personal violation.

    Employers use a Criminal Record as an assessment of the legal viability of their volunteers. Australian law allows every organisation their discretion to interpret the Criminal records of individuals unless the activity is a regulated activity in the State or Territory. For example, aged care background check requirements, working with children check requirements and working with vulnerable people check requirements.

    What offences are on my Criminal Records?

    If you commit an offence as an adult, for which you are convicted in court, it will be registered in your Criminal records. The criminal record is your "legal report" on the Australian National Criminal Database.

    When Volunteer agencies request a background check or obtain it with the individual's permission, it is called a Criminal Record Check or National Police Check. And the applicant receives a document/result that details all of the candidate's interactions with the law including;

    • Convictions/Charges against corporate organizations;
    • Sexually related offences;
    • Traffic charges for which an individual is convicted;
    • Sentences and Convictions;
    • Pending court charges and offences;
    • Offences not under the Spent Convictions Scheme of the State;
    • Other convictions stipulated by the court as disclosable on the individual's Check.

    Offences that are not part of your Criminal records

    Most people think all their infringements or offences will show in their criminal records; No, this is wrong. Only offences you get a court conviction for will show in your Criminal records.

    Other offences for which you did not get a court conviction will remain on the Police records or all other related databases, but not your Criminal record. Some "offences" that are not disclosed on a police check include, but are not limited to;

    Will a Spent conviction help my Criminal record?

    The Spent Convictions Scheme is a program that mitigates the effects of certain offences after some conditions/periods elapses. Under the scheme, eligible offences are removed from the offender's criminal record at the end of the waiting period.

    However, not all offences are “eligible” to be spent under the Scheme.

    An offence is considered spent when;

    1. The individual is granted a pardon for a reason other than that of a "wrongful conviction".
    2. The individual did not get an imprisonment term for more than 30 months (Commonwealth),
    3. Period of "Good Behaviour" or waiting period has ended without another conviction.

    So if any of your offences become spent, you no longer have to worry about disclosing them.

    How do Spent Offences help my volunteer application?

    Eligible offences under the Spent Convictions Scheme are expunged from your criminal records and do not show up in subsequent checks. In addition to this,

    • You have the right of no-disclosure

    The spent conviction "privilege" is that you don't have to reveal the details of that conviction to anyone (including an employer). And the volunteer organisation cannot assess/judge you based on that conviction.

    • No one discloses your Spent convictions

    It is an offence under the scheme, for any official, or agency privy to the records, to disclose a Spent conviction. The laws stipulate fines for illicit disclosure or use of the record of a Spent conviction.

    However, where such conviction (Spent) is related to the volunteer role, you must disclose them. The court mandates the disclosure of related Criminal records in volunteering roles.

    Can all Offences be Spent?

    The privileges that come with having your offence spent are incredible; however, it is for certain lesser offences. The Spent convictions scheme has some criteria for the offences that are eligible to be expunged from a criminal record, and not all offences qualify.

    Examples of Offences that cannot become spent are;

    • Convictions of which a prison sentence of more than 30 months is imposed.
    • Convictions for all sexually related offences
    • Convictions against corporate bodies
    • Convictions stipulated by regulations

    Working with Children Checks and Working With Vulnerable People Checks

    Where the volunteer organization services involve dealing with children or other vulnerable groups, you will have to obtain a WWC or WWVP Check. The requirement of which check you will need to obtain will depend on the State or Territory where you are based and if whether or not the volunteering actilty you are carrying out is classified by the legislation as a “regulated activity”.

    The Working with Children Check and Working with Vulnerable People Check is broader than just a criminal record check; it includes;

    Other areas where a Criminal Record may affect you

    Having a criminal record will always be rough baggage for anyone. If you ever receive a court summons or notice, seek the services of an experienced lawyer. A lawyer should try to get you a favourable outcome, and where possible, avoid a conviction.

    Some convictions can never be spent or removed irrespective of the legal program you apply to.

    Asides from influencing a volunteer opportunity, a Criminal record may also affect your chances for;

    • Paid employment; most employers are usually doubtful and wary of people with criminal records.
    • Getting certain licenses; You may be refused a license like; firearm license.
    • Migrating from the area or State; some serious convictions (conditions) may require you to remain in the state.
    • Working with financial institutions.
    • And other cases stipulated by the State/Commonwealth laws on Disclosure of Criminal records.

    How can I obtain a Nationally Coordinated Criminal History Check online?

    You can obtain a Nationally Coordinated Criminal History Check online via the Australia National Character Check (ANCC®) website. The majority of checks are dispatched to applicants within 24 hours with the remaining that get referred for manual processing taking longer.

    Volunteer organisations can streamline the ordering, tracking and payment of criminal history checks via ANCC’s business portal.


    Part VIIC of the Crimes Act 1914 (Cth) -

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