In most organisations, certain individuals offer their expertise or services for non-profit or voluntarily. These individuals are concerned about the safety, wellbeing, or improvement of the community and people of the region. Volunteers are also screened before employment into such roles, especially where such roles deals with 'sensitive' or vulnerable duties like;
- Care of the elderly, aged and vulnerable
- Working with children
- Financial duties and similar positions of trust and others
The Background checks or a National Police Check carried out is a record of an individual’s disclosable court outcomes (DCOs) or the No-Disclosable court outcomes of the individual (NDCOs). The Checks help employers and agencies to make more informed decisions in employment to sensitive roles.
In Australia, most workers or volunteers (current and aspiring) must obtain a background check. So the outcomes of a Nationally Coordinated Criminal History Check is essentially the same whether it is issued for employment or volunteer purposes.
Anyone who seeks a role in Australia especially related to working with the vulnerable, children, Fire Services, and so on must obtain a Volunteer Police Check. However, in some organisations, they often bear the cost and process of the Volunteer Police Checks (with the consent of the applicant). The employers request a police check from prospective volunteers before they commence in their respective job roles.
Other organisations request each of their volunteers to bear the cost of the Police Check. The Background Check fees for Volunteers may be discounted as long as it is stated in the application form.
It is important to note that volunteer checks are not a free police check and also encounter a fee that must be paid.
A Police Check is a Point In Time Check and is valid as of the date of issue till a time specified by the requesting party or organisation. Most institutions prefer checks that are not older than 3 months old from the date you apply for the position, however this will depend on the requesting party.
Furthermore, every organisation has the discretion in choosing or refusing a Police Check (by duration) according to their internal mitigation risk strategy.
Background Checks are used to screen potential volunteers for suitability to the roles they apply for, and employers use the most prudent and legal options in screening their Police Checks.
When applying as a volunteer for most roles in many organisations/agencies in Australia, you must provide a valid Background check. You must also ensure that the Volunteer Check you provide is related to the role you are applying for.
To apply for a Volunteer Police Check in Australia there are two ways to go about it;
1. Australian Police authority
You can obtain a Volunteer Background check by visiting the local Police Authority. The method is usually completed in-person, and forms are paper-based. After completing the application process, your criminal background check
certificate is mailed to you.
However, this process may be tedious and time-consuming. It might prove ineffective where urgency is needed.
2. Through accredited agencies
Australian National Character Check provides employers, organisations and individuals with a Police Check Online
. Most are dispatched within 24 to 48 hours, with the remaining that get referred for manual processing taking longer. The application process is completely online, and the submission of Identification and verification is done over a secured and encrypted server.
Australian National Character check does not provide a discounted rate for volunteer criminal history checks and all checks are considered to be standard national criminal history checks
When filling the application forms, you must specify the purpose of the Police Check. You must also specify what volunteer role it will be used for.
A Background Criminal History Check can contain a “no disclosable court outcomes” in a case where the applicant has no convictions that are considered "releasable" by the Police Authorities and State legislation. Or “Disclosable court outcomes”; where the applicant has convictions that are deemed releasable.
Some of the convictions released on your Criminal History Check for Volunteer include and are not limited to;
- Charges for offences in corporate organisations
- Sexually related offences
- Traffic charges for which an individual is convicted
- Sentences and Convictions
- Pending court charges and offences
However, in the legislation of most States and territories in Australia, Spent Convictions
are omitted from an individual’s Background Check.
Findings of conviction can only be categorised as spent by the state or federal legislation. An offence may be classified as spent if;
- 5 years have elapsed and convicted as a minor (3 years in NSW)
- Ten years have elapsed since conviction as an adult
In most Australian States and territories, a Working with Children Check is required for volunteers employed in roles that involve caring for the Children or vulnerable.
Police Checks reveal only those convictions that the state legislation deems releasable, and does not fall under the spent convictions scheme. However, Working with Children Checks takes into consideration all offences/issues that may impact on the suitability of volunteers for the roles. These Checks are not constrained by the "spent" convictions scheme.
Volunteers in any state in Australia may obtain a Volunteer Police Check through Australian National Character Check via our easy-to-use online application portal. The requirement for a Police Check for volunteers in Australia varies slightly across the different States.
Volunteer Checks in VictoriaAs stated previously, it is mandatory to obtain a volunteer Check if you are applying for a volunteer role in Victoria.
Working with Children Checks is also mandatory when individuals volunteer for some child-related roles. This check is valid for (5) years and is transferable among organisations.
Volunteer Checks in South AustraliaAnyone volunteering in any aged-care facility - funded or supported by the Commonwealth Government is mandated to obtain volunteer Police Checks. It is the same with all those involved in roles that involve care for children.
It is every employer's responsibility to ensure that all their volunteers working with the vulnerable population has a current Police Check in South Australia.
Some volunteer organisations are assigned a Special Volunteer organisation Authorization Number (VOAN).
Volunteer Checks in QueenslandAll Volunteers working in government-funded aged organisations in Queensland are mandated to obtain Volunteer Checks.
The ‘Blue Card’; the popular name for the work with children checks is also a requirement where the volunteering roles involve proximity with children. This card consists of a National Police Check in QLD and consideration of any other disciplinary information.
The Blue Card is designed to be easily transferable between organisations and is valid for at least two years.
Volunteers in the Australian Capital Territory (ACT)Volunteering organisations must uphold the highest standards and utilise their discretions in employing the "best fit" people to sensitive roles. However, most organisations interpret this as requesting a Police Check (Background Checks) or a Working with Vulnerable People Registration , even though Volunteers are not legally mandated to complete a Police Check. Volunteers are legally mandated to undergo a WWVP registration if they come into contact with the vulnerable in their job roles.
Volunteer Checks in NSWIn New South Wales, the law requires volunteers to obtain a Police Check in NSW if they work in the aged sector. And in cases where they work with children, they must sign a 'Prohibited Employment Declaration' form which states that they have not been involved or convicted of any offences relating to children.
Furthermore, it is the responsibility of the employer to ensure no employees or volunteers are engaged without these documents.
Volunteer Checks in Northern Territory (NT)In NT, Volunteers in roles that involve aged care, vulnerable groups and other sensitive jobs must provide a background check for volunteers. Also, if volunteers have to work in child-related roles, they must have a Work with children Clearance Notice and an 'Ochre Card'.
Working with Children Checks are usually updated if the criminal record of the individual changes while the Check is valid.
Volunteers in Western AustraliaIn WA, it is mandatory to get a volunteer check where the individual works in the aged care group. A volunteer name check is also available through the Criminal History and warrants unit of Northern Territory Police.
Volunteer Checks in TasmaniaVolunteers in roles that involve care for the aged or working with children are encouraged to obtain a police check in Tasmania by employers. However, no legislation binds volunteers to obtain these Checks. All organisations must act according to their risk management strategy.
Australia National Character Check provides up-to-date national criminal history checks for volunteers, employees, organisations and government institutions in Australia.
The table below shows authorised government screening units that are responsible for working with children registrations in each Australian state and territory:
Satisfies legal recruitment proceduresIn most states in Australia, it is mandatory to include National Police Checks before admitting an individual to your organisation (paid employee or Volunteer). It is considered a safe recruitment and environment act.
Criteria for Funding proceduresPolice Checks are usually part of the documents employees or volunteers in an organisation must possess to satisfy the requirements for funding from the government.
Duty of Care/Risk mitigationAll businesses, NGOs, organisations and agencies have to protect people, properties/resources placed under their care. Australian Police Checks are important documents that can help organisations make sage decisions in hiring volunteers.