In May 2019, the Queensland Parliament passed the Working with Children (Risk Management and Screening) and Other Legislation Amendment Act 2019 (Qld) (WWC Amendment Act). This Act sought to amend the Working with Children (Risk Management and Screening) Act 2000 (Qld), and ultimately strengthen Queensland’s current blue card system to better protect children from risk of harm.
The WWC Amendment Act provided several notable areas of change:
- an updated disqualification and serious offences framework
- a ‘no card, no start’ policy
- a simpler frequency test for regulated employment
- an expiry date for Exemption Cards
- the creation of offences relating to “restricted employment” and “restricted persons”
- amended application processes for both Blue Cards and Exemption Cards.
What is the ‘Blue Card System’?
The ‘Blue Card System’ is Queensland’s working with children screening process that is designed to assess a person’s eligibility to work with children and young people. This assessment is based on their past behaviour, but if they are granted a ‘Blue Card’, monitoring is ongoing in relation to areas such as criminal convictions.
Commencement Delayed by Up to One Year
A number of these reforms, including the ‘no card, no start’ policy, were scheduled to commence on 25 May 2020 but have now been delayed until 25 May 2021 (if not proclaimed to commence earlier) due to COVID-related circumstances by the Working with Children (Risk Management and Screening) and Other Legislation Amendment (Postponement) Regulation 2020 (Qld).
Which Changes Have Been Delayed?
While the disqualification and serious offences framework commenced on 1 July 2019, the remaining changes to the ‘Blue Card System’ (set out above) were scheduled to commence on 25 May 2020. However, on 8 May 2020 the Queensland Government announced that these remaining changes have been delayed in order to alleviate pressure on institutions and organisations that are providing essential child-related services during the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.
Until When Will They Be Delayed?
The Queensland Parliament has advised that the source provisions from the WWC Amendment Act that would enact these changes have had their automatic commencement delayed until 25 May 2021. However, as a response to the changing circumstances of the COVID crisis in Queensland, and more broadly in Australia, the Queensland Parliament may choose to enact these provisions earlier.
What Should Schools Do?
Schools are likely to have already been preparing to meet the new requirements that were to have commenced on 25 May 2020. As these changes have been delayed, current ‘Blue Card System’ requirements are still in place and schools should follow these.
Schools should be aware that the changes may come into place sometime within the next 12 months (i.e. before 25 May 2021) and be prepared for when any announcement is made.
We would hope that the Queensland Government would give a reasonable notice period in relation to any commencement before 25 May 2021 but schools may potentially need to be ready within a short time period. Individuals can subscribe to the Queensland Government’s publication Blue Card News which would presumably release any relevant timing information.
Deborah De Fina
Deborah recently completed five years working with the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse where she assisted the Royal Commission to establish the Private Session process and subsequently managed its legal aspects. Prior to working with the Royal Commission, Deborah had her own successful consulting practice where she specialised in the statutory child protection system, legal issues facing children and vulnerable people, and legal aid. She also spent more than nine years at Legal Aid NSW, as a child protection solicitor, Senior Solicitor and then Solicitor in Charge, Child Protection. Deborah holds a Juris Doctorate from the Columbia University School of Law, a Master of International Affairs from the Columbia University School of International and Public Affairs and a Diploma in Law from Sydney University.
Soo Choi is a Legal Research Assistant at CompliSpace. She is currently studying a Bachelor of Arts and Bachelor of Laws at the University of Sydney.