Blue Card laws tightened in Queensland to enable greater child protection
A further 15 crimes have been added to the list of disqualifying offences when applying for a Queensland working with children clearance, known as a Blue Card, as part of an overhaul of the system initiated after a comprehensive review undertaken by the Queensland Family and Child Commission (QFCC) in July 2017.
The revisions, which passed through the Queensland Parliament yesterday, were labelled “first in a series of sweeping reforms to the system” by Queensland Attorney-General and Minister for Justice Yvette D’Ath.
The changes to the disqualification framework are expected to commence on July 1, 2019, under the Working with Children (Risk Management and Screening) and Other Legislation Amendment Bill 2018.
Following the Queensland Government’s commitment to implement the 81 recommendations outlined by the QFCC in their review of child protection measures already in play, conducted by QFCC, as well as recommendations made in the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse, a review of the Blue Card system revealed Queesnland “has one of the strongest working with children check systems in Australia.” Ms D’Ath said.
“This legislation implements the recommendations of the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse and QFCC to include bestiality, kidnapping of a child, kidnapping for ransom of a child, child stealing and abduction of a child under 16 as disqualifying offences under the Working with Children Act.”
The Queensland Government has also chosen to include murder of an adult and rape of an adult as disqualifying offences. Torture of a child, attempt to commit rape of an adult, assault with intent to commit rape of an adult, cruelty to children under 16, trafficking in children and domestic trafficking in children will also be added to the disqualifying offences list, Ms D’Ath confirmed.
The legislation also delivers on a pre-election promise made by the current Government, in which they committed to implement a ‘No Card, No Start’ system, meaning applicants will not be able to commence paid employment while their Blue Card application is pending, reducing the risk to children and further strengthening Queensland’s “robust Blue Card System” Ms D’Ath said.
One in six Queensland adults hold a Blue Card, with more than 32,000 organisations part of the Blue Card system. $17 million will be directed towards modernising the Blue Card System over the next three years, the Government outlined.
“No Card, No Start will bring paid employees into line with volunteers and business operators and will prevent someone from employing a person in child-related employment unless the person holds a working with children clearance and the employer has notified the chief executive about the employment or proposed employment of the person.” Ms D’Ath said.
To emphasise the “significant responsibility” held by employers, increased financial penalties will be imposed against an employer who engages an employee without a working with children clearance, if an aggravating circumstance applies.
Those working with children who start, or continue to work with, children without a Blue Card could face jail terms of up to five years, under certain circumstances.
To learn more about the changes, please visit the Queensland Government website.