Working With Children (NT)
In the Northern Territory, the Care and Protection of Children Act 2007 and the Care and Protection of Children (Screening) Regulations 2010 regulates working with children. These statutory instruments aim to promote a safe environment for young people in school, child-care and other activities. To help ensure child safety, a person who wants to work with children in the Northern Territory must apply for an Ochre Card. This is a two-year photo licence to work with children in the Northern Territory. This monitoring and clearance system is designed to prevent unsuitable people from having contact with children under the age of eighteen. This article explains the process of obtaining clearance to work with children in the Northern Territory.
Who Requires An Ochre Card?
A person needs to receive clearance before they can enter certain areas of employment or volunteering that involve contact with children. To be eligible for an Ochre Card, a worker must be deemed suitable after a check of their police history, character references, employment records and reports on their recent behaviour. A person who works or volunteers with children without a valid clearance can be fined up to $76,500.
Ochre Cards are required for someone to work or volunteer in the Northern Territory in the following areas:
- Child educational facilities, including both public and private schools, private tuition and extra-curricular activities;
- Child-care providers, family day care and after-school care;
- Child-minding services;
- Child protection services;
- Juvenile detention centres;
- Child counselling and support services;
- Residential facilities and refuges that accommodate children, such as women’s shelters and safe houses;
- Health and emergency services that cater to children, such as child and maternal health clinics, paediatric wards, ambulance services and home visit programs;
- Associations, camps, and clubs with significant child membership, such as Scouts, cadets, or sporting clubs;
- Religious organisations;
- Transportation services such as school bus driving;
- Road crossing services for children;
- Foster care; and
- Any activity or facility that is provided for children.
This requirement applies not only to people who directly work with children (such as teachers, caseworkers and coaches) but also to ancillary staff (such as administrative officers, school gardeners, janitors and caretakers) who are likely to have contact with children.
Some people do not need to obtain clearance to work with children in the Northern Territory. Under the Care and Protection of Children Act, the following people are exempt:
- A person providing child minding services on a non-commercial basis;
- An emergency carer in a placement arrangement;
- Ancillary service providers at a child-orientated venue who have no contact with children;
- A member of the Police or Australian Federal Police; and
- An individual who is not otherwise involved in child-related employment.
Making an application
A person can make an online application for clearance or renew their clearance on the Northern Territory Police SAFE website. When making an application, it is necessary to supply a payment method, email and residential address, as well as a passport-sized photo and scanned copies of identity documents. Those seeking clearance to work with children on a volunteer basis are eligible to receive a reduced fee through a volunteer concession. The applicant must ask their volunteering organisation to complete a Working With Children Volunteer Concession Form.
One of the protections afforded by the Ochre Card clearance system is that certain criminal offenders are prohibited from working with children. A person is disqualified from working with children in the Northern Territory if they committed a disqualifying offence in the last ten years. The list of disqualifying offences is substantial, including any reportable offence against a child. The applicant also cannot be the subject of an offender prohibition order, or be prevented from holding an Ochre Card by a court order. Any violent, sexual, pornographic or drug-related offence involving children is a disqualifying offence. This applies to any breach of relevant federal, state or territory law.
There is a legal appeal process for anyone who is refused working with children clearance. The applicant must contact the Local Court within 28 working days of receiving their refusal letter. The decision of the Northern Territory Screening Authority continues to be binding unless and until the Court makes a review decision. During the review hearing, the judge considers the original application and any further information that the applicant can provide. The Local Court can confirm or vary the Screening Authority’s decision, set the decision aside altogether or replace it with their own decision. Additionally, the court will decide on whether there should be a costs order levied at either party.
Contact the team at Go To Court for help with any questions about clearance to work with children in the Northern Territory, or the appeal process in case of refusal. Please call 1300 636 846 for assistance with this or any other civil law matter.