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Working with Vulnerable People in the Australian Capital Territory

Working with vulnerable people in the ACT is regulated by the Working with Vulnerable People (Background Checking) Act 2011. The Act requires people, including the self-employed, who work or volunteer with vulnerable people to undertake a risk assessment (background check) and to be registered.

Those looking work with vulnerable people in the future may apply for registration before commencing a job.

The Act defines a vulnerable person as a person who is:

  • under the age of 18 years; or
  • an adult who is experiencing some form of disadvantage and engages in a regulated activity or a service designed for persons with their particular disadvantage.
Working with Vulnerable people ACT

Regulated activities are outlined in the Act under Schedule 1 and include:

  • activities regulated under the Children and Young People Act 2008;
  • babysitting or nanny services;
  • providing home stay accommodation;
  • counselling and child support services;
  • activities in relation to the mentally dysfunctional, ill or impaired;
  • services to support migrants including refugees and asylum seekers;
  • services and support for the homeless; and
  • services to assist or support victims of crime.

There is an online test which will help you figure out whether the work or volunteering in which you are engaged is a regulated activity and whether you need to be registered.

It is an offence to work with vulnerable people in a regulated activity if you are not registered.

Types of registration

To obtain registration for working with vulnerable people in the ACT, you must first undergo a risk assessment (see below).

At the completion of a risk assessment, you may receive a registration card that is valid for up to 3 years.

Types of registrations include:

  • General registration – allows for work in all regulated activities under the Act;
  • Role-based registration (the card has an aqua-coloured trim) – only permits the holder to work in specified regulated activities with a declared employer; and
  • Conditional registration (the card has a blue-coloured trim) – holders of this kind of registration have conditions associated with their registration.

If an employer is listed on your registration application, Access Canberra must tell your employer the result of your application but not the reasons for the decision.

Details of any restrictions and conditions are listed on the back of the card. It is an offence to contravene a condition or restriction, and the employer can be held liable if they had allowed you to do so.

You can apply to have your registration modified if your circumstances change. This may include adding, removing, or altering any condition imposed. Access Canberra may request further information before they make a decision. A revised risk assessment may also be undertaken.

You must carry your registration card while working with vulnerable people and produce it if requested.

Risk assessments

A risk assessment is conducted in accordance with the Guidelines.

If you do not provide consent to undertake the risk assessment, you cannot be registered to work with vulnerable people.

The assessment looks at:

  • your criminal history, including convictions not recorded;
  • any previous registration to work with vulnerable people; and
  • any other relevant information.

Access Canberra may ask for information from anyone that they believe has information that may help decide the application. This might include other regulatory or authorising authorities, independent advisors, and other law enforcement agencies. Access Canberra may seek independent advice before making a decision about a registration.

During the assessment you may be asked to provide further information. A decision will be made based on the available information if you do not provide further information when requested.

Working with vulnerable people in the ACT without registration

It is an offence to work with vulnerable people in the ACT if you have not been registered or have been refused registration.

You are not permitted to work or volunteer for any regulated activity if you have received a Negative Notice with respect to your registration.

If you are waiting on the outcome of a registration decision, you may still work or volunteer if:

  • your employer agrees and you are supervised when undertaking regulated activities; or
  • you are a kinship carer and have not previously been refused registration or had a previous registration cancelled.

You do not require registration to work with vulnerable people under section 12 of the Act, if you fall in one of the following categories:

  • You are under the age of 16;
  • You work or volunteer less than 3 days in 4 weeks, or 7 days in 12 months;
  • You are registered interstate and work or volunteer for less than 28 days in 12 months;
  • You are a close relative to the vulnerable person(s);
  • You are a close relative to the vulnerable person(s) and where there are other vulnerable people involved, a close relative of that other person also participates;
  • You are a school student completing work experience or doing practical training;
  • You are working or volunteering as a police officer, a police appointee, a registered health professional or practitioner, a lawyer, an approved aged care provider, a financial services licensee, or are working in a declared state of emergency.

Reconsideration of an unfavourable decision

In the event that Access Canberra is considering the refusal of your registration application, or is considering issuing role-based or conditional registration, you will receive a written notice. If you disagree with Access Canberra’s considerations, you can ask Access Canberra to reconsider the decision before a final decision is made. It is best to provide them with any new or supporting information. A revised risk assessment will also be undertaken if you request a reconsideration.


If you have been refused registration to work with vulnerable people in the ACT, you are not permitted to submit another application for 3 years since receiving the Negative Notice. This exclusion period also applies if you have had your registration cancelled. That is, you must wait 3 years since having your registration cancelled before re-applying for registration.

However, you may reapply for registration if the reason for the decision to refuse or cancel the registration has changed since you last applied or held registration.

You may also be able to appeal the decision which prevents you from working with vulnerable people in the ACT. Appeals are administered in the ACA Tribunal (ACAT) where you can have the opportunity to request ACAT to set aside the original decision and substitute a decision in favour of your registration.

Appeals at ACAT do not go over the same information which was used to determine the original decision to refuse a registration. To succeed you must convince ACAT that an error was made in the decision.

Working with vulnerable people in the ACT registration appeals must be filed within 28 days of the decision. An extension of time may be granted if you can provide good reasons for doing so.


Michelle Makela

Michelle Makela is one of our Legal Practice Directors and the National Practice Manager. She holds a Bachelor of Laws, a Bachelor of Science (Psychology) and a Master’s in Criminology. Michelle has had a varied career, working in commercial litigation, criminal law, family law and estate planning. Michelle joined Go To Court Lawyers in 2011. She now supervises a team of over 80 solicitors across Australia.

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