In the last sitting week, through an adjournment matter for the Attorney-General, I raised a number of concerns associated with the application of working with children checks in the sporting arena. I am afraid I am returning to pose a similar matter to her again tonight. A fortnight ago my adjournment speech related to martial arts; this evening it relates to Australian Rules Football. It follows two recent cases of convicted sex offenders avoiding certain vetting requirements in order to become directly involved in junior football. One came to public attention in May, when it was revealed a recidivist sex offender was allowed to umpire matches, reportedly partly because of a favourable reference from a very senior figure in the AFL. The other case made headlines last month, when an already frequent perpetrator was convicted again, this time of an indecent act after gaining access to his young male victim by infiltrating a football club as a financial sponsor.
Both stories are deeply disturbing. They also raise numerous questions, including whether there are problems in the processes for working with children checks merely in some sports or whether they are more widespread across Victorian sport in general. At the very least the fact that the issues currently appear significant across at least two sports should be provoking serious cause for concern. Indeed I would be surprised if these two recent cases alone had not prompted government and sporting officials to have launched their own urgent investigations into why and how working with children checks are often being evaded.
At the end of my contribution about martial arts two weeks ago, I asked the Attorney-General if she would consider meeting to discuss a practical new initiative I believe might solve many of the current problems in working with children checks in the area of sporting. I am still very keen for that meeting to occur. However, a further action that I would also now like to seek from her is that she indicate what reporting and review mechanisms are in place that allow the Department of Justice and Community Safety to identify cases where a working with children check has been issued in error and/or where a check of someone’s suitability to work with children should have been conducted but has not been. I would also be grateful if she could disclose the number of cases that have fallen into each of those two categories since the commencement of the state’s working with children checks scheme, specifically including the area of junior sport.